Review-- Star Wars: Battlefront II

Rating: *** ½ (out of ****)

Star Wars: Battlefront II is a challenging game to review. Unlike games that feature evolving narratives and character arcs, it is difficult to collect thoughts regarding a game that is essentially a collection of battles. As befits its title, Battlefront II is all about battles, be they ship-to-ship conflicts, ground assaults from one force to another, or duels between two Jedi Knights. The difficulty in reviewing fighting games in general is that they offer no sense of clear direction in which to take the review. Nevertheless, this should not be taken as an impediment to the game’s enjoyability, because Star Wars: Battlefront II offers a great deal of entertainment. The game itself is broken up into three sections—campaign, galactic conquest, and instant action—that each have their own unique elements, combining to form a worthy game for those teenagers who seek a few good hours of interactive bonding.

From a technological standpoint, the game is fantastic. While the images are note completely convincing as depictions of real life, they come about as close as any game that I have played. At certain points, scenes from the six live-action films are spliced with original animated footage, and the transitions are nearly seamless. The controls are fairly easy: the developers have wisely elected to relegate all shooting/ grenade launching controls to the R- and L-buttons, leaving the main keys for jumping, rolling, etc. The worlds are designed as enormous labyrinths that invite exploration. While the world of Battlefront II is not as immersive as that of Kingdom Hearts, it is more than capable of drawing players in and making them excited for the various conflicts they will face.

Perhaps the best quality of Star Wars: Battlefront II is how well the battles are designed. Players can use a variety of tanks, turrets, and ships during each conflict, as well as battle against similar equipment employed by the opposition. Players can choose between two time periods in the context of the films: the Clones Wars, in which they play as either battle droids or clone troopers; or, the Galactic Civil War, where the choice is between stormtroopers and rebels. While the armies of stormtroopers, rebels, and other factions are not ridiculously difficult to defeat, they offer worthy opponents, even to those gamers who are experts at third-person shooters. The space battles are also handled well—the ships are steady and relatively easy to control. All in all, Star Wars: Battlefront II represents time well spent, especially for groups of two or more people. As with most multiplayer games, this one loses a little of its appeal when only one person is playing.

The “Campaign” mission represents the only instance of narrative game-play found in Star Wars: Battlefront II. The storyline follows a veteran storm trooper as he recounts his experiences through some of the battles depicted in the feature films. The mission commences at an uncertain point during Revenge of the Sith, and continues until the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back (it is strange that the developers chose that particular battle as the stopping point, since nothing climactic happens at that point in the actual film). As with the rest of the game, missions in this section vary from capture-the flag to conquest (or defeating all of the enemy’s troops before they annihilate yours). If there is an unfortunate aspect to this mission, it is that the trooper’s voice-over narratives (during the cut-scenes) tend to become a little too preachy and philosophical. For anyone familiar with the movies and the nature of clones and storm troopers, the narrator’s guilt over the deaths that he causes seems slightly out of place. This is a minor annoyance, but is one that is occasionally difficult to ignore.

“Galactic Conquest” is a strategy mission in which players control fleets of soldiers between various planets, in attempts to either capture of defend the planets from the enemy. This is the most intellectually-stimulating aspect of Battlefront II, as it forces players to plan their moves and practice their tactical skills. There are about twelve planets to battle on, and these conflicts can occur either on land or in space. The game also mixes up the stage’s configuration so that different planets can be visited during different conflicts.

Finally, there is “Instant Action,” which, appropriately enough, is straight-up action. Players can choose from a list of favorite planets which ones they would like to battle on, and form a long conflict from it. On some planets, players can enter “Assault” mode, in which they play as one faction and attempt to wipe out the planet’s indigenous species. There is also "Assault" mode, the battle between good and evil. Players choose from a selection of the Star Wars saga’s most iconic heroes and villains, pitting both groups against each other in a conquest-like battle.

The three-and-a-half star rating comes with a reservation: having only played this game as part of a group, I cannot determine whether Battlefront II would warrant such a high rating if I were to play it alone. However, I do not see this as too great an issue, as video games are inherently more satisfying when they are used to stimulate social interaction. In that regard, Star Wars: Battlefront II is an unquestionable triumph. It is neither the most visually impressive nor the most immersive game that I have played, but it still ranks as a strong candidate for spending seventy dollars in the search for relaxing escapism.