Star Wars Battlefront
Believe it or not, but you can actually pilot snowspeeders against AT-ATs!
Many Star Wars games end up being little more than semi-good to horrible rip-offs of other successful games, for example compare Force Commander to Command and Conquer. Star Wars Battlefront is a great separation from that trend. Battlefront is a clone of Battlefield: 1942, but it does it more or less right.
Battlefront puts you in the middle of an all out battle with some fairly simple rules to win. You can either destroy the enemy's army or capture a bunch of checkpoints. The game boils down to who can keep the most check points the longest, because they also affect where you can spawn and how many of each side can spawn as well. The checkpoint capturing is fun stuff, but sometimes I wished they had thrown in a capture the flag or fortress mode for some change-up in the routine.
The campaign mode is rather short, but fun for fans of the series who get to fight in many of the Star Wars series greatest battles. There have been hundreds of Star Wars games that have gone over these same battles that Battlefront rehashes, which can get a little old. I almost cringed when I saw the Hoth battle, I mean how many times can I expect to take down an AT-AT and care about it? Star Wars Battlefront makes the Hoth battle entertaining because now you finally get to go on the Imperial side and get in every vehicle, turret, or what have you. Battlefront also doesn't discriminate between Star Wars eras by adding a whole slew of battles from the less than popular “new” trilogy. I loved both eras and sometimes found it hard to pick which one I wanted to play in. Even if you didn't like the new films, Battlefront takes the best parts and leaves out all the crap like the horrible love scenes. Plus, you can kill Gungans!
Most of the fun derives from the vehicle combat. There's a whole variety of vehicle types to rage around the battlefield in. Aside from the aforementioned AT-AT there are all kinds of tanks, speeders, skiffs, and fighters to keep you happy. The only vehicle combat that I didn't care for was the space fighter dogfights involving such ships as the classic X-Wing and TIE fighter. I couldn't find that much use for an air battle, unless someone got the notion to bomb your forces. It always was rather clunky flying around, so it made it that much less fun.
Not to be totally out done, the man to man (or woman) battles are pretty great. There's a large selection of troop types in each era, usually ranging to about 4 basic types. Each troop has its own unique abilities and there aren’t any that can go safely ravaging around the battlefield Rambo style for too long.
The maps are well designed as a whole, and are the right size for tons of action. Many of the planets are pulled directly from the Star Wars films, of course, but at least one of them is new. Some maps are fairly large allowing for large scale vehicular action, while others are small and cramped allowing for some intense toe to toe fighting. Some levels feature some great choke points that allow for some serious contention for checkpoints and the ground in between.
The visuals range from pretty decent to great at times. There's nothing better than playing a split-screen game and seeing one player controlling an AT-AT while another runs under its cover fire. Most of the graphics are fairly standard now days, but they do the job well enough to present an immersive experience.
The sound effects are awesome and capture every Star Wars branded sound perfectly. The 5.1 surround mix is rather decent, but I noticed some occasional glitches when a battle would start. Music is the same orchestral pieces that everyone has come to know and love.
The game's biggest weak point is on the enemy AI. It's not entirely horrible, but it's not overly impressive either. Much of the time the A.I. controlled combatants don't do anything useful and do a good job at uselessly running into enemy fire, but at other times it seems to get the job done.
After playing through the campaign mode I didn't have much of a reason to play the game alone anymore. Thankfully, the multiplayer game is fun for playing with a friend at home or over Xbox Live. The split screen co-op campaign is fun and when that runs out there's a quick skirmish instant action mode or the even better Galactic Conquest mode. This mode is a planet by planet conquest for domination of the galaxy, either with your friends or against them. One of the best things about this mode is that each side gets bonuses that come into play during battles such as jamming your opponent's radar. The more wins you get the better varieties of bonuses available.
The X-Box Live experience is especially fun, but it’s a shame that you can't bring a guest online. I noticed a fair amount of lag in several games, even though I've got a great connection. Games at decent speeds are fairly common, though, and finding open games and joining them is a fast and easy process.
Star Wars Battlefront isn't the most highly original game, but it's a fun diversion. This game is accessible to everyone and should be a great purchase for a Star Wars fan.