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I think it’s safe to say everybody knows or has heard of Star Wars. It’s one of the most popular media franchises in history and rightfully so. George Lucas has created a fictional universe filled with unique characters, excellent lore, and engaging storylines. While the writing in several of the films may be sub-par, there’s not many other franchises that can even come close to Star Wars in scope and scale. At least not yet. Movies, cartoons, toys, books, and games have all spawned from the success of the films, each to varying success. Developed by Pandemic Studios and published by LucasArts, Star Wars: Battlefront was released for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 2 in September, 2004. Even today, it’s considered one of the best Star Wars video games to date. It was successful enough to warrant a sequel, Battlefront II, in 2005, and a reboot in 2015. I wanted to play the PC version of this game but, unfortunately, I don’t have it for PC so I resorted to playing the Xbox version. Also, from what I hear, it’s not easy to get running on modern systems, and it seems to be forgotten in favor of Battlefront II and the reboot.
After creating your profile you can choose from one of three difficulty modes – Easy, Medium, and Hard. The difficulty can be changed from the main menu as can your perspective. You can play this in first-person or third-person which is pretty awesome, especially for it’s time. Unfortunately, when playing in split-screen, you won’t see any first-person gun models but that’s only a minor gripe. There’s three modes to play through – Historical Campaign, Galactic Conquest, and Instant Action. Historical Campaign is like the story mode of sorts where you basically participate in famous battles from the films. Galactic Conquest is probably the most interesting mode of the three where the objective is to take over the galaxy. Instant Action is a basic mode where you can choose what maps you want to play in, the order of said maps, which era you want to play in – Clone Wars or Galactic Civil War – and the faction of your choosing.
Unfortunately, Star Wars: Battlefront came out in between the Episode II and III films of the prequel trilogy. I say “unfortunately” because Episode II sucks. By far the worst movie in the Star Wars film series. I mean the entire prequel trilogy isn’t that great to begin with but that movie is just awful. Regardless, the game obviously references and contains content from Episode II along with all of the other films released up to that point. In Historical Campaign you first choose the era you want to battle through – Clone Wars or Galactic Civil War. Clone Wars will take you through battles from the prequels and Galactic Civil War will take you through battles from the superior original three movies. You don’t get to choose your faction but both eras will take you through several famous battles from the films. You start each era playing as one faction and after several battles you immediately switch to the opposing faction. The factions consist of The Rebel Alliance, CIS, Galactic Republic, and Galactic Empire. There’s no real overarching storyline and instead, you’ll view cut scenes before and after battles that are just scenes ripped straight from the films. They’re only a few seconds long and only seem to exist for fan service. If anything, the introduction cut scenes before most of the battles will indicate what planet you’re on. Every now and then a Jedi or Sith will join in the fight including Darth Vader, Count Dooku, and even Mace Windu. They just seem to run around the battlefield with a lightsaber slaying enemies. The don’t really add that much to the gameplay, at least in single player, and you can’t play as them.
Now I prefer Galactic Conquest over the Historical Campaign just because it’s adds a bit of variety and a tad bit of strategy. You start by choosing from one of several Galactic Maps which also determine your faction, unless, of course you’re playing in multiplayer, then you have the option to pick a faction. The idea of this mode is to take over the galaxy by taking over all of the planets one battle at a time. The planets highlighted in red are already under the control of the opposing faction and the planets highlighted in green are under your control. A single planet has two battlefields and you must obtain victory on both to control the planet. But what makes this mode interesting is the planetary rewards. Every planet offers a bonus and they include things like automatically sabotaging the opposing faction’s vehicles, bacta tanks that will automatically regenerate your troops’ health, a Jedi hero that will assist your troops in battle, shit like that. After you win four battles you can use the special bonus granted by your secret base which, when used, seems to automatically take over an opposing planet or destroy it. My only gripe with this mode is that, when playing in single player, you’re forced to play as a specific faction, depending on the galactic map, which seems like an odd design choice.
One could say Star Wars: Battlefront could also be called “king of the hill” the video game because that’s really what it is. Because of this, the game can become repetitive since every battle is always the same. Some battlefields include objectives like destroying or protecting a shield generator or even Techno-Union ships but completing these objectives doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to win. You either need to take over all of the command posts on the battlefield or eliminate all opposing troops. Each faction has a set number of reinforcements and that number drains as troops are killed. Every faction has their own set of unique looking troops based on the era, and the individual troops make up different character classes. Although, each faction pretty much has the same set. For example each faction has a standard soldier that carries a rapid fire weapon and can throw thermal detonators or concussive grenades, great for damaging armored vehicles. Pilots are vehicle experts that can repair vehicles automatically when piloting them. They can build things on the battlefield like turrets and they also can also distribute health to allies. Snipers carry recon droids that traverse the battlefield and can then initiate and orbital strike. Heavy Weapon troops carry missile launchers that lock on to enemy craft.
The factions also have Special Unit characters like Wookie Smugglers armed with a bowcaster and they can lay down time bombs. The Imperial Dark Trooper is armed with a lethal blast cannon and a jump pack. The Republic Jet Trooper has a jet pack allowing him to fly across the battlefield for a limited time and he’s armed with an EMP launcher which is very lethal to droids. Finally there’s the Droideka which may be the most deadly character in the game. The Droidekas walk slow but can roll around the battlefield at high speeds. They can’t take many hits before blowing up but they can activate a shield for a limited time and they are armed with dual laser blasters that fire rapidly. They are easily the most annoying enemies to fight. All troops, minus the Droidekas can run, jump, crouch, and go prone, but unfortunately you can’t sprint. That kind of sucks if you end up spawning nowhere near the action. Before entering the battle you must choose from one of the troops provided in your faction and every time you die you have the option to choose the same or another troop type. Every command post counts as a spawn point so when you die you can respawn at any of the command posts on the battlefield under your faction’s control. The AI in this game actually does put up a decent fight, at least on Medium. You can issue commands to your squad mates like “move out”, “hold position”, and “follow me” which is probably the most useful command in single player. They do actually listen and will kill opposing troops but they also show a bit of stupidity. Sometimes I saw several troops just not moving and the enemy AI doesn’t always react to getting shot. But I can definitely say the game isn’t a cakewalk. There were several battles I actually lost to the AI so there is some challenge to be had.
The actual core gameplay is quite simple. You aim, shoot, try not to die, and take over command posts. The Xbox version includes an aim assist mechanic that can be toggled on/off. Fallen enemies will sometimes drop health and ammo. Droids are always conveniently placed near command posts and they can provide health and ammo to troops but they can also be destroyed. Most battlefields include vehicles of both ground and air variety and if you’ve seen the Star Wars films, they should look pretty familiar. AT-ATs, AT-STs, X-Wings, Y-Wings, Snowspeeders, and other classic Star Wars vehicles are all here and you can pilot each of them. Multiple characters can fit inside a vehicle and operate different functions. One person will drive the vehicle and the others on board will normally fire turrets or even the Tow-Cable if in the Snowspeeder. The vehicles are usually very useful against ground troops and are excellent for destroying opposing vehicles and turrets on the battlefield. Vehicles like the AT-ATs can also double as spawn points which can be a big help if you’re playing on one of the bigger maps and you don’t feel like trekking across the battlefield on foot after spawning in.
One of the best things about Star Wars: Battlefront is it’s visual presentation. I’m guessing this looks much better on PC but it doesn’t look to shabby on Xbox, either. It’s obviously dated by today’s standards but it does perform decently. There’s noticeable screen tearing, the frame rate dips often, even heavily when playing in split-screen, and at one point I noticed some troops stuck in mid-air. Luckily there was nothing game breaking. There’s also more to the presentation than the way it looks. It has all of the Star Wars sights and sounds. John Williams’ classic Star Wars music score is here in all it’s glory. I can’t say the music is really original since it’s ripped straight from the films but I wouldn’t expect anything different, either. The blasters, lightsabers, troops, and dialogue all match what we would see and hear in the films and the game sticks very close to the source material. You’ll battle across several planets which do give the game a bit of visual variety. Hoth, Tatooine, Naboo, Yavin 4, and Rehn Var are all here, among others, and each of them looks and feels unique. There’s also some nice visual details like destroyed ships on the battlefield, aircraft flying overhead, and the battles can get really intense with lasers flying every which way and explosions in every direction. You’ll need to be careful to not get eaten by the Sarlaac on Tatooine. On the planet Hoth, you can see the Millenium Falcon in the Hangar of the Echo Base. You can see fish swimming around in the water and rays of sun shining into the forest of Yavin 4. I imagine Star Wars: Battlefront was quite the spectacle in 2004 and I really appreciate how accurate to the source material the content in this game is.
I can see why Star Wars: Battlefront is considered one of the best Star Wars games ever made. It’s fun, action packed, and sticks close to the source material. I would recommend everyone give this game a shot, especially Star Wars fans as there’s a lot to love here. It’s a first-person shooter, third-person shooter, it’s got air and ground combat, a decent single player, and plenty of multiplayer mayhem to enjoy. It might be a bit difficult to get some game’s going online but the single player does offer some great fun and there’s even split-screen multiplayer on Xbox, which means you can play against a friend or even cooperatively. From what I’ve played of the reboot, I actually prefer this and even Battlefront II. It may be a bit repetitive and dated but Star Wars: Battlefront is still a great game and an excellent video game entry in the Star Wars universe.