May the Farce Be with You
It’s a Star Wars game. Regardless of what I say, there are rabid, brand-loyal fans that will refuse to hear and acknowledge anything negative regarding the franchise. But like I mentioned, this is a Star Wars game and I do hold the franchise to a higher level than a Majesco bowling game. However, Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron is more of a spare than a strike.
Taking place at the start of the Clone Wars era, the story weaves around events in the movies, carefully avoiding any clashes with the main plot pillars. Battlefront: Elite Squadron, like the majority of Star Wars games, fills in the gaps between movies with absolutely no significant plot development. In this game you’ll take part in famous battles from the movies, but from the perspective of the grunts. It’s like feasting upon the crumbs of the A-list characters. You will play as X2, the Jedi clone that has chosen to fight with the Republic. Various weapons, armor, and skills can be acquired throughout the game to continually enhance your character. You will actually get to play as some of the famous Star Wars characters such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker but not in the main mode, so don’t get all excited. As a matter of fact, there’s really not much to get excited about in the first place.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment you’ll be disappointed with Battlefront: Elite Squadron. There are so many let-downs that it’s hard to choose one in particular. For me it was the control scheme. Not less than ten minutes into the game I knew I was not going to overcome this bit of nastiness. Not only is the physical control scheme difficult to come to terms with, but faulty collision detection and command issues make things even more frustrating in-game. Both the camera angles and the movement of the character are controlled by the analogue nub. The camera kicks into auto when you’re in close quarters, like turning a corner or entering a room for instance. It zooms in too tight, making it difficult to see where all of the enemies are. During this time you’re a sitting duck while you try to turn your character around while attempting to widen the camera angle. Strange things also happen during melee combat. Commands don’t always register, and at times your weapon will have no affect on an enemy at all. Even when you are hitting an enemy, there is no animation that would indicate he’s taking a hit. The only way you can tell you’re doing any damage is to check out his health gauge.
Targeting enemies is a fickle process. It takes a while to lock-on to a target only to have it disengaged when they make dramatic evasive maneuvers. The auto-targeting system is also dysfunctional, as it will lock-on to random enemies; not the ones that are the immediate threat. It’s difficult to see exactly what’s going on in melee combat. Weapons are moving, but you’re not sure who is winning; a situation not improved by stuttering framerate issues.
If that’s not enough to make you regret your purchase, how about the repetition? In each level it’s the same old thing. The linear gameplay style is barely disguised, although I’m sure there are players that will be oblivious to it. Each level incorporates all the variety that you’ll ever experience in the single-player mode. You’ll start out on foot where you’ll eventually control a vehicle on the planet’s surface. You’ll then move on to piloting a fighter craft such as an X-Wing or TIE Fighter to partake in dogfights in outer space, graduating to boarding one of the enemy motherships to destroy it from the inside. Granted, the planets do change as do the enemies and the vehicles, but there’s no change to the gameplay. Each level is like one self-contained movie, and while you will experience battles encompassing all six Star Wars films, the effect is disjointed for this game.
Employing the online infrastructure, up to 16 players can do battle in the multiplayer modes. The controls issues that plague the single-player campaign mode aren’t as apparent, but that may be due to latency that delays commands. I would like to say that things run smoothly, but even in cyberspace there is no escape from the game’s glitches.
Principal characters such as Luke, Vader, Boba, and Admiral Ackbar can be played in the Heroes and Villains mode. They turn up randomly during regular play and act as power-ups lending more devastation to your attacks while adding more resilience to enemy attacks. The randomness of this mode coupled with the multiplayer deathmatch battles are the only real surprises you’ll experience in this otherwise predictable and repetitive game.
Graphically the game looks great, as long as it’s paused. There are some really great animated sequences, but the choppy framerate issues mar the spectacle. The online modes suffer as well, but they still show moments of greatness. The screen size just isn’t conducive to deathmatch modes, but that’s a constant that can’t be changed. Voiceovers are good if generic, but there’s no denying the quality of the music and sound effects which are undeniably some of the best in the business. It’s just too bad that the Star Wars franchise isn’t as concerned about the quality of its games as it is with its soundtrack and sound effects.
I think the developers tried to cram too much into this game. I could do without playing as Vader and Maul, and I can even live without the online modes, if only the single-player mode was technically sound – and above all, fun. I expect better and you should as well.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
Good graphics are marred by stuttering framerate and camera angle issues. 2.2 Control
Awful control scheme gives the nub double duty. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Average voiceovers, but everything else in the audio department rocks. 2.6 Play Value
Repetitious gameplay for each level. Online Deatmatch modes offer some diversion. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.