New space battles characterize game

Star Wars Battlefront II
PS2, Xbox, PSP, PC
LucasArts, 2005
Developed by Pandemic Studios
Squad-based shooter
Rated Teen
Released Nov. 1, 2005

The original “Star Wars Battlefront” is the best-selling Star Wars video game ever, which is no small accomplishment considering how many Star Wars games have made their way onto the computer. The sequel makes several improvements on the original which, despite its best-seller status, never seemed to be a complete game.

Just like the first Battlefront, players take the role of a single soldier in several of the sprawling battles that have taken place in the Star Wars universe. As two armies fight the player, you try to keep their head down, kill the enemy, and win victory.

As was the case with the original, the best part of the game is easily the multiplayer mode. On Playstation 2, two players can play at once, on the Xbox, four are supported. Online battles can handle as many as 23 partners. The Galactic Conquest game mode, where the player is both soldier and general, is drastically improved, barely even the same game. There is now a currency system, used to recruit new units or buy bonuses, which can sway the momentum from side to side.

Instead of the previous game’s weak system of planetary movement, there is now movement of fleets, constructed at planets under the player’s control, and then dispatched to planets to be attacked. When two fleets meet, another new addition to the game is implemented: space battle.

While space battle was a good idea, it can be incredibly frustrating and is hard to get the hang of. The goal is to either dismantle the other team’s ship, or to destroy enough of the other team’s fighters to win. Unfortunately, the process of destroying the other team’s ship is full of bugs and aggravation. As cool as it is to pilot TIE fighters and X-Wings, though, if space battle is your thing, you’re probably better off with a game like “Rebel Assault.”

Also new in the game is a “Rise of the Empire” game mode, giving the game a storyline, something noticeably missing in the first game. The story follows the 501st infantry unit, starting out as clone troopers fighting the droid army a la Episode II, and as time goes on, evolving into storm troopers fighting rebel infantry. If not for this play mode, “Battlefront II” wouldn’t even be worth playing solo, and even so, it’s better with a buddy.

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In the original game, there were powerful heroes from the movies, but they just ran around and helped. In “Battlefront II,” players can control those heroes, from Jango Fett to Luke Skywalker to the Emperor. This allows for the heroes to have an even bigger impact on the battles–heroes who find a crowd of people can annihilate them all pretty easily. Heroes cannot use healing items, but instead recover health by killing enemies.

The biggest negative in the game is the computer AI. At best, the computer would be awarded an IQ of 12. The computer-controlled soldiers show no semblance of teamwork, regularly jump in front of the player’s fire, and will stand out in the open in the middle of a firefight, seemingly giving up on life.

If you liked the original game, you’ll love this one, despite the suicidal soldiers. If you have friends who are into video games, getting a small group together to play this game is a blast.