Monday, 30 November 2015

Star Wars Battlefront Retrospective [Gaming]

 There is quite a lot, for me, to be thankful for about Star Wars Battlefront. I've said it plenty of times, but first playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 is what got me into Star Wars in the first place. Without having that first experience of playing with a friend back in the 2006 Christmas break, I probably wouldn't be as big a fan as I am now. Playing Battlefront 2 is what got me to track down the original trilogy of films [little twelve year old me probably getting sidetracked by the LEGO isle in Toys R Us no doubt] and watched them. Probably not too much of a stretch to say I've watched them at least once every year, adding the prequels to that once I got them a year later.
But of course, it all comes back to Battlefront, which became the go-to multiplayer game of choice between me and my friend on our Friday visits. Battlefront 2 has probably had more hours poured into it than any other game I own. Over the course of time, I eventually owned and played every Battlefront game released, but still always came back to Battlefront 2.



It would make sense to start with Battlefront 2 on this - since it is the first I played - but I'm going in release order to make things simple. With the original Star Wars Battlefront, I didn't actually start playing it until after Elite Squadron released. I could tell it was something special though. Both eras of Star Wars together in one game, with the idea of living out battle fantasies as a regular trooper. Something I'd already been doing in Battlefront 2, but the first had very few restrictions. Spaceships were accessible on the map itself, making for quite a few fun battles [and a few one-sided ones as well]. The maps themselves were diverse enough that you could tell which was which, and though there was only one mode playable, it was still good fun as it rarely felt as though the same thing happened twice [except on Bespin: Platforms, which is always going to end up in a serious firefight for the middle]. Vehicles were always present, and each class had a set up that differed from others. It was the perfect start for what would come the following year in 2005. And since the original was released before Revenge of the Sith, Kashyyyk being on the roster was such a tease.

Battlefront 2 was the perfect follow up to the original. It expanded on pretty much everything. But the second being my first, I wouldn't have known that. I was just sucked in to a new world with lasers, robots, aliens, and spaceship fights. Not knowing any names of anything made it all the more better. This was something I would be learning from scratch. And I did. I learned about flying and fighting and the heroes and the planets and all the vehicles I was using. And some of the names I was using back then were pretty close but not right [such as the memorable cash-yuck I kept using as Kashyyyk's name]. The planets and locations grew in number, heroes were playable, and an expanded campaign and Galactic Conquest were added. I'd spend hours with Galactic Conquest when I wanted a challenge of some sort, buying classes of soldier, moving around the galaxy, conquering space, and finally dominating the last planet needed to take over the galaxy. I even played the campaign more than once, marveling at the story of the unnamed clone trooper as he recounts battles of Geonosis, Coruscant, Hoth, and even those in between such as the takeover of Kamino and Mustafar, which mixed the two eras together to give clones v clones and Empire v CIS. But as well as that, we had Heroes vs Villains. Team of good guys versus team of bad guys in a deathmatch styled mode. It was crazy, over the top, and worth it. It can drag on, but so long as it was playing sparingly, it was always a good laugh. There was also the space battles, allowing us to live out space battle fantasies at long last [at least within the Battlefront series]. It was chaos, and very easily won by landing inside the enemy cruiser and blowing out the critical systems from the inside, but the controls were fluid and so was the gameplay itself, and it was something neither handheld Battlefront game could fully master.

Which leads us onto said handheld Battlefront's. Released in 2007, Renegade Squadron was the first of the handheld games, and gave us planets not yet seen before, customisation of character and weapons, and overhauled the Galactic Conquest game mode. Being only on the PSP meant the controls were clunky, and the gameplay suffered from it. With the space maps is where it tried its hardest though. At least on two of them. See, these two maps added something in the middle. A neutral base. This could be captured by control point, and once it was owned by your team served as an extra base to quickly get starfighters out into the battle. Another thing that made space battles better - the inclusion of hero starfighters. These were powerful, just like the heroes themselves were, with upgraded weaponry and extra health. And so while Renegade Squadron wasn't the best, it at least expanded the Battlefront name in some way.
Elite Squadron tried its hardest to be the best, as yet again it added expansion. Or should that be added the concept of expansion saw in the cancelled Battlefront 3 to the best of its ability. Yet again on the PSP [there's not really any need to talk about the DS version since it doesn't really have anything to do with Battlefront at all] it featured a select number of planets that linked directly to space. Elite Squadron was the first Battlefront to do the concept of land to space battles, where all arenas affected the outcome. Controlling the ion cannon command point would end the enemy cruisers shields quicker, allowing you access to work your way to the reactor and blow it up. The cruisers themselves would be firing down on the planet below, laying waste to vehicles. Spaceships were again playable on the ground, allowing those to have an advantage. The campaign introduced several new characters and featured a plot that loosely linked to the films, and going beyond the films for its final conclusion. Customisation returned, the controls were slightly better, and Galactic Conquest introduced different map sizes for the first time. Because of what it was though, it needed roughly symmetrical level design, which meant the maps themselves did suffer slightly for it. There is also the fact that Heroes vs Villains was now split between eras, meaning Darth Maul couldn't be slicing through Luke Skywalker.

With the tenth anniversary of Battlefront 2's release having been the end of last month, we have a new Battlefront, made by DICE and EA - creators of the Battlefield series. It's a reboot, not an expansion. We've come full circle. In this day and age, expansions are digitally released for the current game then included in the base game for the follow-up. I just hope that this new series of Battlefront can expand like the original series did, and go even further than what the originals did. And while this new Battlefront is out, it still won't stop me from returning to my roots. Returning to Battlefront 2, and the reason I am a fan of Star Wars.

If you haven't already, read my Star Wars Battlefront EA review, and look out for my videos on both Star Wars Battlefront 2 and this new one. Battlefront 2 currently has a dedicated three part miniseries looking at the different parts of Instant Action on my Youtube. First part can be found here.

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