A long time ago in a gaming universe right next door most Star Wars games were truly lackluster. Simply slapping the name on anything and everything to make a quick dollar really tarnished the franchise’s reputation, as well as upsetting more than a fair share of true fans. Thankfully over the past few years LucasArts has finally wised up and grabbed excellent developers to handle their beloved franchise. Whether it’s BioWare with Knights of the Old Republic or Raven Software with Jedi Academy, the Star Wars games of new have been top-shelf. This brings me to the game at hand, Battlefront 2. A sequel to last year’s amazing online shooter SW BF2 takes everything that made the first one so damn good and ups the ante, while at the same time fixing up the small quirks found in its predecessor. Take the jump into light speed with our full review of Star Wars Battlefront 2 for the Xbox.
For those lucky enough to have played the first BF you have a pretty good idea of what to expect game play wise. The game can still be played from third or first person view and the controls are your typical shooter fare. What has been added this year that really adds to the mix is space battle. Just like the on-ground combat, fighting in space consists of two sides fighting it out for control of either a flag or to simply defeat the opposing side. The really cool part of these battles is the scale, for instance you can take off from your hangar, fly straight across the battlefield and land inside their hangar, then run around inside the ship and destroy it from the interior. The size of some of these levels is simply awe inspiring.
On top of adding space battles into the mix Pandemic has also given players a ton of new game modes to keep the fighting fresh. No longer are you restricted to only conquest mode, now you can play Capture the Flag (one flag or two), Hunt (I will get into detail on this one in a minute), and Hero Battle which basically pits a collection of Jedi and other infamous SW characters against each other for an all out brawl. All of these modes are a welcome addition to Conquest and really add to the overall replay value of the title. For those wondering what Hunt mode is, basically there are two species to choose from, for instance Jawa or Tusken Raider. Then you play best to 50 with a five minute time limit. It can be so satisfying to chuck a rock into the face of a biker scout with an Ewok.
Another new addition to Battlefront 2 is a revamped single player campaign. You can now take part in the rise of the Empire through the eyes of the 501st division of Clone Troopers. You will witness first-hand the betrayals of the Chancellor and even the sinister programming and obedience of the clones. The new single-player adds quite a bit to the overall experience with its straight-forward missions and brilliantly narrated story by the main Clone Cody. This is truly a treat for the fans as it fills in several gaps in the storyline.
While the single-player is certainly appreciated most gamers bought this game for its online merits alone. With up to 32 players over Xbox Live BF2 can truly host some epic battles. Like I stated earlier the new modes really go along way in extending the replay value, I remember finding myself growing bored with the first game because I was tired of Conquest mode. Now you have a bevy of modes and options to spice up the game. One of the best is the addition of Heroes, this can be set up to your own preference but basically it rewards players the ability to control some of the more famous characters from the SW universe for a short period. Each map has its own specific hero so for instance when you are fighting on Mustafar you can gain access to Anakin Skywalker or while on Kashyyyk you can take on the role of everyone’s favorite muppet Yoda.
While the online mode has been expanded it isn’t without its problems. For starters the AI in this game ranges from decent to downright retarded. I have been in matches where my AI units would literally run around in a circle while carrying the flag and in some cases even jump right off the ledge as if life was just too hard to go on living as a Stormtrooper. The other glaring problem is that there just aren’t that many new maps to choose from, most of them are recycled from the first game. The space additions are nice, but beyond that there really aren’t too many new maps to get excited about. You are also limited to certain game type on specific maps, sure I can understand not being able to fight ground battles in space, but we certainly needed more map variety for Hunt mode.
The vehicle situation has also been changed drastically; no longer can a person hop in a tank and be basically indestructible. Taking out large vehicles is now possible thanks to grenades, rocket launchers, and of course a better damage system. Everything else is simply the same, Pandemic did not stray far from the norm with BF2 which is a good thing, AT-ATs will still rock just about anything on the ground and tank missiles will certainly ruin your day, but at least skilled players can now take them down without having to spawn in a thousand times.
The visuals in BF2 haven’t seen much work since last year, sure there are some brighter colors and cleaner textures, but for the most part this is the exact same engine with a few more polys. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, you do feel a small upgrade would have been nice. The animations are still stiff and the environments can tend to blend together, but it does have some pretty Xbox water. The sounds are also copied and pasted from last year. The same soundtrack with the addition of Episode III’s theme and sound effects from the Star Wars archives are all presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sound just as good as they always have.
Even with the spotty AI, rehashed maps and sounds, and the been there, done that feeling this game is still one of the best online experiences currently available. With up to 32 player matches, the ability to use bots, and the incredible amount of customizable options this game will be played for a long time to come. If the first game didn’t impress you, this one won’t change your mind. However if you loved the first one, you will certainly appreciate all that Pandemic has added to its sequel. So if you meet all the criteria you need to own this game, it is more than worth its weight in Republic Credits.