Reviewed: November 23, 2005
Released: November 1, 2005
While Star Wars Battlefront II continues to dominate the online gaming community on the PC and console, LucasArts is targeting PSP gamers in their quest for galactic domination. But can the handheld system even hope to compare with the already-proven success this game has seen on the more powerful systems?
For those living in the back woods of Endor, Battlefront II is the all-inclusive fighting game that puts you in the role of just about anybody in the Star Wars universe capable of wielding a weapon. You get to fight in faithful recreations of classic Star Wars locales including 13 new locations from Episode III, and all-new space battles in all of your favorite ships.
The PSP offers three exclusive challenges by allowing you to take on the role of Rebel Raider, Imperial Enforcer, or Rogue Assassin in three new tours of duty created especially for the handheld. Itís a valiant effort, but the game eventually turns to the Dark Side, succumbing to the limitation of the PSP.
You canít fault Savage Entertainment for trying to bring the entire Battlefront II experience over to the PSP. Every last character is here, and you can fight in all of the vehicles and spaceships from the console and PC versions. Even the levels come across almost fully intact and with the exception of some obvious graphical limitations, you have a faithful recreation of the original game.
The two areas where Battlefront II might give a lot of gamers pause is the controls and the multiplayer offerings. Action games are still a bit hit and miss when it comes to controls on the PSP, mainly due to the lack of the second analog stick forcing you to use the face buttons to look around. It works okay in third-person and slightly better in first-person but it never feels entirely natural. If you played either Ghost in the Shell or Coded Arms and enjoyed those then youíll feel right at home here, otherwise, prepare for a learning curve.
Battlefront II offers two other control options including a ďretroĒ mode that does a decent job of recreating a mouse and keyboard combination. In this mode you use the face buttons to move much like the WADS cluster and the analog pad to look around and aim your weapons. This is by far the most precise and preferred way to play.
There are three modes that make up the single-player game including Instant Action, Galactic Conquest, and Challenges. Challenges are three new PSP-exclusive modes that are perfect for the sporadic quick-fix nature of handheld gaming.
In Imperial Enforcer you basically go through short levels killing a prerequisite amount of native inhabitants in the time allotted, usually 2-3 minutes. If you do well enough youíll unlock a hero (or villain) and can kill more quickly. As you advance through the levels you are required to kill more targets in the same amount of time or less.
Rebel Raider is an awesome mode that puts you in the role of Han Solo wannabe, as you sneak around levels trying to steal specific cargo and deliver it to other areas of the map. Naturally, the levels are full of enemies and you are armed only with a short-range blaster.
Rogue Assassin is for those of you that aspire to become the next Boba Fett. In this mode you are required to kill specific targets that are being protected by their own group of bodyguards. You need to avoid the casual encounters and target your main objectives.
Galactic Conquest and Instant Action are perfectly recreated from their console and PC origins. You can either take over the galaxy one sector at a time by engaging in planetside battles or epic space battles. Play through the four campaigns as Imperials, Rebels, CIS, or the Republic, moving your army, taking over planets, and upgrading your fleet and armies along the way.
Despite the variety of planets and the mix between land and space battles, and even the growing variety of units, the combat does get a bit repetitive long before the game is over. Battlefront II is best played in short doses, making this game perfectly suited for the PSP.
You can also jump into the fracas as any of dozens of characters including new heroes and villains for some instant gratification. Jedi are now part of the mix with characters like Yoda and Mace Windu wielding lightsabers and Force powers, but these dominating abilities are balanced quite nicely with the more conventional characters and weapons.
Space battles are immensely fun with excellent controls for the various ships. You can fly your X-Wing right into the Imperial hangar, do a bit of sabotage, then escape in a Tie Fighter. There are only three distinct space maps but the action and variety of ships always keeps these fights fresh.
Visually, Battlefront II takes the expected hits in map complexity and texture detail, but the game still manages to bring over an impressive amount of information and display it with acceptable framerates. If you havenít seen Battlefront II on another system then you will be impressed, and if you have, youíll be surprised how much Savage was able to pack into the PSP.
The only thing more robust than the level line-up is the unit roster that features characters from all six movies spanning decades of Star Wars history. You can play as a Trade Federation battle droid, a clone trooper, or dozens of other including your favorite heroes, each perfectly recreated with subtle details like costumes and specialty weapons.
Special effects run rampant through the conflict with lasers and lightsabers lighting the level like a disco. Explosions rip through environments and nothing is more satisfying than watching the effects of Force Lightning shred your opponents.
Space battles are extremely fluid thanks to improved framerate with the lack of landscape. Ships are nicely modeled with detailed textures and distinctive designs. The capital ships are massive and scaled as such so you can actually fly right into the docking bay, get out and walk around, all without a load screen.
Battlefront II mirrors the epic quality and quantity of both sound and music that we got on the console and PC. There has never been a Star Wars game that didnít impress me with amazing audio effect and Battlefront II continues that tradition.
Nothing beats the classic John Williams score and all of your favorite themes from the films are back to put you in that Star Wars mood. And with the full library of Skywalker sound effects at their disposal, every blaster effect and lightsaber swoosh sounds just like it did in the movies. Just make sure you have a good set of headphones or external speakers to appreciate it all.
This has got to be one of the biggest games on the PSP. The four campaigns can take you weeks or even a month of regular gaming and the challenges will keep you busy for nearly as long. And when you donít have time for anything epic you can always dive into the instant action.
Easily, the best feature of the console and PC versions, multiplayer takes a significant hit on the PSP with a disappointing lack of Internet support. Itís a fact made even more painful considering how much fun the multiplayer modes like Conquest, CTF, and Assassin are on the PSP.
Hopefully you have a few friends with PSPís and copies of this game otherwise youíll be missing out on a huge portion of what this game has to offer. How huge? Every character, map, unit, and gameplay mode (except Galactic Conquest) is available in multiplayer, making this one of the best (if not the best) non-Internet multiplayer games on the PSP.
Assuming you can find a control scheme to suit you, Star Wars Battlefront II is easily one of the best action titles you can play on the PSP. Not only is it the best handheld adaptation of a major console title, it adds extensive PSP-exclusive features making this a must-own game, even if you already have the game for another system.
And if there ever was a reason to talk your friends into buying a PSP, this is the game to do it. With as much multiplayer fun as there is solo play, Battlefront II has it all. The Force is strong with this one.