When LucasArts released the first Star Wars: Battlefront game back in 2004, players got a boots-on-the-ground feeling in the Star Wars universe. It's now, 2009, how does the latest installment stack up?
Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron follows the tale of two brothers, both Jedi clones, named X1 and X2. As the Dark Side's power grows, the brother find themselves on opposite sides of the battle with X1 fighting for the Empire and X2 helping the Rebel Alliance. The game takes place over the course of the Star Wars films, with clips and characters from the older and newer films.
Compared with the previous entry in the Battlefront series, Elite Squadron offers "deeper" customization than any of the previous Battlefront titles. But with customization now standard on so many titles, a good game needs more than the option of character changes.
Variety Is The Spice of Space: Elite Squadron takes the fight into space, allowing players to fly X-Wings and board Star Destroyers. The inclusion of a galactic front in the series, opens up the title — makes it feel bigger. You go from blaster Stormtroppers on Tatooine to barrel rolling TIE Fighters in space. It really encapsulates the Star Wars experience.
So Epic: The great thing about Elite Sqaudron is the scope — players travel from Tatooine to Hoth to Endoor. The game is epic! Just like a Star Wars title should be. But at the same time, it does give players the feeling of experiencing the smaller side of a larger battle — just like a Battlefront title should
We Are Online: Elite Squadron has robust multiplayer, and The Heroes and Villains mode is a welcomed addition, giving players the chance to play as Stars Wars heroes or bad dudes. The other online modes, such as Galactic Conquest, offered replay value once the single player campaign is finished.
The Controls Are Outta Control: There's no way around it, controlling the camera and the character by using the PSP's analog stick is a bad idea. Why not control the character with the directional pad? Oh right, because I'm using it for all sorts of input controls like getting into spaceships and whatnot. The controls could be and should be streamed lined — they feel dated. There is nothing wrong with complex controls when they add to the experience. Here, they don't. They detract. It would make more sense to have the character controlled with the direction pad — not just for camera issues, but for control issues. The analog numb on the PSP often lead my character all over the place, jumping too far, running too far, missing my landing spot. Unfortunately, the Alternative Controls are even less instinctive than the Default ones.
Been Here Before?: And as previously mentioned, the inclusion of space battles, provides a variety in gameplay, but some of that variety gets stale in the single player campaign. Missions seem to be either shoot guys on foot, use Ion Canon, then fly away or fly away, use Ion Canon and then shoot guys on foot. A pattern develops and becomes old.
The addition off space battles and the new multiplayer mode show that there is still innovation and room for the Battlefront franchise to grow. But for it to truly blossom, the basic control mechanics are in need of an overhaul. I fear the dark cloud of clunky controls shrouds all Elite Squadron.
Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron was developed by Rebellion Developments for the PSP and published by LucasArts on November 3. Retails for $29.99 USD for the PSP as well as for the Nintendo DS. A copy of the game was acquired via PSN digital code for reviewing purposes. Played through single player campaign and tested multiplayer.
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