Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Star Wars: Battlefront II

This is a "try-out" review I wrote for Rochester's insider weekly, and it's probably not going to go anywhere else, so here it is:

"Star Wars: Battlefront II" takes players through the galactic civil wars of the saga's history as soldiers laser-blasting their way through the trenches of planetary conflict. But this is not another storm trooper in the army of "Star Wars" video games - "Battlefront II" is as mighty and majestic as Darth Vader himself.

Like its 2004 prequel, "Battlefront II" features more than a dozen classic "Star Wars" locations, including the ice world of Hoth and Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine. Their graphical resemblance to the films is tighter than Chewbacca's grip. The lush, sun-sprinkled forest landscape of Endor is even more breathtaking in "Battlefront II" than in "Return of the Jedi." The size and detail of the environments is nearly endless - in the midst of battle one can stop at Yoda's tree trunk cabin on Dagobah or visit the detention blocks on the Death Star. But there's battle to be done and Rebel scum to destroy (or defend, if that's your thing).

Leading the charge are Jedi Knights and other major film characters such as Princess Leia. "Battlefront II" improves upon its predecessor by allowing players to strap on Boba Fett's jetpack or Han Solo's holster and play as the films' heroes. You can't play as those cuddly Ewoks, but you certainly can blast them into the next star system.

"Battlefront II" also features space combat - another feature criminally absent from "Battlefront." Unfortunately - with the exception of different nebulae and nearby planets - each space level is pretty much the same. But what do you expect, it's space.

Characters and locations from the recent "Star Wars: Episode III" film bring a completeness to "Battlefront II" that the first game didn't possess. The result is added battlegrounds like the Hellish volcanic world of Mustafar and new characters like General Grievous, the droid Jedi slayer. Indeed the saga is complete in "Battlefront II," and that includes Grievous' non-stop wheezing.

Completing the levels in "Battlefront II" is like shooting your way through a flurry of TIE Fighters. The computer is no easy opponent but it never puts up too tough a fight to win. The controls require a few minutes of adjustment but once you learn to run and shoot at the same time, "Battlefront II" becomes as addictive as death sticks.

Playing "Battlefront II" is like playing through the "Star Wars" films themselves. John Williams' unmistakable orchestral score likewise serves as the soundtrack to your planetary conquests. And if there's any piece that should accompany "Battlefront II," it's Vader's menacing "Imperial March."

Star Wars: Battlefront II
5/5 stars
Parental rating: Teen for mild language and violence
Manufacturer: LucasArts
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable (PSP), Windows PC
Retail price: $49.99
Features: Up to 24 players with a Network Adaptor
Longevity: Roughly six hours to play through every level in the game, 20 minutes each
The final boss: "Battlefront II" is an absolute blast of galactic combat and a thorough video game player's guide to the "Star Wars" galaxy

(photo courtesy of

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