Star Wars is a franchise that just never seems to die down in popularity. Whether it be the games, films or toys, there always seems to be a lot of people following what is happening with the franchise. With the recent release of the first three movies on DVD, Lucasarts felt the time was right to give fans something that they have probably wanted to do for quite some time in a video game and that is to play out all the famous battles from the films on whichever side they choose, and this is exactly what Battlefront lets you do, but its not without its problems.
There is no real storyline featured in Battlefront other than the ongoing war between the Rebel alliance and the Empire. The rest of the story is pulled directly from the films but the game allows you to change the course of the movies by say having the Empire win a battle, which they actually lose in the trilogy. Occasionally you will see grabs from the DVD used as cut scenes but thats about as deep as the storyline gets during the game.
Battlefront is really the first game of this type to take the single player portion of the game seriously and while the game really does require Xbox Live to get the value for money and longevity, it serves up a decent single player game for offline play. It's recommended you play a bit of the single player before hopping online to become accustomed to how the battles are won and the aiming system. The two main modes for single player are Galactic Conquest and a mode which allows you to play out either the final three episodes of the films, or the first two. There doesn't appear to be anything from Episode III in the game. The battles are played out chronologically as in the films and you must win to move on to the next battle.
However the more interesting mode for single player is Galactic Conquest. In Galactic Conquest you take command of either the Rebel Alliance or Empire and the aim is to conquer the whole universe. You start off with control of one planet and attack others to take control. You must win two battles in a row to take control of a planet, and there is seven planets to conquer. As you conquer planets they give you the option of having an advantage in battle such as a Jedi hero fighting alongside or extra reinforcements. Whoever wins a battle gets to select who to attack next so you can have a real tug of war battle if no side is dominating. If this sounds a little familiar it may be because it very loosely replicates how Star Wars Rebellion was played. The main aim of most matches is to capture all the points or eliminate all the enemy forces.
Obviously with a decent single player game featured the AI was going to be key and while they won't compare to human players online, they go about their business in a decent fashion. They aren't afraid to use the vehicles scattered around the battlefield and will work in groups. Enemy AI can seem a bit like sheep at times just running towards the combat areas and the fact is you will probably take down about four or five before they manage to kill your character. This obviously unbalances the teams and can make the game incredibly easy but you don't buy battlefront for the single player, multiplayer is definitely the main focus.
As you play the game more and more, especially online, you will come to see that the game is not without its problems. Perhaps the biggest problem is the aiming system used by default. The developers realising that aiming with a control pad is not as precise as a keyboard/mouse combo have included an aiming system where the reticle will lock onto a target. In theory this is a great system but in practice it doesn't work because it is quite difficult to 'unlock' from that target and you may find yourself being shot at from point blank range by another enemy while your gun is fixed on a unit far across the battlefield. Thankfully you can turn the auto aim off and if you're hosting a server force players to not use it if they connect.
The other problem is lag. To help reduce this problem you can run the Xbox server in a dedicated configuration but that of course means you can't play on the machine. The problem seems to stem from the fact that server admins can leave bots on to play online. This means that the bot data must be synchronised between all the systems currently in the game and despite the fact you may only have four human players on the battlefield, there may be sixteen bots which can cause the bottleneck The only real way to remove the lag problem is to either host a system link game or not include bots and only have human players in the game.
As mentioned before, the game allows you to play out all the famous battles from the five movies produced so far. Fourteen levels are included overall. You will play on famous planets such as Tatooine, Yavin 4 and Naboo and the environments you play in have a lot of recogniseable places from the movies. Places such as the Cantina, freeze chamber and the area Ewoks inhabit all feature in the game and add a level of authenticity to the battles. You will also find vehicles such as the Tie Fighter and X-Wing and famous characters such as Luke Skywalker appear as non-player characters. One disappointment is that everything is so familiar and no real surprises appear. It would have been nice for the developer to include a battle from one of the many books written throughout the years just for something new we haven't seen in the films.
The graphics go hand in hand with this and the high level of detail is what makes the environments such easy to pinpoint as scenes from the film. Each of the character models are highly detailed and include units such as Storm Troopers, Rebel fighters and Empire pilots just to name a few. Each of them have varying weapons with some more useful in certain situations then others. Sound effects are highly authentic and Lucasarts no doubt had access to the sounds used for the movies and the music is again directly pulled from the films.
Star Wars Battlefront is really the only game of its type on the Xbox so far and perhaps that is enough to justify a purchase. Looking past the few problems the game has and the lack of new things for fans to discover, Battlefront offers a fairly decent gaming experience as long as its on a server without lag or the single player component.