Blast From The Past
Blast From The Past: Star Wars: Battlefront II

After last weeks Blast From The Past, you may have thought that we’ve been caught in a Star Wars shaped hole and aren’t going to be leaving any time soon. The reality is that despite The Phantom Menace 3D gracing our cinema screens, it’s just pure coincidence; that and the rumours of a potential Battlefront III floating around the net. If these Battlefront III rumours turn out to be true, it would have been over seven years since the stellar Star Wars: Battlefront II had seen the light of day. Despite being seven years old, this is still one absolute corker of a title, and built upon the original’s strong gameplay with narrative and purpose.

Battlefront II took the third-person shooter template of team based shooters and made them into epic battle scenes instead of small skirmishes. Seeing as it was also set inside the Star Wars universe, this meant that you fought in battles that straddled both trilogies, starting in the Clone Wars and ending in the battle of Hoth. Not only did it offer a great fun for Star Wars fans who wanted to live out these epic battle scenes from a new perspective, it also built upon the Star Wars lore though embellishing scenes that were originally only written in words. Playing through the story shows you the double crossing that Palpatine had been doing behind the scenes, and explains how the tide shifted towards the Sith and Darth Vader, something that the films only really skirt upon.

Focusing on an unnamed clone who had been in the 501st Battalion during the Galactic Civil War and the Clone Wars, the game plays out as an autobiographical recount of their escapades and thus sees you being guided by narration between each battle, thus easing the rather awkward transitions. The 501 see action in helping destroy an energy generator on Mygeeto – which actually helps in the production of the Death Star – right before they aid Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in capturing the chancellor. These early stages of the Galactic Civil War see you playing for both the bad an the good sides in a way that spectacularly blurs the lines. Just as a clone trooper would, you just obeyed your orders and got the objectives done, no matter how shady they seemed. Later levels would then see you under the power of Vader and placed in charge of defending the Death Star and then later taking part in battles across the Empire Strikes Back film.

Whilst the plot might have arched across the middle four films of the series, the gameplay was very similar to the original game, allowing for massive battles of 50 or more characters on screen at once – with network play of 32 at a time. Offering a choice of six classes to play as in each skirmish – four initially with two unlocked when conditions are met – it plays out like many team based shooters, albeit on a larger scale than console games from 2005 were used to. For the first time you could also take on the role of heroes once certain conditions were met in battle. The heroes would be Jedi or Sith depending on what side and battle you were involved in; they were a nice change of pace, as they offered up close and personal combat compared to your average clone trooper. Levels themselves were completed upon either entirely wiping out the opposing force, or by taking all of the spawn points on a map under your control. It essentially was a massive team deathmatch crossed with a territories styled affair, the nice mix made you value the life of your trooper, and pushed you forward with purpose to capture command posts.

Game modes wise, if online or same screen multiplayer wasn’t enough to keep the title going for you, there was the aforementioned story based campaign mode, as well as Galactic Conquest and the Instant Battle mode. Instant Action is exactly what it says it is, a battle set up in an instant, whilst Galactic Conquest is a different beast entirely. Galactic Conquest plays out nicely like a big game of Risk, positioning troops onto planets to secure their position under your command, when two sides meet a battle ensues and the game reverts back to the standard gameplay and a full skirmish plays out. It’s another way to add a lot of life to the game beyond the story and casual play with friends; this way it never gets old, just like the board game that potentially provided inspiration.

Star Wars: Battlefront II received rather positive feedback from critics and held a rather respectable Metacritic of 83/84 on Xbox and PS2 respectively, whilst the PC version received more criticism for its lack of split-screen and generally less appealing package, it still scored a respectable 79. It’s completely understandable why the internet is crying out for a sequel to this absolutely superb game. Not only did it provide some much needed depth to certain aspects of the Star Wars universe, it also made it incredibly enjoyable to experience them. It is a wonder exactly what a Battlefront III could bring to the table in terms of narrative, but we’d still welcome it with open arms.

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