The first iteration of Star Wars: Battlefront
was a slam dunk by Pandemic studios and LucasArts, and the
sequel has proven to be far greater than its predecessor.
By adding a plethora of new features and options, the series
has had new life breathed into it, yet has kept the core
gameplay that made it such a hit intact. One of the more
interesting decisions made by the publisher was to include
a version of the game for the PSP, despite the obvious graphical
and technological drawbacks of the system when compared to
the consoles. Where does the portable version stand up? After
many hours of playing, it can conclusively be said that while
some sections of the game feel… Unnatural,
the force is strong with this one.
The port of Battlefront II to the PSP has gone surprisingly
smoothly. It still has the distinct flavor - The bouquet, if
you will - of Star Wars Battlefront. The game engine and gameplay
therein still feel remarkably similar to the console versions,
despite the limitations of the hardware - Which brings me to
my first complaint.
But before I digress, for those unfamiliar
with the Battlefront combat system, or Battlefront itself,
it goes like this: You and the enemy have a set amount of
reinforcements and characters on the field at once. When
one of your troops dies, reinforcement enters the fray, and
it goes on until one side's reinforcements are depleted.
There are also Command Posts along the field, which act as
spawn points for your troops. These Command Posts are assigned
to either side or start neutral. When a troop stands near
a command point, it slowly changes allegiance, going from
one color, to neutral, to the other color. This is effectively "capturing" a
command post. That side's reinforcements can then spawn from
those posts, gaining a strategic advantage. The game can
also be won by capturing all the command posts and having
them in your possession for twenty seconds. In Battlefront
II, these command posts can also be used to switch your soldier's
class, which varies between a ground troop, sniper, engineer,
jetpack troop, commander, or other such unit, each with its
own specific bonus. In previous installments of the game,
one would have to re-spawn and squander a reinforcement to
And now, the laundry list of complaints. The battles are simply
no longer as epic as on the consoles because of hardware limitations.
While the PSP is still a beautiful and powerful piece of technology,
it cannot stand up to the home consoles. The levels still have
the scale of the console games, but the action is watered down.
At some times, your allies prove to be useful and versatile,
but most of the time, they're sitting ducks who probably couldn't
hit the side of a barn without your guidance. You will find
yourself constantly running around, killing hordes of enemies
by yourself, and capturing command posts like a one man army,
while your fellow troops are concentrating on misfiring at
opponents, having reaction time delayed by seconds, and running
into your line of fire. It's not like you'll be very overwhelmed
most of the time - Kiss 200+ player battles goodbye. There
are only 20 units present on the map at any given time, with
only about 75 troops on either side as reinforcements. As a
result, battles are quicker and on a smaller scale, but lose
that epic flavor that made the console games so satisfying.
Another notable loss is any kind of real story mode. The port
is bare-bones, offering the satisfying-yet-repetitive Galactic
conquest mode, a challenge mode, and instant action, and not
much else. Galactic Conquest mode, which is arguably the meat
of the game, allows you to play as the CIS Droid army, the
Clones, the Empire, or the Rebels, though there is no mixing
and matching between which side faces which - The matches are
based on the time period of the Star Wars history (CIS vs.
Clones, Empire vs. Rebels). In this mode, you move a ship along
a chain of planets, conquering them as you go. You start off
with only two kinds of troops, but you can buy more by accruing
points by conquering planets and defending your own. You win
this mode by conquering all of the planets. However, when your
ship(s) collides with the enemy ship, you get to take part
in one of the newest and most hyped features of Battlefront
II - Space combat.
In the previous installation of Battlefront, aerial combat
was restricted to a tiny space wherein there were no objectives
and no aerial maneuvers could be performed. In Battlefront
II, at least in the console versions, you can fight both on
the enemy ship and through space as you board and defend. This,
again, is where the PSP's limitations are apparent. In the
PSP version, space combat is pretty much restricted to space.
You only have two units available, the Pilot and Marine. However,
due to the lack of on-foot combat in the space levels, the
Marine is effectively negated in place of the Pilot. The most
you can do in the way of attacking an enemy ship on the inside
is piloting a landing craft in the enemy's hangar, which will
then act as a spawn point for your troops, and hoping you can
kill an enemy pilot before they enter a vehicle. However, this
tactic is woefully ineffective, as the enemy will probably
defeat you soundly before you cause any real damage. The easiest
way to win a space battle is to hop in a ship and repeatedly
strafe the different parts of the enemy command ship, destroying
parts as you go, but this feels more like a chore than anything.
I still dread whenever I come in contact with the enemy ship.
If the space battles were any bit as good as they are on the
consoles, it would be bliss. Also, the limitation as to how
many units can be on the field at once means that there are
no levels where you can fight on the ground or use a ship.
The levels are either entirely ground-based or aerial, with
Still, Galactic Conquest is somewhat entertaining for a while,
but there's really not much drive beyond conquering planets.
There are a few nice touches, though, such as being able to
purchase upgrades that you can use in battle, like an extra
garrison of troops, or increased blaster strength. But while
these are nice tidbits, they become quite necessary, as when
your men suddenly take a turn for the dumber, they'll need
a little extra assistance.
If galactic conquest isn't your thing, there are new modes
that offer a little variety, namely, the Challenges. These
modes pit you in a special series of challenges, such as using
an assassin soldier to kill only certain enemy commanders,
or using one troop to commit genocide against a certain species
of alien within a given timeframe, which is more entertaining
than it sounds. The variety is appreciated, but with only three
of these modes, it will leave you wanting more.
The biggest gripe of all about the game is
the multiplayer, or the lack thereof. The Battlefront series' main
feature has been the incredible multiplayer action it provides,
but this has been overlooked in the PSP's case. Whether it is because
of technological limitations or just human error, this game lacks
any Infrastructure multiplayer whatsoever. Unlike Socom 3, which
has online multiplayer, the game is limited to 4-player ad-hoc
mode. The inclusion of infrastructure would make this game a must-buy
for multiplayer fans, but this crippling blow to the game means
that it has very little replay value after conquering the different
modes, which takes very little time to complete. Even the ad-hoc
is somewhat watered down thanks to the smaller scale of the battles.
The game does offer variety in multiplayer game modes, such as
the shooter mainstay Capture The Flag, but it isn't enough to save
it from the loss of infrastructure (though Capture the Flag is
quite fun in single player).
But this isn't saying the game isn't fun.
Despite the inherent AI problems, and smaller scale of the battles,
there's still plenty of fun to be had. The game is no longer as
grand as its console counterpart, true, but this works rather well
on a portable system, meant to be played in small nuggets. The
AI isn't really too much of a problem, given that the enemies aren't
too bright, but there's still a lot of room for improvement. It's
a little hard to describe, but through all these imperfections,
the game is still rather fun to play. It absorbs you into the battles,
if only for the pure joy of the mindless rampages you can go on,
and the bit of strategy that is blended in with the action vis-à-vis
the command posts and new modes of play.
The fan service is also a plus, mostly involving the new Jedi characters.
If you activate a Jedi bonus you purchased in Galactic Conquest,
or in any of the other modes, you can turn into a Star Wars protagonist
with super-powerful abilities and weapons. Along with a longer life
bar, Jedi can use force powers such as the force jump and lightsaber
toss, while non-Jedi's have beefed-up defensive and offensive capabilities.
The selection is mind-boggling - If they were in Star Wars, you can
probably play as them. Yes, even Han Solo, Chewbacca, Boba Fett and
Princess Leia. In Assault Mode, you can even have a mode where nearly
every special character can duke it out at once, which is so fun
it almost justifies the purchase of the game alone. If it weren't
for the bad AI, tedious space battles, and lack of online multiplayer,
this game would be, hands-down, the best shooter on the PSP, but
certain limitations simply hold it back in this respect.
The controls work surprisingly well on the PSP, despite the lack
of a second analog stick. Movement is primary accomplished with the
analog stick, serving to move your character forward, back, and strafing
left and right, with the face buttons letting you look in different
directions. Pressing up on the d-pad allows you to board or exit
a vehicle. Left brings you to a behind-the-shoulder or scope view
for accurate aiming, right cycles through weapons, and down activates
the auto-aim. The auto-aim works like a dream, and more than compensates
for the loss of a second analog stick. It targets enemies effectively,
but also requires you to keep the enemy in your sites instead of
letting you just hit the auto-aim and fire away. Still, you may have
some trouble targeting the enemy you want, as it tends to target
based on the center of the screen, and usually at the enemy furthest
away if two are in a line, but it is quickly correctable. However,
a different control scheme must be used to perform maneuvers such
as the crouch and the roll, but these moves aren't too useful in
the PSP version of the game in case you don't want to wean yourself
off of the standard control scheme. Ship controls now allow you to
use the square button to perform aerial maneuvers, and the circle
button allows you to tilt your ship. You can also perform aerial
loops, and skill will allow you to perform complicated maneuvers
such as immelmans. The precision of the controls allow you to enjoy
your experience, rather than detract from the overall experience
by forcing you to compensate for any shortcomings.
LucasArts and Pandemic were able to recreate the detailed battlefields
of the console game with remarkable precision. The levels are just
as immense as in the console games, and not a lot of detail was lost.
Each character, ship, and weapon is also modeled accurately, down
to the ribs on the Storm Troopers' armor plating. There are a few
lo-res textures here and there, usually on walls and floors, but
occasionally on the character models themselves. Color blending is
minimal while looking directly at the screen, but it is definitely
noticeable when watching someone else play the game. There are occasional
bits of choppiness and slowdown, but these are highly infrequent,
and the graphics, for the most part, are quite smooth. The miniaturization
of the console game is remarkable, and the graphical quality only
reinforces that notion. Even with these large and complex levels,
loading times are short, usually lasting about 30 seconds between
battles. However, battery life is on the short side as well. When
playing at 2/3 brightness and half volume, the game lasted for about
four hours before I had to recharge my PSP. While this is longer
than some games, it's still pretty short.
John Williams' grand orchestral score is beautifully recreated in
the PSP version of the game. The sound quality is absolutely stunning.
Each familiar piece of the Star Wars fanfare is played in its full
glory, with no loss of sound quality at all. The sound effects, thankfully,
are also well done and crisp. Each blast of a rifle or swing of a
lightsaber is fully audible, even down to small touches like the
screams of soldiers or the ghastly wheezing of Darth Vader. You would
never guess that such lush, gorgeous sound quality could be pumped
out of the two tiny speakers on the PSP. This is probably the high
point of the entire game, and rightly so - Who wants a Star Wars
game where you can't sing along with Luke's theme?
The shortcomings of this game lie primarily in
the limitations of the hardware. The not so bright AI and tedious
space battles, as well as the lack of any real story or online multiplayer,
is absent only in the PSP installation of Battlefront II. Despite
these inherent shortcomings, the game is still rather fun to play.
The exquisite sound quality and spot-on controls, as well as the
forgiving auto-aim and faithfully-recreated graphics and levels,
all draw you into the game and evoke a style of gameplay that could
only be Star Wars Battlefront. The bottom line? If you just want
to play Battlefront II, pass this game up and buy the console version.
But if you want to play Battlefront on the go, or simply want a fun,
mindless shooter for your PSP, Battlefront II is your kind of game.
Besides, what kind of Star Wars fan could resist playing as Boba
Playing Hints and Tips
- Space battles are easily won by taking any fighter plane and
repeatedly strafing the different parts of the enemy ship with bombs.
- The first thing to concentrate on is capturing command posts. Killing
the enemy forces takes a backseat to securing a foothold on the battlefield.
- Be sure to know when becoming a Jedi is useful. Sometimes, your
current position can do more damage than a Jedi could.
- While in single player mode, pause the game and enter these codes
for their desired effect:
- Unlimited Ammo: Up, Down, Left, Down, Down, Left, Down, Down, Left,
Down, Down, Down Left, Right
- God Mode - Up, Up, Up, Left, Down, Down, Down, Left, Up, Up, Up,
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
The levels are recreated beautifully,
and the character models are spot-on, but some blurry texturing
jobs keep this score from a perfect 5.
The high point of the game, the sound
quality is brilliant, and each Star Wars symphony comes out
crystal clear. Absolutely beautiful.
While mindless killing is pretty fun
for a while, the lack of lasting effects from the game or any
real drive sap the replay value beyond replaying the same battles
over and over. Good as a mindless shooter with a dash of strategy
thanks to command posts and new modes of play.
Space battles are a chore, and there's
no infrastructure multiplayer, but this game's inherent mechanics
make each battle new and interesting, though the dumb ally
AI may force you to compensate for what could only be the "special" forces.
Mindless shooting is still pretty fun, though, and trying out
all the different classes and strategies on each level, as
well as the fan service, give the game a decent replay life.