IGN Review of Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron
Like an out of touch world being forced to choose between the Rebellion and the Empire in a galaxy far, far away, prepare to be polarized, PSP owners. Some of you are going to pick up Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron and think it's one of the best UMDs you've ever held, while some of you are going to pick up Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, put it down and walk away unimpressed.
Coming to your own decision will require meditation, training and the wisdom of Yoda.
This exclusive Battlefront title on the PSP revolves around the untold tale of the Renegade Squadron, a ragtag group of scofflaws Han Solo put together to aid the Rebels as they went toe-to-toe with the Empire. Now, chances are you had never heard of this squadron before this title -- and if you think you have, you're a goddamn liar because the story was created for the game -- but it's been seemlessly woven into the rich Star Wars history through Col Serra, commander of the squad, retelling his team's role in the Battle of Endor, the Hoth attack and more to the new archivist on Corsucant.
This story -- told through some nifty graphic novel-esque cutscenes -- makes up Campaign mode. Here, you'll listen and watch Col tell his story and then battle it out in the skirmish he just introduced in places such as Kashyyyk, Korriban and Mustafar as the character you've created; you get to decide race, insignias, outfit colors, the works. Each mission will either take place in a capture the flag surface battle (the flag is usually some piece of the ship you need to return or another object that makes sense in the setting), in a Conquest match (capture all of your enemy's bases to win) or in an outer space dogfight.
Now, the land missions are filled with goodies for you to get a hang of. You can capture creatures to ride, take over Imperial walkers and customize your character at any of your ever-expanding number of bases. See, even in a game of CTF, you can stop and capture an enemy's base in the -- what should be familiar -- process of standing next to plume of light and watching it change from your enemy's red to a neutral gray to your team's blue. Once you have these bases, you can jump in anytime and change your weapons, equipment and attributes.
It's a handy feature to have when you realize you've equipped yourself with a crappy weapon -- Damn you, fusion cutter! --- and have a swarm of Stormtroopers headed your way.
However, this system doesn't mean that you'll be able to equip the biggest, baddest weapon -- which for my money is the nuke-from space blow deal by the orbital -- and run willy nilly across the map. Each character has eight slots of possible loadout options such as arc casters, different capture rates and larger health bars that must be balanced into a 100 credit budget.
These credits aren't money you'll have to earn, but they are numbers you'll have to master. Each slot on your customization screen has a handful of options, and each option has a different credit cost. You'll need to go through and whip up an equipment set that boils down to 100 credits or less. If you're over the maximum mark, the game won't let you into battle until you've dropped the deadweight.
If that sounds like a drawback, it's not. Having to scout ahead on an objective and strategize how you're going to tackle it leads to some fun times and getting into weapons and attack plans you might never have tried. Being the hard ass that I am, I began the game running into battles with soul-crushing weapons such as the explosive blaster pistol and the chaingun, but as I got deeper and deeper into the story and came upon the conquest of Boz Pity and Geonosis, I found myself ditching the guided rocket launcher to beef up my capture rate and speed. Rather than blow up the place, I got in, captured and got out. Soon, I was trying out jetpacks, wrist rockets and more of the niche equipment found in Renegade Squadron.
Space battles will feature the same kind of equipment loadout, but it'll probably be a bit less noticeable. With each spawn, you'll begin on foot in the hangar of your starship with gear you've just selected, but you'll immediately climb into one of the X-Wings or TIE fighters sitting around and forget all about your handheld weapons. Once airborne, you'll be firing your lasers and missiles as you try to wipe out the enemy forces, capture the flag or destroy the critical systems of the Empire's capital ship. If you're after the systems, you can land inside the enemy's capital ship and use those weapons you bothered to equip in the beginning of the level.
But don't let this history-expanding story kid you, Renegade Squadron is going to make its name for blowing the doors off PSP multiplayer. All those modes that we just chatted about are available for you and up to 15 additional players to battle it out via Infrastructure mode. If you're more of an ad-hoc star fighter, grab seven friends and hit the skirmish.
Joining the typical one-flag and two-flag CTF modes is a variation of the game called Hero Capture the Flag. Here, a player will be able to snag his own team's flag and become a Jedi -- we're talking Mace, Luke, Darth and more just from picking up the blue banner. The catch is that once the flag in snagged, the player gets the super-abilities and lightsaber but the flag is also anchored to his or her back. That means every player on the map is going to bring the thunder to you as you dance across their radar. Obviously, the enemy has this ability to change into a wielder of the Force as well, so your hero is supposed to seek out the opposing hero, eliminate him or her and watch over whichever one of your teammate grabs the opponent flag -- once you're the hero, you'll be unable to grab the enemy's flag.
Just how powerful are these Hero Jedi? When we snagged our team's banner and became Count Dooku, the opposing forces froze us with a carbonite gun and dropped a couple of orbital strikes on us before we broke away and sliced up Mace.
Behold the power of the Dark Side.
As awesome as all these options and modes are, Renegade Squadron is going to draw a line in the sand when it comes to controls. To begin with, you'll feel pretty tank-like in Battlefront. The nub doesn't lend itself well to movement, making your way across the map is going to take time, and the blocky visuals are going to make it seem like you're moving that much slower. You can run by holding the left trigger, but doing so makes your turns even more cumbersome.
However, the biggest problem most people are going to have with Renegade Squadron is that this third-person shooter's default controls give the player no control over the reticle on the screen. The crosshairs will be permanently anchored in the center of the playfield, and if you want to shoot anywhere that isn't directly in front of you, you'll need to lock-on and let the lasers fly from there. It's true that you could enter a first-person binoculars mode and shoot from there, but in the heat of the moment, the floaty view controls aren't going to sit well.
This anchored aim is a system that's simple and frustrating at the same time. While it was nice to be able to keep a bad guy in my line of fire at all times, the lock-on-only move really seemed to sap some of the fun and achievement out of gameplay. Here I was this badass Sullustan decked out in my black-on-black Rebel Commando outfit, and all my attacks came down to running in a circle around my enemy and leveling them with my blaster rifle.
Worse was when Vader showed up. The Sith Lord came at me, but I managed to backup far enough to circle and fire comfortably. Occasionally he'd try and rush me or throw his lightsaber, but in the end, Anakin folded like every other drone running around the battlefield. When we took the fight to space, Darth just flew in straight lines and took the ass-whipping the Rebels handed out.
Wasn't this supposed to be the baddest dude in the galaxy? Lame.
You can switch your scheme to allow the face buttons to control your POV pitch, but in doing so, you can no longer lock on. It's not a bad move during the campaign, but once you get online, expect the competition to follow the lock-on system of circling and blasting while you try and maneuver the crosshairs to the correct position.
This anticlimactic and easy vibe sticks with the entire single-player campaign, and the mode itself will pass you by in the blink of an unmatched eye -- expect to roll the Emperor's boys without breaking a sweat -- but like I said above, this game is all about multiplayer, right? Sadly, that same lame duck AI pops up over there, too. During an afternoon space escapade with a slew of IGN editors, a two-flag CTF game devolved into a team of humans versus a squad of bots and I.
It was a bloodbath.
The editors moved as a coordinated team through the sandy streets of Tatooine. One would get the flag, two would walk with the carrier to provide cover, and the team would wipe the floor with any of my robotic Wookies who chose to run past them or -- literally -- stand there and not shoot back. I'd try to get the flag from Point A to Point B without being set one fire, but the computer provided no backup and didn't even seem like it was trying to get to our opponent's flag as the humans held a BBQ.
Eliminate the bots -- you can do so from the game setup -- and things get better but still aren't perfect. Yeah, it's fun to run and gun through the same hallways and corridors as your friends, but when it comes down to both of you locking on to each other and scrambling in circles, it loses some of its charm.
On top of that, space fights are an acquired taste. To me, I never felt like I was going fast, and that led to a feeling of just floating through the endless abyss shooting bad guys that cropped up. Yes, you can boost with the right trigger, but even that seemed slow. Again the level just breaks down into locking onto your opponent -- which here is implemented through a camera lock that fixes the POV on the bad guys and leaves you completely disoriented when the clash is said and done -- and unloading whatever you got on them.
Even still, the options for Renegade Squadron aren't done. You can set up your own matches to practice in Instant Action, go after 15 medals and get into Galactic Conquest -- a turn-based strategy game that has you buying troops, conquering planets and battling it out with your opponents for controlling interest of the galaxy.
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