Star Wars: The Story Better Left Untold
Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron (SWBES) is the latest title tagged for the Star Wars franchise, continuing the once console-specific Battlefront series onto the handhelds. Where the PSP version is able to power a much different experience than DS, SWBES drops the first-person perspective and adopts an overhead isometric view that should be all too familiar. But how does it hold up when Battlefront becomes an overhead shooter instead of the first/third-person game we are familiar with?
The single-player portion puts players in the role of X2, an elite clone trooper who, along with his “twin” X1, is perhaps the most decorated and adept of the clone troopers and given special missions to reflect his abilities. The saga of X2 plays out across the new and original Star Wars trilogy timelines, interwoven with the plotlines from the movies. For example, X2 does battle with General Grievous and has a role in the execution of Order 66 – the directive to kill all Jedi given in Episode II.
There’s a fair amount of plot and story interwoven from the backdrop of the movies intermixed amongst the peripheral canonical material. It will no doubt be interesting to the hardest of hardcore Star Wars fans, though casuals would be hard-pressed to care solely due to the game’s narrative. The focus on ancillary characters and story, particularly clones, provides a sense of giving a new story without getting in the way of “real” Star Wars tenets.
If you’ve played the DS versions of Ultimate Alliance 2 or G.I. Joe: Revenge of Cobra, amongst others, you’ll be familiar with the essence of how gameplay works here. The D-pad controls the movement of your character while the face buttons dodge, swap and fire weapons, interact with the environment, and launch grenades or their equivalents. At various waypoints, you can change your class to harness different strengths and abilities. The heavy weapons class has an extremely powerful mini-gun at its disposal, contrasted with the spy who fires dual pistols and can sabotage turrets. The assault class is your standard balanced class and the engineer can drop mini-turrets to attack the enemies.
While all these options look good on paper, they don’t make much of a difference. Elite Squadron on the DS is amazingly simple. Strategy doesn’t exist, as repeatedly firing at your enemies takes them down before the auto-lock mechanism takes over and has you firing at the next poor sap to die. For sheer morbid curiosity, I decided to see how I would fare if I just remained stationary and held down the B button to fire in a perverse “go down with the ship” moment. As I was using the spy’s dual pistols, I felt a bit like Woody Harrelson’s character in Zombieland making a last stand.
Unfortunately, the droids were even less of a threat than mindless zombies; I barely was shot once and cleared all attackers as they marched in to their deaths. What’s worse, it happened again… and again… and again. Wave after wave of enemies landed and I stood my ground, doing nothing but holding the B button as they fell in my wake of simplistic mayhem.
To change the pace, from time to time you are presented with vehicle missions such as piloting a fighter in a space battle. Sadly, these are no more interesting. You are only able to navigate along the X axis, so any sort of 3D space maneuvering is out of the question. Same thing applies here as on foot; line up the radar on the lower screen to the red enemy dots in the distance and keep them guns a blazin’. The strategy is exceedingly simple and the lack of a Y axis for movement totally defeats the purpose of space combat.
Graphically, things are adequate if not spectacular. Cutscenes between the action are delivered through nice drawings, with text dialogue taking place on the bottom screen. During the game, similar text will pop up on the lower screen giving further narrative – something I found myself missing half the time, as I was focused on the top screen where all the shooting was going on.
The music is exactly as you’d expect, being the extremely well-known Star Wars themes and sound effects. This isn’t really a bad thing, as it captures the mood. But when coupled with a subpar game, it feels uninspired. Take the same sound effects and music and add it to a dynamic game like Knights of the Old Republic and it feels epic. Moral of the story is the sound isn’t the one at fault, it merely plays down to its surroundings.
You’ll notice the lack of any mention of the multiplayer mode until now, an oddity as this is a game within the Battlefront series. Multiplayer is limited to four people and is more of a tacked-on. I have a sneaking suspicion not many people will be able to convince three of their friends to buy this game.
It’s a shame a series that offers as much as Battlefront does has sullied its name with a subpar release like this on a system that can’t handle what the Battlefront games are all about. It seems unnecessary to tack the Battlefront tag on when this could have been developed as its own stand alone game where the developers were free to build it without restrictions to make it a Battlefront doppelganger. As it is, Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron is a big disappointment that only the biggest of Star Wars fans should consider trying. While that’s the normal caveat for a licensed title, it’s a stretch here. In reality, don’t waste your time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Nothing spectacular, but likewise nothing overly offensive. More variety and detail certainly wouldn’t hurt, however. 2.5 Control
Extremely simplistic controls and gameplay make this a game that offers little enjoyment beyond the first 10 minutes. The lack of a Y axis movement for space combat is unforgiveable. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music and sound effects are solid. Unfortunately, they are tied to a game that lacks other redeeming qualities. 2.0
Multiplayer isn’t worth making this a purchase, and single-player is tedious and dull. Stay away.
2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.