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The Star Wars franchise is huge and many of the games it spawned over the years are actually pretty good. In my opinion, anyway. When Battlefront originally came out, I thought it looked really cool. Large-scale battles with ground, vehicle, and air combat set in the Star Wars universe is an awesome idea. I didn’t get the chance to play it until years later and it was the Xbox version. The original game was released on Steam and GoG in 2019 so I thought now would be a good time to check out the PC version. Developed by Pandemic Studios and published by LucasArts, Star Wars: Battlefront was released for PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox in September, 2004. It’s a multiplayer focused title that centers on factions vying for control of various maps. Battlefront did release during the era of the prequel trilogy, before Episode III came out. The game contains content from both the original and prequel trilogies and lets you participate in many of the epic battles seen in the films.
Despite being a multiplayer-focused title, Battlefront does include a single-player component where you get to play with the AI. There’s two major campaigns to play through – the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War. The former is based on the prequel trilogy and the latter is based on the original trilogy. The campaigns play out on different planets or maps where you participate in battles seen in the films and various scenes from the movies are peppered throughout. The campaigns have you playing as characters from different factions including the Separatists, Republic, Rebels, and Empire and one of the things I really like about this game is that you don’t get to play as a Jedi, Sith, or major character seen in the films. You play as regular troops. Soldiers of war if you will. Heroes like different Jedi and Sith will occasionally participate in battles as AI characters but the game doesn’t place a big focus on them. Battlefront does a good job at making you feel like a small part of the big picture.
The objective in every map is the same. To control the map. Depending on the game mode, you start by choosing your faction and character or character class. You can run, crouch, go prone, jump, and roll. When you die, you have the option to choose another character if you so desire. Different characters come with different equipment so they each have their ups and downs. Some characters have special abilities. For example, Jet Troopers can fly around, Rebel Marksmen can send out Recon Droids, Droidekas can generate shields and roll around, and Wookie Smugglers can lay down time bombs. Ammo and health can be acquired from droids or from characters that can dispense the resources. You can switch between the first-person and third-person views at the press of a button which is pretty cool and several maps allow you to pilot different vehicles and ships. You can pilot Speeder Bikes, Snow Speeders, X-Wings, TIE Fighters, walkers, and other forms of transportation to gun down enemy foes or to simply get around. You can accompany other players in vehicles and be support like a gunner. You’ll get to wield different blasters, sniper rifles, and missile launchers, and you can throw thermal detonators, concussion grenades, and lay down mines. The weapons for each faction do reflect what they would use in their respective films and when playing with other players, communication will be a big part of the gameplay and winning matches.
Winning a match can be accomplished by capturing all of the command posts and/or depleting the opposing team’s reinforcements. Some maps give you the option to complete an objective like destroying something which can make conquering the map easier. Each faction has a finite number of reinforcements which depletes as players or characters die and players can respawn at any of their team’s command posts. The campaigns become more challenging as you progress, mainly because the later maps pit you against a faction that start with more reinforcements than your faction. The AI is okay but far from intelligent. They will run around, shoot at and kill enemies, pilot ships, man turrets, capture command posts, and they really like throwing explosives like thermal detonators. You will often see them standing around doing nothing, making it easy for you to snipe them from long distance. They don’t really work together and just react to situations. You can issue commands to any AI teammates near you and they will listen and do as their told, at least in my experience. The ideal way to play is definitely with other players online or locally via LAN. You can connect with others via direct connection. The GameSpy servers were shut down some time ago but I know community servers have been set up and the game supports up to 64 players on PC.
In addition to the campaigns are other single player game modes like Instant Action and Galactic Conquest. Instant Action lets you quickly jump into a map or set up a series of maps to play through. Galactic Conquest is easily my favorite mode and is one of the more interesting modes in the game in my opinion. You start by choosing a conquest or galactic map, some of which must be unlocked, and the goal is to conquer the galaxy. It’s a turn-based mode. You select a planet to attack and then choose a planetary bonus. The opposing faction will choose their bonus and then you battle it out. Different planets come with different bonuses and once you conquer a planet, you can utilize its bonus. For example, you can start with extra reinforcements, a hero character may aid you in battle, your units will be more accurate in battle, and other bonuses like that. However, some bonuses are exclusive to certain factions and you can only utilize one bonus per battle. Galactic Conquest is a really cool mode and includes a layer of strategy. Jeremy and I set up a LAN game and discovered you can’t play through the campaigns or Galactic Conquest mode cooperatively which is a bummer.
The maps or planets are excellent recreations of the locations seen in the films. You’ll get to take down Imperial Walkers with Snow Speeders on the planet Hoth. You can pilot Speeder Bikes on Endor. You’ll get to infiltrate the massive shield and destroy the shield generators in the battle in the plains of Naboo. And this re-release of the game comes with a map set in Jabba’s Palace. Depending on the planet, you’ll encounter NPC’s that will either aid you or act as an enemy faction. Tuskens will control certain command posts in the Dune Sea on Tatooine. Ewoks will assist the Rebels during the Battle of Endor. And Gungans will participate in the battle of Naboo. Health and ammo droids are always found near command posts but can be destroyed and turrets are often scattered throughout the maps and are often great for mowing down enemies. It can be tedious to traverse some of the larger maps on-foot but these maps usually include different vehicles and aircraft to pilot or creatures to ride. The AI will often take different modes of transportation if they get near them so be sure to check the map before spawning to see if a vehicle is available at a specific command post.
Star Wars: Battlefront looks dated now but it’s still a nice recreation of what you see in the films. The character models and environments look accurate and the experience does feel very Star Wars. I like how the first-person view puts you in the cockpit of the various ships and the battles can be hectic and intense and look visually impressive. Sometimes I would just stand back and watch the chaos just because of how cool it looked. A ton of lasers will zip around the environments as you engage enemies, ships will be flying around above you battling it out, and some maps include neat weather effects and details from the films. For example, you’ll see Jabba sitting in his palace complete with the trap door leading to the Rancor pit below him and the Sarlacc will kill anyone who gets near its pit in the Dune Sea. I did witness some pop-in from time to time and the main menu is hardcoded at the 800×600 resolution. I did downloaded a mod that fixes the aspect ratio for widescreen resolutions and I downloaded another mod or tool that let me adjust the field of view. However, certain field of view settings will result in the hand and weapon models appearing cut-off in the first-person view. On the audio side, everything sounds great. The game comes complete with John Williams’ classic Star Wars tunes and the characters and weapons all sound as they do in the films. On the technical side, I encountered no issues.
I really enjoy Star Wars: Battlefront. In fact, it’s one of my favorite Star Wars games. However, the lack of other game types can make the gameplay feel repetitive after a while. Every single map and game mode has you doing the same thing. It’s just conquest all the time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, but it would be nice if you could mix things up every now and then. Playing with other players is probably the ideal way to experience Battlefront and getting an online game going nowadays will require some communication and coordination. Battlefront is a great game for a lot of reasons. You can enjoy it in first and third person, there’s multiple game modes, multiplayer, you can engage enemies on the ground and in the air, and it comes complete with plenty of Star Wars fan service. What’s not to like?
I would absolutely recommend Star Wars: Battlefront to fans of action games and the Star Wars franchise. Even today, Battlefront is still a fun game to play. The sequel, Battlefront II, has a bit more variety but this is where it all started. Star Wars fans will get a kick out of all the details and enjoy participating in the epic battles seen on-screen. Whether you play solo or with others, there’s plenty here to enjoy. Definitely check out Star Wars: Battlefront.