Star Wars Battlefront Elite Squadron: The Review
Posted November 21, 2010 by Jallen (156)
After the news of an incoming Battlefront III for consoles & PC spread around the internet, fans went wild with anticipation. Leaked videos showed up with signs of space to ground transitioning at an epic scale and fans went even wilder. Then Lucas Arts pulled the plug, scrapped the whole thing and fans cried. Luckly though, for us PSP owners, Lucas Arts turned over all relevant work from Battlefront III to Rebellion, developers of the previous mega-hit, Renegade Squadron, to start work on…Elite Squadron.
While a Battlefront III is not likely to happed(though I still have hope!), at least we now have Elite Squadron which retains some of the same features, most notably, ground to space transitioning.
After the PSN demo for Elite Squadron released, it left a semi-bad taste in my mouth. The graphics just seemed too jittery and lower resolution compared to Renegade Squadron. After the game released I did some digging around the internet and read that some people thought the game was full of bugs, some said it had bad graphics, some said it was full of cheaters and some said hardly anyone ever played it online.
Now some of all that is true, but most however is not and is instead just plain regular internet bitterness. After some hard thinking I decided to buy the game anyway on UMD. I had sold Renegade Squadron a long time ago(which I have recently re-bought) because I was innitially going to replace it with Elite Squadron(which was a mistake I’m aware of). So, after feeling the Star Wars Battlefront itch, I decided to scratch. After buying it I immediately jumped online to test it out. I totally ignored the story elements and single-player instant action modes because I wanted to see how it handled online.
Online has always been a huge part of the Battlefront experience. The previous game, Renegade Squadron, had online infrastructure with support for up to 16 players. Elite Squadron is no different. I logged in online with my previously made Gamespy account, PSN accounts are not required for these games, and had at it. Logging in was fast and smooth and so is joining a game. It takes about 30 seconds to load a map and get started.
The framerate online is about the same as Renegade Squadron. There’s stuttering here and there and some slow-down. That’s to be expected, especially given the improvements in this edition. Some of the texture work is more detailed then in RS but some corners were cut with the the removal of many of the vehicles found in past Battlefronts. This is highly disappointing but not a deal breaker. In space, you’re limited to only two ship classes. No Imperial TIE Intercepters anymore, no A-Wings, B-Wings, none of the really good ships. Just a basic fighter and transport ship(odd because some of these ships can be flown in the story segment). Overall everything looks sharp and clear except for the vehicles. The vehicles took a pretty good hit in detail. Up-close and on the ground, fighter-craft look excellent complete with landing gear but once you take them into the air, the graphics shift to less detail. I’m sure this is done to help the framerate but it’s still a little upsetting. Everything works as it should though and the game doesn’t lock up and isn’t full of bugs like some of the complaints said. But best of all regarding the vehicles, you can once again have at least two people man certain vehicles. After starting up a tank and taking it for spin, another player jumped in to man the cannon. Pretty neat features that still impress me about PSP versions of console games.
There are many different modes of play online such capture-the-flag, conquest and the like and as of the date of this review the online servers are still fairly populated. You should have no trouble finding a game any time of the day or night.
In the single-player portions, the framerate is much smoother, and again that’s to be expected. The game doesn’t have to keep track of 15 other real life players from across the globe.
Now, Elite Squadron is the very first Battlefront game that introduces ground and space battles all on the same map. If you are on the planet’s surface, you can jump into a starfighter, fly around in the air and then, if you wish, fly up into space and start attacking other ships and then board a captial ship or two. The transition to space isn’t exactly seamless because there’s an animation/loading sequence you have to watch when it happens. Also when boarding or leaving a capital ship, there’s another animation sequence instead of you actually landing in real time like in Renegade Squadron. A little different but cool because the loading screen shows your ship from a different perspective flying to and from space or into a capital ship in a cinematic way.
All of this transitioning is what makes the game feel more epic then any other Battlefront before it. Even though it has a lack of vehicles this element changes the rules significantly either for good or for bad depending on your perspective. Now, instead of being limited to only space battles or only ground, you are free to travese the land to the sky to space and back again making every battle seem like a small adventure. You can also man Ion cannons on the surface to manually take out the shields of the enemy capital ships so your teams’ fighters can board it and destroy the core and blow it up. And in a capital ship you can man the main gun to fire down on the surface to turn certain command posts to neutral status. Also of note, all capital ships have working escape pods that can be used for a quick trip to the planets surface. It’s also a good way to leave a ship quickly that’s about to explode.
Blowing up a capital ship doesn’t necessarily end the game this time. Finally you can watch the thing explode and keep playing. On the ground all capital ships are viewable in the sky as they hover in low orbit. It can be demoralizing to look up and watch your teams capital ship explode knowing that you’re that much closer to losing the war. Details like this are impressive and really immerse the player into the world. There are some downsides to this new mechanic. Many a battle ends up being a mad rush to occupy the Ion Cannon command post so that you can destroy the other teams shields. But if you play your cards right you can win in other ways such as staying in space racking up points while dog-fighting, or commencing bombing runs on the ground with a star-fighter. There are many ways to play this time around which is refreshing.
To win the basic game you need to earn points to reach a score. Every time you kill something, blue +1 or +3 points appear on screen. 1 point for a kill and 3 points for destroying a vehicle and so forth. These points also add to your ranking and help unlock items and weapons. Unlike Renegade Squadron, every weapon isn’t usable at the start and most of the character customization items like color and body parts aren’t either. You have to keep playing online and the single-player modes to unlock them. I like this set up a lot. Gives you a reason to keep playing, kinda like Modern Warfare 2′s earning system in a very small way. Also some of the items can only be unlocked by finishing the single-player campaign…which has three difficulties.
Also new to the game is the heroes and villian modes. Pick a side and play for the entire match as only Star Wars main characters such as Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Ventress, The Emperor, Yoda, Mace Windu, Obi-wan and more. You can play these modes either single or mutli-player online or ad-hoc local.
Now there are cheaters that managed to hack the game and let stormtroopers and other characters run around with lightsabers or are using force lightning attacks. To counter this, just shoot them. The good part is, these hackers don’t seem to cheat in invinciblilty. So cheating is rendered a semi-non-issue though it’s still bothersome and weak. However there really isn’t that many cheaters anyway. It’s unfortunate that players feel they have to cheat because they refuse to lose. At least you can back out and find a better lobby.
Another disappointment is how the off-line multi-player is handled. Offline, you are limited to six players only and there is no ground to space transitioning on the maps. Like Renegade Squadron, you are forced to pick ground battles or space. This also rings true for the user created online matches. So, if you want the full experience, you have to play solo offline and in ranked matches online.
Elite Squadron is a much improved Battlefront experience that already had me hooked after the first day of play. The single-player is as robust if not more so then the online with it’s many customizable load-out options, a more fleshed out proper story mode and the always amazing Galactic Conquest turn-based strategy modes, which actually has a new two-player mode where you pass the PSP over to a friend when it’s his or her turn. Of course, outcomes are decided by the CPU depending on the odds, for obvious reasons. All in all, Star Wars Battlefront Elite Squadron is a great package and shouldn’t be missed by any Star Wars fan or any fan of epic military battling online or off.
Oh…and the Death Star makes a comeback!
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