Star Wars Battlefront II
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-24 (net play)
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After a string of frankly pretty naff Star Wars games we breathed a sigh of relief when the first Battlefront hit consoles last year. Okay, it was far from perfect but you finally got the chance to fight throughout the Star Wars universe on a large scale, AT-ATs and all! This year Battlefront returns and itís brought the Imperial NavyÖ

For those of you who bought the original Battlefront you wonít find that much new here; most of the maps are either the same or slightly tweaked, with a couple of new venues from Episode III (notably Coruscant and Mustafar). Nearly all the soldier types, weapons and animations are the same too, the major differences being the inclusion of Jedi as playable characters and space battles (yes, with big ships and lasers and all that stuff).

After you kill a certain number of enemies you get the chance to play as a Jedi or Sith character (depending on which side youíre on). Itís a nice touch to break up using the same troop types over and over and it feels great to stroll down the Rebel blockade runner as Darth Vader, but something just doesnít feel right. Fighting with a lightsabre is pretty basic, restricted to a one-button slash and throwing it at someone, and feels tacked-on compared to what you can do with the regular troops.

The much larger and better thought-out addition to BF2 is the chance to fly all of the spacecraft youíve seen in the SW films, from Y-wings to Clone Transports. You spawn in the hangar of your cruiser and have a choice of ships from the nimble fighters to bombers and transports. The aim is to disable the enemy battleship, which can be done in a few ways. You can take down the shields and strategically destroy key sections of the ship (bridge, engines etc) by bombing them or you can board the ship itself and blow it up from inside! This choice does let you play better as a team and doesnít force you to fly about if you donít fancy it.

The handling of the ships is a bit twitchy and at first youíll find it hard to even see enemy fighters, let alone dogfight with them! It does get a bit easier but for reasons Iíll go into later itís best to go for the objectives rather than take on the ships yourself.

The two main game modes are Galactic Conquest and Rise of the Empire. GC comes from the original game, and it adds a bit of strategic management into what was quite a shallow game by choosing a side then travelling throughout the galaxy trying to take over the planets. You start off with a fleet and the opposing side can assault or retake any planets with their fleet of ships, or attack yours if they want. Combined with the bonuses you can buy that either help your side or hinder the opposing side it makes the game feel a whole lot deeper than it is, and is rather good fun to play as well.

Rise of the Empire is a new mode and follows a unit of Clone troopers (called the 501st) from the first skirmish on Geonosis to the establishment of the Empire. You fight on every planet you see in the SW world (including the rebel base on an Asteroid you see for five seconds in Episode III!) and to vary the action you are set several objectives for each battle. This usually means taking a certain command post (or holding it), or fetching a canister of something from somewhere, but they arenít really all that different to what youíd naturally do so seem a little pointless.

Nevertheless, the main game is still a lot of fun and the nostalgia factor of being able to do all those epic scenes from the movies, things you wanted to do as a kid (like take down the legs of an AT-AT, or storm the Death Star) does smooth over a lot of the cracks.

The game looks pretty smooth for a PS2 game and can handle quite a bit of action going on at one time without slowing down too much. The sound is probably the most perfectly created part of the game. Nearly every major score from all six films is included and sounds great when youíre zooming about in Tie fighter to the Imperial March. The sound effects sound exactly like in the films too, and Temuera Morrison (the guy who played Jango Fett) voices the clones (and narrates the RotE storyline), although itís slightly let down by the terrible voice acting by the rest of the characters.

The only real niggle about this game is about the AI of your teammates - they just donít know what theyíre doing! The key to winning games like BF2 is to take the spawn points simultaneously and hold them. Your allies just seem to be more preoccupied with sitting back and relaxing at the furthest back base youíve got, stealing all the vehicles and going for joyrides or just dying. No-one takes spawn points unless youíre there to help them but if you spend time capturing bases then your teammates just get killed by the enemy troops. Help them and all the spawn points you captured are promptly nicked back by the enemyÖ you see where Iím going with this? Itís strange that your guys donít do anything to help you (like work as a team or shoot at people) yet the opposition AI can co-ordinate attacks, take bases and ambush people; I want to defect!

This wouldnít be so bad a problem if the online mode were any good but has got a strange flaw - every game seems to lag like youíre playing with a 56k modem! Iíve got a 1 meg connection and play online on my Xbox (now upgraded to 360) and PC and they play fine, but in every single room I joined on BF2 it was so laggy it looked like you were watching time-lapse footage from Crimewatch! None of the other players could explain it and laughing at someone dancing around in circles shooting at a tree very quickly gave way to frustration when you get blown up by rockets you donít even see coming.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is a fun game with some cool new modes but the frustrating AI and all-but unplayable online mode make this a hard game to recommend to anyone but the fans of Star Wars games, whoíll understand (and forgive) its flaws.

Best Bits

- Space combat
- Amazing sound
- Galactic Conquest mode.
Worst Bits

- Annoying friendly AI
- Dodgy online mode

by: Crazypunk

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