Star Wars Battlefront II Review

SW Title 2

 

Title: Star Wars Battlefront II
Developer: Lucas Arts
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 668 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

There are many different types of games that have yet to come to the current generation of handheld consoles.  If you look back on the history of gaming, there are lots of games that came out in the last generation.  Many of these game types or franchises haven’t come to this generation, as of yet.  There are many different types of games that fit this description.  However, one franchise that stands out to me that haven’t crossed over to this new generation is Star Wars.

Star Wars is a series that has been getting video games since the NES era.  It has games based off movies.  It has games based off the TV series.  It even has multiple of its own video game-specific series, like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight, Battlefront, and more.  However, many of these games haven’t been seen, as of late.  Particularly missing is the inclusion of a new Battlefront game in this generation.  Battlefront III is supposedly being worked on, but nothing new has come out on handhelds, as of late, other than a pinball game and a variation of Angry Birds.

If we want to play Star Wars games, we need to look to backwards-compatible titles.  As far as the Vita is concerned, the PSP had multiple Star Wars games.  However, only one of those games is able to be downloaded directly to the Vita, which is LEGO Star Wars III.  There are others, though, if you have a PS3 for the workaround method.  As we dive into the beef of the PSP Star Wars library, here is our official review of the PSP’s first games in the series, Star Wars Battlefront II!

Story

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Gamers from the PS2 generation likely know the storylines behind Star Wars Battlefront II.  However, the story of the PS2 Battlefront II isn’t quite the same as the story campaign in Battlefront II for the PSP.  This is resulting in the fact that this was one of the PSP’s very first games, and the developers were experimenting with whether or not they could actually bring that console experience to a handheld system.  The main story campaign from the PS2 release is not featured in the PSP rendition.

Instead, the PSP has its own story campaign, in the form of the “Challenges” mode that isn’t featured in any other version of the game.  The story in the PSP game has you playing the role of one of three different types of people, or units: Imperial Enforcer, Rogue Assassin, and Rebel Raider.  Each of these characters are sent on various missions spanning various time periods of the Star Wars movie universe, from the Clone Wars to the reign of the Galactic Empire.

The Imperial Enforcer is a special military class in the Empire.  His missions are primarily species extermination.  You will be sent to various planets to eradicate a certain number of the native species, from the Gungans of Naboo to the Jawas of Tatooine.  The Rogue Assassin is someone sent by the Empire or various other entities to take out specific targets.  This can range from Imperial Deserters during the original movie trilogy to commanders of the Clone Army between Episodes II and III.  Finally, the Rebel Raider is someone during the Galactic Empire, whom is sent on stealth missions to steal documents and equipment from the Empire without getting caught.

All in all, the story isn’t terribly interesting or very long.  You can play as heroes in some of these, but all in all, it feels like another quick-play game mode than an actual story mode.

Gameplay

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Star Wars Battlefront II can be labeled as a Third Person Shooter, at its most basic level.  There is a bit more to it than that, past the various game modes, though.  It has a touch of strategy and some parts feel more like an action/adventure game than a shooter.  But, throughout the game, you will be shooting and slicing your way through other units, obstacles, and even heroes and villains from the Star Wars universe, from Boba Fett to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The one thing the PSP version lacks, compared to the console version, is game modes.  The PSP has three different game modes for you to play through, much less than the console release had.  Those game modes are called Challenges, Galactic Conquest, and Instant Action.  Each of these has different variations and game modes inside them, but as you play the game, one of those three is what you will always be going into.

Challenges has three different game modes, as explained in the Story section of this review.  You can play through the campaign as either the Imperial Enforcer, Rogue Assassin, or Rebel Raider.  These parts don’t have scenes, and each one only takes about 4 or 5 missions total.  All in all, it’s one of the shorter game modes.  Going through as each character can be completed in less than an hour.  However, it does add some uniqueness to the mix of just going into Instant Action or Galactic Conquest all the time.

Galactic Conquest is where strategy comes into play.  In this mode, you will be a certain faction fighting off another faction.  You will have a huge map of planets for you to take over.  You can create your own starships and move across the galaxy to attack enemy-occupied planets to make yours or defend your own planets or ships when the enemy attacks you.  You can also use credits you earn by fighting to add bonuses for your troops, from more infantry to more powerful units and more.

When you are attacked or do attack, you take part in a battle.  This is either a Planet Battle, where troops and heroes fight over control of the planet or a Space Battle, where you take part in starship fights to knock out the enemy ships.  Winning one of these fights will either result in gaining control of the planet or destroying the enemy starship.  You keep this going until either your or the enemy control every planet in the galaxy and win the match.

The final game mode is Instant Action.  This is more of a quick-play mode.  When you go into this mode, you are free to choose whatever you want to do.  You will be able to choose whatever map or planet you want to fight on and select various kinds of games to participate in against the CPU.  This can be anything from the normal Conquest Modes or space battles to Capture the Flag, or even the Hero/Villain-Only Assault mode on Mos Eisley.  You can create a large number of these maps to create whatever you want.

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Actually participating in these battles consists of running or flying your way around maps to defeat enemies and capture Command Centers.  In the planet maps, you are an infantry unit from various factions, from the Galactic Empire to the Clone Army.  This plays out in a very Third Person fashion where you’re in a map filled with other characters, each equipped with weapons.  You travel across the map and you will win if you kill all of the opposing team’s units or capture all of the command posts.

As you play through each map, you will want to defeat as many units as possible to capture command posts.  When command posts are found, you will need all of the opposing team’s units away from it.  If they are, your presence will begin to capture it, over the course of an amount of time, which will run faster if more than one people on your side are also there.  Since Command Posts work as spawn points when you are killed, controlling all Command Posts will make enemies unable to spawn and, unless they can recapture one within a time limit, you will win the match by default.

As you play through a match, other than a Space Battle, getting enough kills without being killed will give you the option of playing as your faction’s Hero/Villain character.  This can be from Yoda to Darth Vader to General Grievous and more.  This will be in the middle of the match, rather than changing class at a Command Post.  Unlike infantry, Heroes and Villains cannot regenerate health and will be knocked out for the rest of the match unless you can build up enough kills again.

Space Battles run a different kind of feel.  In space battles, you start in a hangar in your faction’s starship.  You will then run up and get into a ship and take to the skies to enter in dogfights against other ships as well as attacking the major components of the enemy’s starship, like the engines or command center.  Each ship has its own strength’s from the A-Wing’s performance against other ships and the Tie-Bomber’s advantage against large ship components.  You will get points whenever you take out a component or ship and will win when you reach 90 points.

As far as length is concerned, it won’t take long to take out the Challenges mode to clear the game’s campaign.  I would say it would take someone new to the series 3-5 hours to complete that, and far less for someone used to the Battlefront’s gameplay system.  The game is, more or less, for quick play than long sittings with its campaigns and other game modes, though Galactic Conquest can take several hours for each complete game.

Controls

Controls is where the game gets confusing.  There are a few different control schemes, but there are several different sets of controls for each part of the game.  This is in the fact that there are three different ways you can play.  When you’re playing through maps, there is a set of controls for infantry.  There are also control sets for when you’re piloting a vehicle, and another for when you’re piloting a starship.  No matter which scheme you choose, it will take some time to remember what everything does.

In the default control scheme, the Left Analog Stick move you and the Face Buttons control the camera when in Infantry gameplay.  This is the one that is recommended for the Vita, since you can map the face buttons to the Right Analog Stick to ease the access of the camera.  In this mode, you will also be using every other button on the system.  The D-Pad is used for switching weapons, zooming in, jumping into vehicles, and landing vehicles.  Then you have the L and R buttons that are used for firing weapons, be it thermal detonators or blaster rifles.

The confusion comes in the fact that some buttons do different things when you’re doing different things.  The face buttons control the camera as an infantry unit, but they control the boost, breaks, and evading maneuvers when you’re in a ship, like an X-Wing.  Remembering all of the different uses for the various buttons is a bit of the challenge of the game, since the PSP didn’t have any extra buttons to use, like the PS2 did.  It’s not a bad control scheme to use, but it’s pretty hard to get used to.

Presentation

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The presentation is where the game is hit the hardest.  The visual presentation of the game isn’t bad for a PSP game, but it’s not great either.  Being one of the earliest games on the PSP and a downgraded PS2 game, the details are decent, but a lot of it is very faded and the imperfections are incredibly obvious when stretched onto the PS Vita’s screen. There are jagged edges and blurred faces pretty much everywhere you look.  The environments still look decent, but it still looks like a low-end PS2 game.

The audio is one thing that has held itself up over the years.  Every bit of music that you will hear as you play the game is taken and remixed straight from the six Star Wars movies.  One of the nicest feelings in the game is when you’re playing through as the Empire and in the middle of an intense dogfight in space, you begin hearing the Imperial March blaring in the background.  Hearing intense Star Wars music playing in gameplay is one of things that really sets the mood in the middle of a match.

The other part of the presentation is how the game plays, itself.  Whether you’re in the middle of a dogfight or fighting against rebel troops in the snowy fields of Hoth, you will have a time getting used to the frame-rate of the game.  This is the case because it is not consistent.  As you play through the game, the frame-rate will be constantly changing.  It won’t get to the point where the game will freeze on you, but it doesn’t run very smooth, outside of space battles.  There are also some pretty lengthy load times for loading games, spamming 10+ seconds for each one.

Summary

Star Wars Battlefront II was a feat during its day, bringing the iconic gameplay to a handheld platform.  It has everything a Star Wars game needs, from lightsaber fights, intense space battles, and pretty much every planet that is shown in the movies.  Unfortunately, a lack of game modes, inconsistent frames,  and abundant glitches hold this back from being an epic tale from a galaxy far, far away.

6/10

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