IGN Review of Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron
The Star Wars Battlefront franchise has always focused on multiplayer action, placing players in the boots of generic soldiers on both sides of the Empire and Alliance as they fought for bragging rights across well known conflicts. However, up until now, the series has remained far away from the Nintendo DS, leaving Nintendo handheld Star Wars fans in the cold. N-Space, along with LucasArts, chose to correct that issue with their recent release of Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron, which focuses more on the single player experience than the multiplayer features that the series is known for.
The plot behind Elite Squadron revolves around X2, a clone of a Jedi warrior who, with his older brother X1, helped train the Kaminoan clone army for the Jedi. X2's devotion to the army and eventually what would become known as the Empire was shattered after the declaration of Order 66, the clone command to hunt down and destroy Jedi throughout the Galaxy. Joining the Rebellion, X2 fought alongside Luke Skywalker and other well known Star Wars heroes through climactic battles, including the Death Star, Endor and Hoth. However, his brother seeks to hunt him down for his desertion, and it's up to X2 to eventually confront and stop his brother before it's too late.
Gameplay is a top down affair, with the top screen displaying all the action that X2 engages in and the touch screen acting as a radar that points out enemies, objectives and supply stations. During each stage, X2 will be given the opportunity to select from four different roles to help him carry out his goals, such as an assault trooper or a spy. For the most part, these work well, and there are some sections where you'll need to be a specific kind of soldier to defeat the enemies in front of you. However, this eventually falls apart after a while once you find that some roles can be a bit more useful than others. For example, the spy's reprogramming of turrets will ensure that you can consistently gain help in battle, and there's very little reason to switch back to the other modes once you've unlocked its skills.
Now, what helps to set missions apart from the PSP version of the game is the fact that the gameplay is more action/adventure based. You'll be tasked with rescuing soldiers, destroying sensitive equipment, or helping Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan accomplish specific tasks. For example, players will be given the option to direct soldiers under their command to perform tactical strikes on vital objectives, potentially reducing or eliminating resistance for X2 during the rest of his mission. Additionally, players will have "mini-boss " encounters against threats like Rancors, Boba Fett or Sith Witches, all of which tie into developing the plot of X2's shift from Clone to Rebellion hero.
All this said, there are a few hiccups that occur within the gameplay. For example, it's practically impossible to aim without locking onto an enemy, but the problem lies in the fact that the lock-on system can be hit or miss. Frequently, you'll have to repeatedly click the button to ensure that you've got the target in your sights. Another issue is the fact that vehicular sections feel a bit mindless; speeders are rail shooters that simply demand that you don't run into anything at speed, while space segments restrict you to left and right movement in a confined area that isn't challenging. The last problem is that the gameplay is particularly easy. While it seems as though it's tailored for a younger crowd, just about any player will be able to complete the game from start to finish in less than seven hours. Add to this minimal rewards, and you may not return to replay this one.
The focus on single player also makes the multiplayer for up to four players or AI bots feel like an afterthought. "Free for all" is the clear focus of this mode, which bounces between ground, capital ships and space. However, the three segments in this mode feel more like mini-games than actual multiplayer matches. For example, leading droids to a "base" on the capital ship isn't the best way to play a match against other players, or the extremely weak AI. Otherwise, players can look forward to a team mode or hero mode where you select a Jedi or Sith and attack each other, which is intriguing for a match or two, but nothing more.
Apart from the comic book style cutscenes, character models are very small, but still clear enough to be able to pick out a droid from a clone trooper. The same can be said about the major characters within the universe, like Luke or Obi-Wan. The only moment when this becomes a bit of an issue is when you're in space and enemy ships are incredibly tiny dots that you can barely see, much less shoot at a specific distance, but they can still fire missiles at you. The game does have a tendency to slowdown when there are a lot of characters on screen, or if there's a lot of explosions. Sound effects sound like they were pulled from the movies, as does the soundtrack, which is well done.
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