You could view Star Wars: Battlefront as a goofy looking cousin of EA’s Battlefield family. It’s essentially the same game – a multiplayer shooter where you can go head-to-head or team-to-team with your themed collection of weapons, vehicles and battlefields. But what sets this game apart from the existing EA franchise is that everything in the box has a big Star Wars ?TM’ merchandise sticker on it. Instead of delivering another take on the battlefield clich?, the people at LucasArts have delivered a fantasy camp wish of playing foot soldier in a Galactic Army – complete with Star Wars weapons, Star Wars vehicles, and, of course, Star Wars battlefields. But while the label gives the game a great deal of ?neat-o factor’, flaws start to appear when you look beyond the polished branding.
Star Wars: Battlefront (developed by Pandemic and published by LucasArts) is a multiplayer on-line shooter set in the Star Wars universe. The game presents battle scenarios from both the original and prequel episodes, complete with their respective galactic armies, vehicles, and environments. You enter each battle as the foot soldier of your choice (no, you can’t be Skywalker – father or son) and keep on eliminating the opposing side with the army-issued weapons and vehicles available to you (and no, you can’t pilot the Millennium Falcon either) until you dominate according to the battlefield rules – a notion that’s become extremely popular within the EA produced Battlefield series. If you already have experience with the Battlefield series, you’ll be able to jump into this one right away since the gameplay is basically Battlefield in a galaxy far, far away.
Bringing the sights and sounds from that galaxy into this game is a simple experiment in accuracy. Various sections of the Star Wars universe have been exported to computers ever since lightsabers were merely rows of pixels – so while the standards bar is high for this game, LucasArts has had plenty of time to practice their delivery. Both the graphics and sound are solid and faithful reproductions of their movie sources. They’re not mind-blowing by any means, but fans of the movies are going to enjoy whizzing through the dense forests of Endor and listening to the blaster fire and chitchat of the Ewoks.
While Star Wars movie fans are likely to be happy, gaming fans may need a little more convincing than excessive Hollywood exported eye-candy. The gameplay disappoints initially, until redeeming itself when you approach the game in the correct way. Playing single-player mode, you can imagine it being born out of a conversation similar to:
Testers: Okay, we’ve tested the multiplayer mode to the max – hell, it’s ready to ship. How’s about we start testing the single-player mode now?
Programmers: Uh?there’s supposed to be a single-player mode?
The entire option is disappointing. There is a big, shiny sticker on the game box that can deliver so much entertainment; in the past it has delivered rich storylines, dramatic conclusions, and final firefights that meant more than just?well, just meant ?more’. Instead, the game loosely connects each individual battle within some weak plotline that manifests itself through an objective screen and spliced movie footage. For the actual gameplay, single-player mode is nothing more than a multiplayer game with bots. It’s understandable that, in this type of game, the goal is to have hundred of units ?active’ at the same time. So, naturally, some areas, like graphics, sound and AI are ranked with less importance; graphics and sound are solid, but when you’re able to get a score ratio of 50:1 there’s a bit of a problem. To put it simply, the single-player has no story, is too simple, and is really just too boring. It’s good for practicing, but really nothing else. If you’re a single-player type, then perhaps you shouldn’t bother picking up Star Wars: Battlefront, but if you’re looking for another way to challenge your network nemesis, then you’ll have a little more reason to play the game, and probably more reason to enjoy it.
Star Wars: Battlefront really only shines when you’re playing multiplayer mode thanks to two things:
1) The dimwitted AI following your basic commands. For example, follow me, go, get in vehicle, get out of vehicle, etc.
2) The dimwitted enemy AI following your opponent’s commands.
What was so very wrong in the single-player mode is kind of okay in multiplayer, as these two factors – when they actually work – deliver a multiplayer game that is truly a multiplayer war experience. Yes, throwing handful after handful of drones into an environment gives you the crowded feeling but, thanks to the AI’s ability to listen to you, those drones can be harvested and easily converted to your whim, just like a Jedi mind trick – something not quite apparent in the Battlefield series. Battlefront delivers more that head-to-head, it delivers army-to-army. Of course, this magic only happens when the AI actually does listen to you – serious consideration should be made for a “Get away from my X-Wing!” command.
While the gameplay actually builds on the battlefield genre, most people will be picking up the game for the Star Wars goodies. And this in understandable; who wouldn’t want a chance to run across the rooftops of Mos Eisley while picking off any little Jawas that might get in your way. The game does have its flaws, and they’re the kind that can easily be overlooked by the movie fans and easily tolerated by the gaming ones; it was simply a half-hearted attempt to include a feature that really isn’t going to be used. Star Wars: Battlefront IS a network multiplayer game – you perhaps shouldn’t expect it to be anything else.