Friday, May 12, 2006

Game Review: Star Wars Battlefront 2

This was one of the last reviews I did for the original site. It was first posted back in November I think. I'm reposting it now because there's been some interest in the game on Waryammer. The game is still at full retail most places, but if you shop around you might be able to get it for a bit less.

Star Wars Battlefront II (SWBF2) is LucasArts answer to Battlefield 2 (BF2). It's a FPS tactical game where you fight along side teammates in an attempt to win a battle. The game is available for PC, PS2, Xbox, and PSP. I played the PC version for review. All the versions are currently retailing for around $50.

The game covers both of the Star Wars trilogies, so there are four different armies in the game, two for each era. Imperial vs. Rebellion in the original era, and Republic vs. Separatist in the
prequel era. In a standard match you pick a side and then pick from one of four basic kits. Roughly these kits equate to soldier, anti-tank, sniper and support, but there are variations between armies. As you gain points in a match you unlock the ability to use two special kits that vary quite a bit between armies. The goal of the basic match is to run the opposing team out of points by killing opponents and taking control points. Basically the same as in BF2.

That's just the basic game. There are a lot more optional game setups than there are in BF2. To begin with there are the conquest maps. The most common of these are in space where instead of the normal kits you are limited to just two special kits, the pilot and the marine. The marine is basically a combination of soldier and anti-tank while the pilot is a support character with the very important ability to heal the ship he is flying in while flying it.

The basic goal in conquest is reversed. Instead of running the other player out of points, you are trying to reach a certain amount of points first. You gain points for killing enemies just like in normal battles, but you don't have control points. Instead, you get major points for destroying parts of capital ships or their escorts. On capital ships this can be done either by blasting away with fighters from the outside, or by landing a transport in the enemies docking bay and assaulting with marines and pilots. A landed shuttle becomes a spawn point for your side which adds an interesting level of complexity to these maps.

Unfortunately, the control schemes for the spacecraft aren't as good as those in the old X-Wing series of space combat games. I got used to them, but they could have been better.

The control scheme for ground units also has a few idiosyncrasies. You can't go prone in SWBF2, but you can do a combat roll. This takes a bit of getting used to, but does look better than the guy in BF2 dropping to prone and standing up again in rapid succession, and achieves the same general effect in game terms. It does suck for snipers in that they are more visible as a result, but they also tend to be more deadly with the ability to take out at least some of the kits with a single head shot.

There are also a few land based Conquest maps where the game throws hordes of NPC soldiers onto both sides of the conflict. The goal is the same as space based conquest maps, but the lack of any goals similar to the capital ships makes these maps lose their appeal fairly quickly. It's still nice for a short while to take part in the kind of massive battle portrayed in the movies.

Another type of game is the "hunt" where there is only one kit available per side. One side usually has a variation of the soldier kit, but the other side has something unique, and in some cases both sides do. The hunt in Mos Eisley pits Sand People against Jawas. Hoth pits Rebels against Wampas. Other favorite hunted targets are Gungans and Ewoks. Unfortunately, someone has to play them as well. The only problem with this version of play is that I'm not sure about the balance in these matches. From what I've seen the hunters usually have the advantage, except for the Wampas where it seems that they really dominate when played by anyone who knows hot to use them.

Overall, there's a lot of options, but unless you're hosting your own game, you might have trouble finding the exact game you want online. I only tried a few online games myself, but didn't run into any real difficulties with the browser.

Offline, the game has a rather nice, if somewhat short, main single player campaign. It puts you in the role of a trooper in the 501st Clone Legion beginning with their baptism of fire on Kamino, through their transformation into the 501st Stormtrooper Legion and on to their greatest victory at the battle of Hoth. Along the way they take part in many of the key fights of the Clone Wars and have some interesting actions during the early days of the Rebellion. The difficulty of the early missions is rather low, but it starts to ramp up as the Clone Wars end and the 501st becomes stormtroopers. There's even a nice explanation at one point as to why stormtroopers don't all look and sound the same like clone troopers do.

The campaign also lets you skip the space battles if you decide that you just don't like them.

In addition to the main campaign, there are also four galactic conquest campaigns that are an evolution of those from the first SWBF. You now fight over a map of the galaxy rather than over a linear campaign map. The main problem is that they still take a long time to play through, and unlike the story campaign, there's no way to entirely avoid the space combats if you don't like them. Still, if you do like the space combats, these campaigns can provide some nice offline entertainment.

Another new feature of SWBF2 is the ability to play heroes. Whether you can do this or not depends on how the game was set up. The default is for a hero to become available after a player scores 10 points. The hero then becomes available for the best player on that side. That player then has a period of time to decide whether or not they wish to play the hero.

Heroes play differently from regular kits in that they don't have health bars, and can't be healed in normal ways. Instead they have a timer bar. If they take damage then time is taken off the bar. For every kill they make time is added to the bar. Once the bar is gone the hero dies and there is a period of time before they become available again.

There is only one hero available per side, but the server can be set up to give the hero to the worst player or to a random player instead of the best player. They can also be turned off entirely if the administrator decides that they are too overpowering. In most cases the heroes are very powerful, although I've found the Fetts (both Jango and Boba) to be disappointing.

Offline games can be paused, but can't be saved in the middle of the battle. Most battles are relatively short, so it's not usually a big loss to have to quit one. Online games, of course, can't be paused or saved. There's a lot of violence in the game, but no blood or gore. The game is rated T for Violence and Mild Language.

Purely as a game BF2 is superior to SWBF2 except in the number of different game types available. The thing that SWBF2 has going for it is that it is Star Wars. If you're a fan, then that makes this game worth playing. There's a reason that SWBF was the best-selling Star Wars game ever, and this sequel is just as good.


bogamol said...

Thanks for posting the review. I appreciate it. I'll give battlefront another look next time I'm up at blockbuster.

Fulminata said...

Yay! My first comment! Maybe I shouldn't have picked on you so much on Waryammer...

Seriously, I'm glad you appreciated the review. I don't have time to write new reviews right now, but I'll probably continue to repost the old ones from time to time.

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