Timber Wolf's Star Wars: Battlefront II Review
+ Authentic Star Wars feel.
+ Plenty of soldier classes, vehicles, weapons, races, etc.
+ Unique single player campaign.
+ Variety of battle potential.
+ Ability to play as major characters.
- Bot AI can be dodgy.
- Battles still feel a bit slow and lacking in intensity.
The first Battlefront provided a decent Star Wars experience in a working (and fun) action-shooter shell, though many of its aspects seemed unfinished and untapped. Battlefront 2 succeeds where many sequels fail; it manages to address and fix most of the problems from the original, and expand on what was lacking with a most commendable result.
The first noticeable change from the original is the new graphics engine, which offers some decently impressive visuals and special effects. The first game's environments were large and vast, but filled with a whole lot of nothing at all (it also didn't help that all of the characters and vehicles were slow as molasses). BF2 fixes this by making the environments slightly smaller and filled with more objects (and characters providing plenty of blaster volley-fire). The ability to sprint for short periods of time to move quickly across the battlefield is also a very nice addition, making long slogs across friendly territory less boring. Even vehicles have the ability to advance forward at double or triple speed.
Speaking of vehicles, BF2 adds Rogue Squadron-ish space battles in which two rivaling capital ships (either Clone Army vs. Droid Army or Rebellion vs. Empire) duke it out above a planet with plenty of dogfights and proton bombing runs. These space battles are more of side-dish from the main course of ground battles, but they've been crafted with nearly the same amount of detail and variety as the latter. You can select from a variety of vehicles (speedy fighter, fighter-bomber, heavy bomber, troop-carrier) or stay inside your capital ship and take control of turrets to shoot down enemy craft. The main goal of the space battles is to rack up enough points to win by completing any of the many objectives (destroy frigates, shoot down enemy fighters, destroy the enemy ship's shields/life support/engines/bridge). You can even gather some marines, hop in a troop transporter and fly right into the enemy hangar to wreak some havoc from the inside by destroying their equipment up close and personal.
The flying has been GREATLY improved from the first game (and I emphasize greatly), making the space battles a tad more intuitive and easier to control. Unfortunately it still takes quite a deal of practice to get the flying mechanics down, especially when performing tricky maneuvers (such as flying up close to a cruiser and dropping a bomb payload while trying to dodge turret-fire and enemy fighters). More on the downside is that only two capital ships participate in space battles at a time. There are plenty of capital ships moving around in the background, but it's only your capital ship against another. It would have been nice if battles involved entire fleets against entire fleets. Despite this, the space battles are quite polished and above all else, a blast to participate in.
But of course no one is playing BF2 just for the space battles (if you are, then you seriously need to get a Rogue Squadron game). The ground battles are back with more shock and awe than before. Most notable is the inclusion of a more detailed single player campaign, which is actually excellently done. Instead of just following the movies verbatim, you're placed in the ranks of the Clone Army's 501st infantry division as you blast your path to the defeat of the Separatist Droid Army. You'll be running through some familiar areas from the movies, but you'll also get the chance to embark on some original military campaigns all the way up to the final battle for victory. And that's where the game gets really interesting; while most Star Wars games give you the role of the Rebellion fighting the Empire, BF2 keeps you in the ranks of the same division of soldiers you were in during the Clone War. In other words, you're there when Anakin turns on the Jedi council and leads the Clone Army against them (Kill a Jedi with a blaster? No problem) and soon after you find yourself in Storm Trooper gear, fighting the Rebellion. The story progresses through the monologue of an unnamed trooper describing the personal experiences of what it's like to be just another clone with a rifle. The result is a unique approach to what used to be just "Rebellion good, Empire bad". Since you're actually fighting as a part of the Empire, you get to experience the everyday life of a Storm Trooper. Despite being clones, the troops of the Empire are still very much human and have emotion all their own. The destruction of the Death Star wasn't just a great victory for the Rebellion; it was the loss of hundreds of your brothers whom you'd been fighting with since the Clone Wars. Thus the battles aren't just army A vs. army B. It's personal.
While battles still work roughly the same way they did in the first game, the single player campaign missions are much more fleshed-out with better direction and progression. The main idea of each battle is to gain control of as many "Command Posts" as you can while trying to deplete the enemy's reinforcements. Owning a CP allows you to spawn soldiers from it and strategically capturing CPs will give you the advantage (thus giving the game some strategic elements). Most of the time in the single player campaign, you'll be told what to capture, who to kill, and what to demolish. However in "Galactic Conquest Mode", you're given the opportunity to capture entire planets at your leisure by leading your fleets planet to planet (eventually conquering the entire galaxy). GCM gives you the option to play as any of the four warring factions in the movies (Republic, CIS, Rebellion, Empire). The planets are always the same but the map that connects them is random each time you start a new campaign, giving GCM the most replayability in the game. Capturing planets and destroying enemy garrisons gives you credits, which you can then use to either get new unit types or purchase one-time-use bonuses for battle (like enhanced weapons, more supplies, better armor, etc.).
The amount of units you can use is staggering, giving you numerous methods of annihilating the enemy. Each force has similar units (rifleman, sniper, bazooka man, engineer) along with their own special class units that are unique for each force. Each unit type has its own strengths and weaknesses, so assessing the battlefield and the enemy's force before choosing your unit will give you a strategic advantage. Are enemy tanks rolling over your grunts? Spawn as a shock trooper and deliver a few rockets to even the odds. Need to set up some defensive turrets? Get an engineer on the job. You get the idea.
While this formula hasn't changed much from the original game, this time around you'll occasionally have the chance to feel the force and take to the field as a Jedi or other major characters. Slice up some droids as Mace Windu, chop down some clones as Darth Maul, Blast some rebels as Bobba Fett, or just Force Choke the hell out of everyone as Vader. There are plenty of "Leader" characters to take control of, and they're all addictive to play as. Beating down waves and waves of enemies as a Jedi is just so satisfying that it's almost depressing when it all ends. 100 kills and 0 deaths is no problem at all when you get the Jedi controls down and start flinging bodies in every direction with your force pushing skills. Hoo-ah!
This leads me to another point: the bot AI is lacking pretty hard. It's definitely impressive when 50 bots are dashing around, ducking, hiding behind cover, and tossing grenades at each other all at once, but if you look closely you'll notice that a lot of bots spend much of their time either standing in place doing nothing, or running around like lemmings. This makes it extremely easy to mow down waves of troops with nothing more than a standard Storm Trooper blaster. However, I have mixed feelings about this. For one, it's quite satisfying to be superman and just dominate an entire enemy force by yourself. Get enough kills/points and you'll even be rewarded with bonuses like damage reduction, more damage, or special weapons. On the other hand, it can quickly degrade to mindless shooting.
You can crank up the difficulty settings from Normal to "Elite", but the result isn't much different; you can still mow down waves of enemies and they'll line up nicely to receive your punishment (though their accuracy will be better).
There's not much to gripe about; this is a very solid title. All that's left to do is break the game down:
Gameplay: 4. Variety aplenty. The game always offers you multiple ways to play, and none of your options feel broken or less playable than others. Whether you decide to plant some mines and wait for your enemies come to you, grab a blaster and run right into enemy lines, or find yourself a nice secluded area and watch the battle unfold through the scope of your sniper rifle, the game always challenges you to try something new. The lacking AI brings you out of the experience a bit, but it's understandable when you remember the sheer amount of bots that are littering the battlefield at any given time.
Control: 4. Typical first/third person shooter affair, but the vehicle controls have been greatly improved from the first game. Infantry unit movement feels right, and the shooting mechanics are balanced. A few of the vehicles feel wonky, but it's nothing too detrimental to the overall experience.
Story: 4. Instead of just sending you through the same scenes from the movies, BF2 creates a very clever single player campaign in which you can view the galactic battlefield from a new perspective.
Graphics: 4. Some nice shadow and light effects compliment the able game engine. While it's not on par with most current-gen PC games, BF2 is no slouch in the visuals department. Most importantly, the game captures the Star Wars look and feel just right.
Sound: 3. Some better sound design would have given the game a more immersive feel, but what's there is definitely sufficient. Blasters and explosions sound authentic in comparisons to the movies, but it rarely feels like you're completely surrounded and immersed in the action.
Lifespan: 4. If the game has one thing going for it, it's the addictiveness of Galactic Conquest mode. I often found myself saying "okay just one more planet, then I'll quit ". 45 minutes and eight battles later, I still couldn't get away.
FunFactor: 5. Fans of the movies will be in absolute nirvana. The ability to gather a fleet and completely dominate the entire Star Wars galaxy is a big draw for the game, and now that you can play as major characters (most notably the Jedi), the fun rarely bogs down. Throw in a solid single player campaign and online multiplayer and you've got Star Crack.
Lasting Impression (Independent Score): 4. While definitely not the greatest game ever made, BF2 is a very satisfying Star Wars experience that offers fans so much of what makes the series enjoyable. Best of all, the replay value is through the roof.
While being a fan of the movies will definitely enhance the experience, Battlefront 2 still offers enough to attract those with even just a passing interest.
Plenty to see, plenty to conquer, and plenty of rebel scum to blow into the next galaxy. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a very capable title that does little wrong, earning it an even 4 out of 5.
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