STAFF REVIEW of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (Xbox)

Saturday, November 26, 2005.
by StudioAlex

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Box art In gaming, there are few exercises quite as thrilling as mowing down a group of stormtroopers with Luke Skywalker and his trademark green light saber. Hell, video games might as well have been invented for the clear purpose of letting us realize our Jedi fantasies beyond swinging around a flashlight in the privacy, and secret shame, of our own homes. What\'s really amazing is that so few games baring the Star Wars license have been worth playing, given the purpose of video games is to let me play as a Jedi and chop dudes\' arms off, inexplicably not cauterizing the wound, and to convince girls that they do indeed want to come home with me. Wait. You didn\'t read that. You forgot that last part and these are not the droids you\'re looking for. So how does Star Wars: Battlefront II fare in the boyhood fantasy department? Well, you do get to kill a bunch of guys with lightsabers, but there\'s no manipulating females with your force abilities. Regrettably. Battlefront 2 manages to improve on many aspects of its predecessor and introduces two new major elements to gameplay: Heroes and Space Battles. The bad news is it doesn\'t develop either concept to its true fruition and much of the game\'s content and graphics are recycled from last year\'s game. I think maybe we should spend longer than a year developing a game you want people to spend their hard earned money on. But that\'s just me.

As I said earlier, there are two major additions to gameplay: heroes and space battles. Many complaints about the first game centered on not being able to play as a Jedi. Assumedly, they weren\'t in the original because of balance issues, but Pandemic has found a way to make it work by limiting Jedi respawn rates and by limiting it to one player per team. While they work pretty well in standard conquest mode, capture the flag is completely unbalanced by the Jedi who can literally run from side of a map to the other in one burst. But you\'re likely not going to play much capture the flag in this game because it doesn\'t work very well, to say the least. But I\'ll get to that later. The real problem with the heroes is that not all of them are particularly of equal use. For example, the most devastating force weapon in this game is without a doubt the saber throw. Well, some of the Jedi don\'t have it. Yoda has a force push and a force pull. Both of which are pretty useless, especially when they don\'t work half of the time. (Yoda can lift a tie fighter from a swamp but can\'t knock Droidekas over?) Even more bizarre is that the most powerful hero in the game isn\'t even a Jedi: Han Solo. Now I love Han, and I especially loved killing Bobba with ease, imagining the cries of every star wars fan boy that won\'t let a minor, pointless character die in the Sarlaac\'s belly. Sporting a triple shot blaster with precise accuracy, Han is the most useful and deadliest hero in the game. He evens routes all of the other characters in the heroes & villains mode, which let\'s everyone play as any of the hero characters but, inexplicable, only on the Mos Eisley rehash map. I guess hokey religions and ancient weapons truly are no match for a good blaster at your side.

The second gameplay addition, space battles, are great but also infuriating because they show far more potential than what was actually achieved. Aside from the obvious aspect of piloting tie fighters in epic space battles against the Empire, the game also allows you to dock onto enemy ships and to sabotage critical systems from the inside. What\'s annoying is all you get are points. Space battles are determined by which team gets to a certain number of points the fastest. You\'re not destroying that super star destroyer, you\'re earning points. Minor efforts, like downing enemy bombers earns a handful of points while taking out critical systems or enemy support frigates earns you considerably more. The problem is that taking out life support or other things on enemy ships don\'t have a real, concrete feeling to them because they don\'t actually affect the enemy\'s ability to do battle. It just gets you more points. The main ship doesn\'t explode under the weight of your awesome skills, you just get to 180 points and the game is over. Epic, eh? I love the fact that this mode is objective based, with actual goals instead of just holding spawn points. But it just doesn\'t live up to it potential.

Another new addition is capture the flag. You\'ll play this once or twice and realize it\'s not very fun, single flag especially. I think the problem lies in the fact that most of your team can\'t communicate as they are just stupid bots. Unless you somehow are running a game smoothly with 24 players, then I envy you, but take comfort in the fact that you\'re probably a fibber. Single flag is especially annoying because there is no indicator when it is dropped so if an AI buddy kills the flag carrier and grabs it, you have no idea where he is. So you basically camp around your home base until the enemy brings the flag to you.

The basic gameplay has undergone general improvements. Rate of fire is faster, thankfully, but not fast enough for me. The troops are smarter but still do enough heroic juades maneuvers, wandur-blaster-fire tactics and investigating-the-time-delayed-bdestroy-enemy-auto turrets strategies to assure you that they road the short bus to the death star. Having them back you up in battle works much more smoothly. Also, enemy AI no longer has the ability to sense your reticule is on them from long distances, like in the last game where they start doing little dances even though they shouldn\'t be aware of your presence.

Some caveats to the general gameplay. Why have air vehicle been removed fro mt the land battles? Why repeat some of the old maps but not all of them? Why does Leia look like a troll?

Graphically, this game is a loser. It betrays its PS2 roots, though I hear it looks a lot worse on that system. A lot has happened since the first Battlefront: Halo 2, Doom 3, Chaos Theory. These little action figures aren\'t going to dazzle anyone anytime soon. Most of the textures are dull, especially inside the ships. You\'d think the inside of a space ship was the most boring place in the world according to this game. But it\'s gameplay over graphics, right? I think Lucas Arts has more than enough resources to give us the best looking games possible even if they don\'t know how exactly to make the most playable game they can.

In the sound department; this is a Star Wars game. What else is there to say? You\'ve heard the music before. It\'s great stuff, but we all have it memorized by now. The sound effects are the same as the movies. The heroes even shout stuff out during battle, though few of them actually sound like the real actors. There is little original going on here, aside from the narration on the single player campaign, which is pretty much forgettable to be honest. Some new tunes would have been nice but LucasArts and Pandemic knew it was unnecessary to move this product off of the shelves.

Let\'s spend longer than a year developing the next one. After the thrill of wielding the light saber wore off, its faults were all too clear.

Overall: 7.6 / 10
Gameplay: 7.6 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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