Ok, so I was asked to do this review (well, actually, I begged, because Ive been looking forward to this game for quite some time), and to tell you the truth, I felt a little pressure as the date approached. What if my expectations of this game are set too high? What if Im completely biased towards this game? What if this is just another mediocre attempt to capitalize on the Star Wars franchise that hasnt been able to find a balance between pleasing Star Wars fans, and serious gamers? I mean thats the key, isnt it? In order to further this franchise, it needs a game that can be played and enjoyed by everyone, and not just Star Wars fans.
As I began to delve into this game, it became clear what LucasArts had done here, and to tell you the truth, it aint a bad strategy. Realizing, that there are indeed two audiences to please (i.e. one group who are Star Wars heads, and will accept anything, as long as it is true to the story, and the other, the gamer, who just wants a great gaming experience), LucasArts has blended their target audience for Star Wars: Battlefront with amazing grace. On one hand, you have this intense, action-packed, (albeit somewhat repetitive) Star Wars, battle through the ages, where you can put yourself in the throws of the historic Star Wars battles in two different single-player game modes, which, I think will keep any hardcore Star Wars fan entertained for hours (especially the Galactic conquest mode); and on the other hand, you have this MASSIVE online multiplayer mode, that will overwhelm even the most seasoned XBL junkie. So its the best of both worlds right?
Well, if not, its pretty close. Game-play for Star Wars: Battlefront, although not quite as polished as Id like to see it, is a gaming experience that is rivaled by few in its genre, especially when it comes to Xbox Live. There is just so much to do in this game, its hard to know where to start. Ill begin by revealing a few of its weaknesses as I see them, but its a short list. Weapons are the weakest link in this game. Weapons fire is odd, and not an exact science; there are times when your shots look like theyre being lobbed at your target and fall a little short, even though your sites are clearly on the intended victim, however, your site turns a different colour when you get a lock on your victim, so that is easily compensated for. Flyingwell, thats a whole other story, some of the boards are just a little too small to fly in, its like having a dog fight in a puppy mill, there just aint enough room! It does take a little getting used to but with a little practice, some of these maneuverable aircraft will decide the outcome of battles for sure. I found it difficult to switch from player view (where up, is up, and down, is down) to pilot view (which, is reversed), but thats easily changed in the options menu, and Im a little slow to begin with.
In keeping with the theme of vehicles, I have to say, there are some pretty kick butt modes of transport in this game. Any vehicle you see, you can drive or fly, with the exception of a few limitations based on which faction youre playing for. Different vehicles have different attributes, but ALL are useful. Whether its for transportation, massive destruction, or just for the fun of running people over, this game has some of the coolest vehicles Ive seen. But be forewarned, if you hop in an AT AT, make sure its pointing in the direction you want to go, because the game will most likely be over before you get that bad boy turned around. Its like trying to do a u-turn in your grandfathers Lincoln Towncar.
There are two single player modes in Star Wars: Battlefront; Galactic Conquest, and Historical Campaigns, both of which will provide a player with a limited amount of entertainment. Now, I say limited, because theres no real storyline to follow here. Its called Battlefront, and its named that for a reason. This game is all about the epic battles, and the strategies you apply to win them. Sure, as you progress in game modes you collect things on the way, bonus material, and a little help from some familiar faces, but thats about the extent of the plot. Now, I like it. I think this is just great, because really, weve all seen the movies, we all know how they end, just put me in the action, and let me rock and roll. It does get a little repetitive. It does get a little repetitive (having some déjà vu, are we?) after a while, but the strategies that you need to execute to complete a level, vary enough due to different enemies, vehicles, environments, and so on, that every planet and battle has its own challenges.
Now, the biggest issue in this game is with Xbox Live, and the LAG problem. This has been brought up in numerous reviews, and even with people Ive talked to on Xbox Live. Now, this is my official statement (ahem) lag is not an issue with this game, unless the host makes it one. Thats right folks. Ive hosted numerous games, and the feedback Ive got from the clients on my server, is that they were LAG FREE. The secret to this game, is being a smart host, and knowing your limitations. If you try and host a 24 player game with 16 bots, youre gonna run into some lag. But be careful, because even a game that has a reasonable amount of players in it, and full bots turned on, can experience problems. Youll just have to experiment with your connection, and see what numbers are best suited to yours. Here is a little guideline for you to follow to get you started (courtesy of my good friend XRayLexx, over at PXL):
Minimum Upstream - Max# you can host.
DSL/Cable (default) - 4
In order to host more players than the default, you need to set your upload speed in the menu, but its like Santa, it knows if youre lying.
I also found the menus somewhat confusing, as its difficult to find a game that you want to play without using Optimatch. The Quickmatch feature just plops you in the middle of a game that you may not necessarily want to be in. But being as there is not a whole lot of game types to choose from (well, actually, theres only one gametype to choose from), all youre really optimizing is the map and the number of players and bots in the server.
Visually, this game is very appealing. The planet environments are very rich, and you need to utilize your map (which by the way, is very well done) frequently to acquire your next target. Theyve spent a lot of time fine tuning lots of little things, and theres not much to complain about. The levels are well thought out, and very smooth. Watching your player run around, roll, jump, and even die is a pleasure to watch (even the dying part). One thing I found, and this may have more to do with AI (but was visually hilarious, and made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion), is when you have a bot lined up in your scope as a sniper, and you see him move around, its very entertaining, if not a little frustrating, because he skips around like hes doing a hyper-speed moonwalk in a bad puppet show. You just have to lead him, and take your chances on getting lucky, or just give up, cause theres no rhyme or reason to what hes doing.
Where this game surpasses all expectations, is in its audio. This is just like being in the movie theatre. All the sounds from Star Wars are here, and are as real as ever. From the blast of a pistol, to the guns on an X-wing to the eerily familiar whine of a Tie-Fighter, this game will immerse you in the Star Wars world. I would have liked a little more music, but I wouldnt want to sacrifice the sounds of the battle for it, although you can, of course fiddle with the audio options to suit your tastes.
Suggestions: The more I play this game, the more I like it. This is a strategically oriented game, and those who work together, and work together well, will win. A few changes Id like to see in this game are some lag issues resolved, because its not easy to host this, unless you have a connection like The Godfather. A better Lobby environment, or rather a Lobby environment, because as it stands now, theres not one. Its nice to chill in the lobby of a game with friends, and shoot the breeze for a little bit before the game starts. Its also nice to see who youre playing against. Id also like to see a few more gametypes. The current gametype is good, but variety is the spice of life, and I need my spice!!!
To sum up, this is a great game, and anyone who is in a clan, or likes to play as a team, needs to check this out. There are a lot of people playing this, so if youre thinking about getting this, dont wait too long, because Im honing my skills, and, to paraphrase from an old friendwhile you be razin you guns, I be blazin your buns.