Review: Star Wars Battlefront

I was inspired to write this after reading dick’s gripe about 1st person shooters. Because I feel his pain, and no one should have to put up with that (crap).

But first, of course, the digression:

As mentioned briefly in Roleplayer Blues and the music review I had some interest in the X-Box rpg Fable. Really I think I just liked the commercials, the idea of a character getting lighter or darker, customizing and growing and becomming part of some epic story. And, let’s face it, I really just like the word “Fable” (It’s got this short, simple, homespun and evocative sound to it like “milk” and “hearth”… and “home” and “spun” for that matter).

Apparently I mentioned this once in passing to She Dragon, probably circa June 2004. Sometime around the time that She started getting a whole bunch of babysitting gigs to suppliment her income as a women’s gym daycare worker. Only at Christmas would I find out that this extra work was done on my behalf to obtain not only the game mentioned earlier, but also to fund the purchase of an X-box to play it on. To make this more of a labor of love it turns out that 3D movement games give She Dragon headaches so it’s not like She’s about to enjoy the gift herself any time soon.

At least She has the compensation of my own meager holiday gift, and the fact that She actually does enjoy the company of small children anyway.

As part of the deal with buying an X-box at that location you actually got three games for a lower price so we also have Mortal Kombat n ( :: n = some integer, probably between 0 and 5, that I’m too lazy to get up and look at) and Star Wars Battlefront.

Star Wars is a game I imagine would probably be pretty neat played on a network with some other folks. Unfortunately my ass is too cheap to pay for such a hookup so I can only tell you about solo and split screen gameplay, and even here my view is pretty unenlightened by lack of experience with other similar games.

I mean, what can I say? It’s better than Duke Nukem? Better than all the Dooms I’ve played? Of course it is, but there are a ton of run-around-and-kill-things-in-3D games now, so those kind of comparisons don’t really mean too much.

I’ll say these things though:

For my untrained hands the controls were a little complicated at first. Those X-box controllers have alot of buttons and triggers and the games generally take for granted that you will quickly master the ability to press each and every one of them with excellent coordination.

Fortunately, now the student has just about become the master. I can strafe rebel scum with fire from my standard issue Imperial blaster while nimbly dodging many of the incomming shots from his anarchist “light side” buddies.

Basically there are two different time periods you can play in: Historical (circa the Clone Wars) and Empire/Rebellion era.

Within each context you can play one of two sides: Rebels or Empire, Droids or Clones.

And within each context there are also several different planetary scenarios you can fight in. These you can look up yourself if curious. There are more than ten, I’m pretty sure.

You also end up fighting (or tripping over) variuos other factions in a couple scenarious: Tuscan raiders, Amadala’s house-guard, frickin’ Jar-Jar Binks’s people, ewoks, and jawas.

A friend and I played it a few times around here and have pretty much figured out that, with a couple exceptions (ie. the Droidica) and some slight variations in weaponry, all the sides in the conflict are actually about the same, they just look different. This is probably to be expected so that one side doesn’t have a gawdawful advantage from the start.

At the same time though the scenario really sort of limits who you get to pick as your troops. For one thing you can’t pick any of the other factions, so you can’t cheer on your Tuscan raiders and jawas as they drive out the offworld menace and restore a free Tattoine for all swadled peoples. Similarly you can’t have people from different eras fight, so no droids facing off against the rebel alliance or any of that shenanigans.

But there are a couple bright spots. With split screen you and another player can either play on the same side or against.

And, you can either choose to have your guy be either a 1st person or 3rd person shooter. Early on I switched to 3rd person and have never looked back (Figuratively that is. Literally my guy looks behind himself constantly every time he starts trying to take over a command post.).

Which brings to mind another aspect of the game: The point of it.

Theoretically on some planets there are goals you need to accomplish: Sheild generators to be taken out or defended, etc. However, from what I can tell actually accomplishing these goals gains you nothing. The game normally ends up being a war of attrition seeing which side can eliminate all of the other’s soldiers or overtake all of the command posts first (usually the former). Additionally it’s really tough to accomplish the stated goals in most cases since the target facilities are usually re-spawning points and by the time you’ve destroyed the target you’ve had to totally annilate the opposing army anyway.

Ultimately I don’t think Battlefront was a bad game, but just seemed it could somehow have been made slightly cooler and more flexible somehow.

Battlefront includes a little trailer for the Star Wars Republic Commandos game that looks pretty cool though. From the little previews I’ve seen Commandos seems to stress actual individual and small group tactical effort rather than the “put 400 opposed troops in a giant terrarium and shake it to make ’em fight” approach that Battlefront appears to.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

3 thoughts on “Review: Star Wars Battlefront

  1. The Star Wars games have really gone downhill I think. Back in the day games like X-Wing were really great. I even had a lot of fun playing the SNES games. But then something happened… and I’m not sure what. I chart the decent of the Star Wars game franchise somewhere around Shadows of Empire. I still think Shadows was a great idea in theory, with the game, soundtrack and book; but in practice, it was a different matter. To begin with, the book was pretty bad, and I think for me, the lack of satisfaction I got out of reading it somehow also tarnished my game playing experience of Shadows.

    I thought they had a Boba Fett game out. I wouldn’t mind playing that. Though, it does seem gratuitous of Lucas to cash in on Fett’s cult status and release a game (it is Attack of the Clones all Joba-Over again).

    On an slightly unrelated note: I know you like the word fable… but for me it holds no uncertain amount of trauma, because of William Faulkner’s A Fable. Though it is an interesting novel from a critical standpoint, I feel it is a one of his worst, and reading it scared my psyche. So word of warning, don’t ever take a bite from Faulkner’s A Fable tree of knowledge – at least if you want to continue to like the word fable.

  2. One other sucky thing about Battlefront that I forgot to mention:

    You can pilot vehicles in the game. This looked cool, and in the case of a couple slow-moving vehicles isn’t bad. But since the game takes place on planets with a geographically defined “battlefield”, some of the faster moving vehicles end up moving too fast to be of any use. For one thing you quickly end up leaving the battle field unless you turn almost constantly. For another thing both ship-to-ship and ship-to-ground combat are nearly impossible if you’re flying a fast vehicle because you can’t slow down well enough to aim at enemies.

    Incidently I thought I heard that Knights of the Old Republic was a pretty good game, but never actually seen it.

    As for the books, pretty much any star-wars fiction I’ve ever read just blows large chunks. The only stuff that was actually moderately decent was a book of short stories about the bounty-hunters. There seems to be a vague concensus that as the first three movies come out they’re slowly undermining the novels written about stuff that happened after the original trilogy. Sort of like that Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, written I think sometime before Return of the Jedi or Empire Strikes Back came out. If read on it’s own Splinter might be sort of flirtingly sweet here and there and not very impressive, but the author obviously didn’t know that Luke and Leia would turn out to be siblings.

    Thanks for the Fable advice loki. I generally steer clear of Faulkner. The only story of his I had to read in college was something about a spinster who killed her gentleman caller and kept his body around out of loneliness and that did nothing for me. But I’ll make a special effort to avoid the work you mention.

  3. I remember reading the Timothy Zahn books, and in particular Heir to the Empire, and liking them. However, I wonder if I’d like them now… For example, I loved the Dragonlance books when I was a kid, but when I read the first one again a couple of years ago, I discovered that it was actually pretty bad.

    You know, everybody made such a big deal when the Zahn books came out, as if they were the first Star Wars books. There were some others though, like Brian Daley’s various Han Solo books and then the Alan Dean Foster book, Splinter in the Mind’s Eye. And I really did like the Han Solo novels by Daley.

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