You really have to hand it to LucasArts. While we see mediocre games based on movies time and time again, LucasArts have been busy in recent years making
sure their Star Wars videogames don't suffer the same fate. Now, Star Wars games have not always been of ground breaking quality, but
they are almost always very solid titles that, in general, add a lot to both the Star Wars name and the reputation of LucasArts with every release.
The very latest such release comes in the form
Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron for the PSP, and although this is not quite the best effort we've seen from LucasArts, this portable action
title will offer plenty of enjoyment for both quick or long gaming sessions.
Renegade Squadron is another one of LucasArts' titles that don't tell the already well played out main storyline of the Star Wars universe,
but rather it takes on a newly created sub story to give gamers another angle. In this case, the story involves Hans Solo and his creation of a squadron of
renegades (funnily enough) designed to execute secretive missions for the Rebel Alliance in its war against the Galactic Empire. Gamers familiar with
the Star Wars universe will recognize quite
a few key battles and locations featured in this game, as well as quite a few well known characters.
The game does have a campaign mode complete with between mission cut scenes which are done in a 'comic book with audio' kind of style, but the story
itself is not really a huge attraction. This is a game that definitely tries to keep you going with its gameplay, which is broken down into two major
categories - land based shooting gameplay which is done in a third person style and basically mimics your typical action shooter, and space based gameplay
that revolves around flying ships/interceptors.
These two gameplay styles are shared throughout the game's entire mode selection, which includes the aforementioned campaign mode, an 'Instant Action'
mode that allows you to load up one of the game's maps and battle it out in either deathmatch or CTF styles with no strings attached, and a 'Galactic
Conquest' mode which combines turn based strategic planetary control with real time battles that you can either play out or simulate. Naturally, you also have
multiplayer which extends the 'Instant Action'
mode, and this can be done from PSP to PSP or online via Infrastructure WiFi utilizing a Gamespy account.
The modes on offer in this game are quite comprehensive and feature a decent selection of ways to setup the gameplay. If you just want some
quick action on the train ride to work or school, the 'Instant Action' mode delivers nicely with plenty of options like which maps to cycle, difficulty,
and victory conditions to name a few, where on the other hand the 'Campaign' and 'Galactic Conquest' modes offer enough depth to make this more than just a
'trip game', but at the same time, thanks
to the ability to save both on demand, they also work well in quick spurts. However while the variation covered in the modes is quite good and best summed
up in the contrast from 3rd person action to turn based galactic strategy, when it comes to the actual gameplay - which all modes involve somewhere
- the variation isn't as successful.
This is because one of the aforementioned gameplay types is more or less far outclassed by the other - specifically, the space combat gameplay is the
'outclasser', and the ground based action shooting mode is the 'outclassed'. It's not that the ground based action shooting is terrible, it is just very
vanilla and predictable. In most instances you have 'control points' to capture on the ground combat maps as well as other objectives (like capturing the
flag in a CTF Instant Action game, or obtaining a key
object in a Campaign Mode game), but this is
about as detailed as it gets. The amount of weapons and items you can equip yourself with at 'control points' is pretty good, but when the shooting gameplay
involves little more than holding the right shoulder button to auto aim and the X button to shoot, it can get quite repetitive and dull quickly. There are
also vehicles you can control, but these can be dull as well. For instance, in an extremely odd game design decision, most tank like vehicles only allow
you to drive while CPU AI aims and shoots (thank you PSP for your lack of a right analog stick), which wouldn't be so bad if you could at least run over
enemies, which in another odd game design decision isn't possible.
The space combat gameplay, on the other hand, is much better. In this style of gameplay, you usually start on a mother ship where you can choose to jump
in any of the available fighters or bombers and fly off into the awaiting space battlefield. This style of gameplay just seems so much better because
it's far more open and unique - you can fly around in all three dimensions targeting enemy fighters or ships as you please, while trying to out maneuver
others doing the same to you. You can even board the
enemy's mother ship and run amuck inside, or stay in yours and control the exterior gun turrets. While the space combat maps can also
get a little repetitive, the gameplay experienced while flying is definitely much more fun and random, and generally works great in all the modes
particularly the Instant Action and Multiplayer modes where it becomes a action packed death match or capture the flag session. The space maps are without a
doubt where Renegade Squadron is at its best.
The game does feature a fairly large amount of customization options when it comes to characters including the ability to define body types, head
types, colours and symbols for each of the four factions (Rebels, Empire, Republic and CIS), but this feature of the game is mainly just for show. The only
practical character customization comes in the form of having the ability to define the "load-out", or in other words the starting equipment your
character has when deployed. You can customize this
either from the game's main menu, just before a battle, or during a battle by accessing a control point, where you are given 100 points to spend on items
ranging from 1st and 2nd weapons to special items and powerups, although honestly except when you're up against a vehicle and need a rocket launcher, you
only rarely ever truly need to venture beyond the default configuration of a rifle and handgun, further adding to the ground based shooting gameplay's
Of course, a Star Wars game just wouldn't be right without the presence of some big name characters and as usual with the Battlefront
series, Renegade Squadron features a healthy list of "heroes" from the Star Wars universe including the likes of Admiral Ackbar, Ben
Kenobi, and a few others including fourteen heros from Battlefront II. Also included is the ability to fly special craft such as the Millennium
Falcon, Darth Vader's TIE Advanced and Obi-Wan Kenobi's
Jedi Starfighter, although it must be noted these are not exactly options ready for play on demand, but rather they are rewarded during battle and are
generally temporary at that, so to say the hero elements are a huge part of the game is a little bit of a stretch.
Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron is not a spectacular game but it gets the job done. I'd only really consider one half of the gameplay
overly enjoyable, but even so the all round package is strong enough to make this a worthy purchase suitable for quick or longer gaming sessions alike
- the multiplayer is a nice touch, the mode variation is pretty impressive, and the permitted customization while not being a huge factor does play a
role. I wouldn't say you had to be a Star Wars fan
to like this game, but it probably would help a fair bit, particularly in keeping you interested in the storyline and gameplay where otherwise a non-fan may
grow a little bored. In any case, another game from LucasArts that adorns the Star Wars logo and reaffirms the solid but not ground breaking gameplay
found in the Battlefront series.
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