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When I think about it, the Star Wars franchise is a lot like the Doom franchise. Both are never going to die. Both of these franchises were revolutionary in their own medium, they’re both part of the sci-fi genre, and just like the original Doom games, the original Star Wars trilogy is still the best. At least in my opinion. Doom is kept alive and kicking ass because of mods thanks to an amazing dedicated fan community. As for Star Wars, yeah, we get to see new movies every so often, which I think gives the franchise a whole new following of fans, but I think the real reason it will never die is because of the entire Star Wars expanded universe made up of books, comics, TV shows, and games. And just like Doom, we can thank the large dedicated fan base for all of the great Star Wars content over the years. Even if the expanded universe content isn’t considered canon anymore because the Disney Company is full of assholes, the Star Wars expanded universe is full of impressive works that people have been enjoying for about forty years now.
The original Star Wars: Battlefront was released in 2004 to overwhelming positive reception. It was also somewhat different compared to other Star Wars video games. You didn’t play as a Jedi or Sith and get involved in some story line related to the force, nor did it focus on any of the known characters from the films. Instead, it was about recreating famous Star Wars battles. You play as a regular cog for any of the factions from the Galactic Civil War or Clone Wars and battle it out for total control. Developed by Pandemic Studios and published by LucasArts, Star Wars: Battlefront II was released in November, 2005 for PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PC, and Xbox. It retains the same core structure and gameplay of it’s predecessor while at the same time building upon it with all new content. Just like most sequels, there’s a new storyline, new game modes, maps, and other new content in an attempt to make it a much more grand and epic game.
For this review Jeremy and I played through the entire campaign in the Xbox version since it supports split-screen co-op. Sadly, the PC version does not. I did also play the PC version and then installed some mods including visual enhancement mods like the 2017 HD Graphics Mod, Realistic Maps, and Battlefront: Evolved. I will also cover some of the more popular mods including the Star Wars Battlefront Conversion Pack, Dark Times II: Rising Son, and the 123 (2.0) mod. I will not be covering any online multiplayer.
Star Wars: Battlefront II does actually have a story. While the first game had players going from battle to battle accompanied by scenes ripped straight from the films, Battlefront II’s campaign is called Rise of the Empire and is about the 501st Legion. In between battles are short cut scenes accompanied by narration from one of the veteran clones of the Legion to explain what’s happening but the story isn’t really fleshed out all that well. The campaign takes you through battles starting from the Clone Wars and ending with the assault on Hoth as depicted in The Empire Strikes Back. I found the story line to be mostly forgettable but there are some cool missions like one that recreates the Empire’s infiltration of Tantive IV as depicted in A New Hope. Every now and then a Jedi, Sith, or some other hero or villain, will join in the fight and you can play as them but the voice acting for these special characters is pretty atrocious. The developers clearly did not hire the actual actors for the voice work, minus Temuera Morrison who voices the clone narrator, Jango and Boba Fett, and the Republic Officer. He’s the only one who delivers an authentic performance partly because he actually portrayed Jango Fett in the films. Unlike the first game, the battles actually have objectives that must be completed to succeed. It’s no longer all about capturing command posts and killing opposing troops. While it’s good to see variety in the missions, unfortunately, all of the objectives are not that exciting and the entire story line feels like a mix of elements from the various game modes. For example, you’ll need to take over command posts, defend areas, retrieve items and bring them back to the safe spot, which represents capture the flag, and it’s just stuff like that repeated over and over. The story also hits a ridiculous difficulty spike about halfway through and the last half of the story missions are just tedious. There’s no checkpoints during missions so if you fail you’ll have to start the entire mission over.
Just like the first game, Battlefront II can be played in either the first-person or third person perspective. There’s two difficulty modes – Normal and Elite – and, in addition to the campaign, two other single player modes – Galactic Conquest and Instant Action. In Galactic Conquest your goal is to take over the galaxy and Instant Action lets you choose a map, era, and the game mode you want to play. New to Battlefront II is the addition of playable heroes and villains and space battles. I’m just going to say it, playing as the heroes and villains sucks. Just like in the first game, each faction has multiple character classes, however, some of the character classes need to be unlocked by earning a specific amount of points during battles, including the playable heroes and villains. If you’re playing as a Jedi or Sith, it’s fun for like the first two minutes and then you’ll quickly realize how horribly implemented these characters are. They can sprint faster, jump higher, and wield lightsabers. However, they control extremely “floaty”, which I think is intended, the Jedi and Sith cannot be played in the first-person perspective, and they’re all overpowered. When playing as any Jedi or Sith, you can hold a button to automatically deflect lasers and you can pretty much destroy a single enemy with only a few strikes. You can use other moves like force push, force pull, and even force choke. The Emperor and Count Dooku can use force lightning. Sadly, none of this is that exciting, and the implementation of these characters really feels half-assed. Worst of all, during the campaign, and even in most other game modes, the heroes and villains will always be losing health. You need to kill enemies to regain health because somebody thought it was a good idea to make these characters vampires. It doesn’t make sense and they shouldn’t be in the game. It’s obvious the developers put them in here because “Star Wars” and they clearly didn’t think it through. I enjoyed the first game because it doesn’t focus on any major characters with special abilities, just regular troops. The special characters that don’t use the force are actually much more fun to play as like Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Boba Fett, and even Jango Fett. And they can actually be controlled in first-person. Still, they’re overpowered. Luckily, heroes and villains can be turned off entirely in Instant Action.
In theory, space battles are awesome. You get to fly through space, shoot down enemy ships and dodge lasers, but in reality, the space battles in this game become extremely repetitive, especially in the campaign. The idea of each Space Battle is to take down the opposing capital ship by destroying their critical systems and frigates. For example, to take down a Star Destroyer you need to destroy its shields, engines, life support system, and other critical systems that keep it functional. However, these Space Battles always play out the same and go on for a bit too long in my opinion. One of the cooler aspects of these battles is the fact that you can infiltrate the opposing capital ship and destroy the systems from the inside which I found to be faster and way more effective. Another gripe I have is that all of these capital ships look the same. Whether you’re playing as the Rebels or Empire, CIS or Republic, the interiors of the capital ships are identical with the same exact critical systems. It is cool to fly around space, dodge lasers, and shoot down opposing starfighters, but the fun only lasts so long before becoming repetitive. Luckily, you have the option to skip the space battles during the campaign.
The ground combat is really where it’s at and luckily there’s more variety compared to the first game. If you decide to play in the Instant Action mode, you can really see all of the new stuff Battlefront II has to offer. You can choose from a list of maps, the game mode, and even set up global modifiers like time limits, toggle heroes and villains on or off, point limits, and other stuff like that. Conquest is one of the many modes and should be the most familiar. The idea is to take over all of the command posts on the battlefield or kill all opposing troops to win. Capture the Flag comes in two forms – one flag and two flag. In one flag there’s only one flag on the battlefield and you need to bring it back to your side to score a point. In two flag both sides have a flag and you need to bring the opposing faction’s flag back to your side. My only gripe with Capture the Flag is that when one of your team mates is carrying the flag, they’re not identified on the minimap. In the Hunt game mode, you get to play as a specific native creature to the planet you’re currently on like Wampas, Jawas, and Tusken Raiders for example. The Assault mode is just space battles minus one map where it’s heroes versus villains. And finally there’s XL mode which is just a shit-ton of troops from both factions battling it out. The only thing I don’t like about Instant Action is that not all game modes can be played on all maps. The modes are specific to certain maps which is just a bummer.
Each faction has multiple characters to play as that make up different character classes. Many of the classes from the previous game return, although some have different weapons. You can sprint now which is a big plus and going prone was removed. Fallen enemies will drop health and ammo and you can always refill both from health and ammo droids found on the battlefield. New to Battlefront II is a medal system. How it works is, the better you do, the more perks you earn. For example, obtaining a certain amount of kills with a rifle without dying earns you the frenzy medal which means your rifle fires more powerful shots. Score a specific amount of headshots with a sniper rifle without dying and you acquire the beam rifle which is just more powerful. Once you die you lose the acquired medals but these are a great little incentive to play as best you can. Many maps are filled with vehicles you can enter but unfortunately, the cockpit view in the first-person perspective was removed. It’s not a huge deal but it did add a small form of immersion in the first game.
Galactic Conquest was my favorite mode in the first game and, thankfully, it returns in Battlefront II with some tweaks. Now you earn credits for taking over or defending planets and credits can be spent on new units and bonuses, similar to planetary rewards in the first game. Bonuses include bacta tanks to regenerate your troops’ health, a hero or villain to assist your troops in battle, more reinforcements, and other stuff to help give you an edge. Once the bonus is used during a battle, you’ll need to buy it again. You can also spend credits to build new fleets on the Galactic Map which can help you to take over the galaxy. Unfortunately, space battles will occur when two opposing fleets meet on the Galactic Map and they can’t be skipped. For me, this really brought down the entire experience. Other than that, I really loved the changes. You always start each Conquest with only a few troops available but as you purchase more units you start to get the feeling of progression like you’re building up a small army. It’s pretty cool. You can play through specific Galactic Maps based on battles from the films and we noticed that in the Xbox version you have a Versus map which doesn’t seem to be in the PC version. I don’t know if this was because we were playing in split screen but this Versus map may be the best way to play Galactic Conquest. Versus lets you decide the era, the layout of the map, and the victory conditions. The layout of the map is the standout here since it can be randomized and I think that’s what gives this mode immense replay value.
I think it’s safe to say the PC version of Battlefront II looks the best with sharper textures and smoother gameplay. When playing in split-screen in the Xbox version, there’s no first-person gun models. The Xbox version does include an aim assist that can be toggled on or off and the space battles are much more enjoyable with a controller. Although, I was surprised to see how well they controlled with a mouse and keyboard set up. Battlefront II contains everything you would expect in terms of presentation from a Star Wars game. It’s got all of the sights and sounds and, of course, the excellent music. It’s more colorful compared to the first game and the Xbox version is much smoother with less frame rate dips than its Xbox predecessor. There’s excellent visual touches and nods to the films like the Rancor in Jabba’s Palace and Luke’s crashed X-Wing in the Dagobah map. Other than the voice acting, the presentation is excellent, although I found the sound effects to be rather weak in the PC version at the default volume. I should mention some of the technical aspects. The main menu in the PC version seems to be hard coded at the 800×600 resolution. When playing in widescreen in the PC version, some of the first-person weapon models get cut off like the rocket launcher and chaingun for example. Now most of the time the AI performs decently but many times they act stupid like standing in one spot or getting stuck near walls or even enemies just running right past you.
After playing through game on both the Xbox and PC I did feel it could have been slightly better. Luckily, that’s why we have mods. The first set of mods I found were the visual enhancements. The HD Graphics mod sharpens the textures, normalizes the color saturation, and includes improved lighting and bloom effects. It’s not going to make the game look like the Battlefront 2015 reboot but it does make it look significantly better. Because it was compatible with every other mod I tried, I kept it installed for the rest of my modding experience. The Moddb page for the HD Graphics Mod recommended the Realisic Maps set of mods which consists of a bunch of redesigned maps in two forms. The “Rezzed” maps are replacements for existing maps with HD textures. The “Realistic” maps are altered with added props, models, and effects. I loved the realistic maps and it’s only a shame that only five of the maps were redesigned although the creator states he intends to redesign all of the vanilla maps. Then there’s Battlefront: Evolved which significantly improves models, textures, and particle effects. If you’re just looking to enhance the visuals of the game while retaining the vanilla gameplay, the combination of these three mods is a must and they all work great together.
I think the most popular mod for Battlefront II is the Star Wars Battlefront Conversion Pack. It includes a ton of new maps including all of the Battlefront 1 maps that were not originally featured. There’s new game modes, and you can even download an add-on pack that adds a new era based on Knigts of the Old Republic. The only downside is I haven’t played through any of the games in the Knights of the Old Republic series so I have no idea how accurate anything is in this add-on. Best of all, the Conversion Pack adds in the Galactic Conquest Versus mode. There’s even a fake console that lets you modify the gameplay like adding more reinforcements, health regeneration, and a ton of cheats if you just want to mess around. The new maps are well crafted, the maps from Battlefront 1 are an excellent addition, and the new character classes, models, and weapons are fantastic.
One of the new game modes introduced in the Conversion Pack is Order 66 where you play as either a Jedi or the Republic. If you play as a Jedi you need to fend off the attacking Republic troops. If you play as the Republic you need to kill all of the Jedi. It’s a nice little nod to Episode III. Holocron is a mode where you need to obtain the Holocron and hold it for a specific amount of time to obtain a point. However, the AI in this mode shows its stupidity and likes to always congregate near walls when holding the Holocron. Another new game modes is titled “Campaign” and the maps that include this game mode let you play through the campaign objectives. Hero Capture the Flag is just like normal Capture the flag but with the horrible hero and villain characters. Hero Assault is just heroes versus villains, Deathmatch is an every man for himself mode, Team Deathmatch is like the vanilla XL mode on a smaller scale, Space Assault is like regular space battles, and Team Dogfight is basically a team deathmatch space battle. You just fly around and shoot the opposing ships. A cockpit view was included for the first-person perspective which is really awesome but unfortunately it’s only included in Space Assault and Team Dogfight. I only noticed one ship where I could see through the bottom of the cockpit. Finally, there’s the Classic Conquest mode which attempts to replicate the Conquest mode from the original game. This includes the original character classes and the inability to sprint. The hero and villain characters are also included as non-playable characters but because they’re so overpowered in the vanilla game, it shows and they can really become annoying here. One of my two big issues with the Conversion Pack is that the new modes are specific to certain maps. My second issue is the new HUD which is downright awful. It adds these blue overlays which are just intrusive and unnecessary. I don’t know if there’s a way to remove it but it needs to go. Overall, I would say the Conversion Pack is the definitive mod for Battlefront II and if I had to choose just one mod to install, it would be this one.
I was excited when I discovered the Dark Times II: Rising Son mod because the Moddb page states it has a focus on single player. It includes a brand new Dark Times era Galactic Map for Galactic Conquest, new game modes for instant action, and even new visual effects, including cockpit views, which I found to really enhance the gameplay. Sadly, these visual effects are only specific to the new modes which is my biggest disappointment with the mod. Dark Times II also seems to be built upon the Conversion Pack since many of that mod’s elements are included like the Galactic Map Versus mode, the fake console, and even that horrible HUD. Luckily, you can download a patch that can remove the HUD. With it removed some of the HUD elements don’t look right but it’s far better than seeing the intrusive blue overlays.
The Dark Times Galactic Map is quite refreshing compared to the standard Galactic Conquest stuff. It acts more like a story line with objectives that must be completed during each battle. My only gripe with this is that these battles can go on for way too long and running back and forth between objectives can be tedious. Because there’s no checkpoints, if you fail, you need to restart the battle again. But still, it’s a welcome addition. One of the new game modes is V.I.P where you need to either protect or kill the V.I.P. Each time your V.I.P. is killed, your faction loses ten reinforcements. Control requires you to eliminate all opposing troops on the battlefield with a bit of a twist. There are several easily controllable command posts scattered around and you want to hold onto these for as long as possible to help guarantee victory. Wave Mode is another new addition. Depending on the map, there are specific objectives you want complete but they all seem to be the same. These include things like survive and kill a certain amount of specific enemies. Stronger enemies are introduced as you progress through the waves and it’s just you versus them. Duel is a mode where you can test your lightsaber skills. The creator altered the lightsaber gameplay with new damage outputs, new blocking mechanics, and you can even chain attacks. There’s other changes too, and while I appreciate the attempted lightsaber gameplay overhaul, it’s not enough to make playing as the heroes and villains a much more enjoyable experience. And I don’t blame the mod creator for that, I blame the developers for implementing these special characters as lazily as they did. There’s also Space modes like Space Assault, Space Capture the Flag, and even Team Dogfight is here. In Team Dogfight, if you earn enough points you can unlock the special characters but actually it’s pretty cool here. For example, you can unlock Han Solo and he can pilot the Millenium Falcon. One of the space maps includes a wave mode where you play as Han and pilot the Falcon and need to fend off waves of TIE Fighters. If you’re playing as the Empire, you can unlock Darth Vader and pilot the TIE Advanced. The new maps in Dark Times II are well designed and fit in nicely with the vanilla maps. Overall, this is an amazing mod and the new visual effects really make the combat more satisfying. I would highly recommend you check it out.
Finally, there’s the 123 (2.0) mod. This is actually a great mod for fans of the vanilla game who just want more. It adds some classic maps from the original Battlefront but more importantly every game mode is available for every vanilla map, minus the space battle stuff. This is one of the greatest things ever. That means you can have an XL battle on Utapau or a Hunt battle on Mygeeto. This mod also adds some crazy shit like ligtsaber wielding Ewoks as playable characters. The CIS faction includes a playable Ewok that seems to be a reskin of a Wampa and it can throw giant boulders. While I prefer mods that remain lore friendly, I’m not going to bash this because it adds over-the-top shit and I can see why people enjoy it. I would recommend it solely because of the inclusion of every game mode for every vanilla map. Why this was never included in the Conversion Pack, I don’t know, but it should be. I’m not sure if these two mods are compatible but I’ll always keep two installations. One for the Conversion Pack and the other for the 123 mod.
Ultimately, Star Wars: Battlefront II is a great sequel and it’s one of the best Star Wars video games out there. It takes the core gameplay from the original and just adds more. More content, more variety, and it even improves several things. While heroes and villains are a terrible addition, they can be turned off in Instant Action mode which is truly a fantastic thing because otherwise, I think it would have seriously hindered the game. The story is pretty forgettable but the Instant Action and Galactic Conquest modes should keep you coming back for a while, and of course there’s the multiplayer. While the PC version lacks the split-screen support, it’s clearly the definitive version of the game. I can live without the space battles but they can be skipped during the campaign and if you don’t play through Galactic Conquest you don’t really have to worry about them. You can acquire Battlefront II for PC on Steam and it runs well on Windows 10. I see the Xbox version often in many game shops that sell older games. You won’t be paying triple digits or anything but you’d be lucky to find a copy for under twenty dollars. At least around where I live. And it only seems to apply to the Xbox version. Star Wars: Battlefront II is a must-play for Star Wars fans and I would highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.