Star Wars: Battlefront
|Star Wars: Battlefront|
North American PC box art
|Series||Star Wars: Battlefront|
|Release date(s)||Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox
September 21, 2004
November 1, 2005
|Genre(s)||First-person shooter, third-person shooter|
Star Wars: Battlefront is a first and third-person video game based on battles in the Star Wars film series. It was developed by Pandemic Studios and published by LucasArts. The game released on September 21, 2004 for PlayStation 2, Xbox and Microsoft Windows to coincide the release of the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set. Aspyr released a Macintosh port in July 2005. A cellular phone version, entitled Star Wars Battlefront Mobile was released November 1, 2005. A sequel, Star Wars: Battlefront II, was also released on November 1, 2005 for Windows, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. The game is primarily played as a conquest game, however other modes such as Galactic Conquest bring strategy elements to the title.
Battlefront features several locales from major Star Wars battles, and includes voice acting from veteran voice actors Temuera Morrison, Tom Kane, and Nick Jameson. It received generally favorable reviews from critics, averaging approximately an 80% approval rating across all platforms at aggregate websites GameRankings and Metacritic. Critics praised the multiplayer component and the ability to play a part in major Star Wars battles, however the lacking single player component and poor AI were points of concern.
Star Wars: Battlefront encompasses battles between four main factions from both the original and prequel trilogies: the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) from the prequel era, and the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire from the original trilogy. In each faction, five different classes of character become available. Four main classes are similar for each faction, infantry, heavy weapons, pilot and sniper, while the fifth is unique. Each faction also has an non-playable hero character that participates in battle for a limited amount of time: Count Dooku (CIS), Mace Windu (Republic), Luke Skywalker (Rebels), and Darth Vader (Empire).
Gameplay in Battlefront is conquest-based. Each faction has a finite amount of reinforcements, and each is given control of a set number of command posts in a given level. The object is to either eliminate enemy forces or capture and hold all command posts simultaneously for 20 seconds. Several ground and air vehicles are available on the battlefield. These range from the hulking AT-AT to the fast speeder bike and vary based on the level. There are more than 25 vehicles in-game. Some larger vehicles also function as mobile command posts, which cannot be captured, but are lost if the vehicle is destroyed. In addition, some maps have indigenous forces. These can be neutral to both factions, such as Jawas, hostile to one faction, such as Wookies, or hostile to both factions, such as Tusken Raiders. Command posts belonging to hostile natives can also be captured to minimize their presence.
The Microsoft Windows and Macintosh versions of Star Wars: Battlefront can be played online with up to 64 players on via local area network (LAN) or over the internet via GameSpy. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions can accommodate up to 32 players or can be played in splitscreen mode with two players. The PlayStation 2 version utilizes specialized GameSpy servers, while the Xbox utilized Microsoft's Xbox Live network. Xbox online play is no longer available as the original Xbox Live servers were shut down on April 15, 2010.
While the game is played similarly in every mode, each is a unique scenario which utilizes mode-specific features to further extend gameplay. Three modes are presented to the player: Campaign, which serves as the game's story mode, Galactic Conquest, in which the player must conquer planets, and Instant Action, which allows the player to select the battle they wish to play and adjust settings such as reinforcements to their liking.
Campaign groups several battles together in a set order loosely based on the historical campaign of either the Clone Wars or the Galactic Civil War. As Episode III had not been released at the time, the Clone Wars campaign ends with the Battle of Kashyyyk. Footage from the five films then released are used as cutscenes between battles. The player starts the campaign as either a member of the Separatist army or an Imperial Stormtrooper. Around halfway through the chosen campaign the perspective switches to the Clone Troopers or Rebels. To maintain continuity, missions prior to the battle of Geonosis pit the Separatists against native forces only, and for the first two missions the super battle droid is unavailable, replaced with a standard battle droid.
In Galactic Conquest, the player uses strategy to take control of planets and dominate an area of the galaxy. First the player chooses a map configuration based on conflicts from both eras of Star Wars history. Some maps start both sides evenly while others favor one faction. Next, the player chooses which faction to play as. The game is played in turns, with the player starting first. The player can select an enemy-controlled or neutral planet to attack. After selecting what planet to attack, the player is able to activate a bonus from one of his already owned planets (if any). Each planet provides its own unique bonus, but must be captured before the player can use it. Bonuses help the player in battle by impeding the enemy or assisting the player's team. If one side manages to win four battles (not necessarily in a row), they gain access to their faction's Secret Base bonus. Secret Base bonuses are very powerful and can change the course of a game. They can be used on any enemy planet, except for the enemy's Secret Base. The game is completed when one faction controls all planets on the map.
Instant Action mode allows the players to jump right into a battle of their choice. The player can also customize a list of battles, which then can be played through in the order they have chosen, or in a random order. Players can choose between playing as the Republic, the CIS, the Empire, or the Rebels on each of the maps, except Kamino, Geonosis, Endor and Hoth, which do not allow the player to select their battle era, as these follow their canonical settings. Players can also choose whether or not they would like to have heroes fight for each side.
Development for Star Wars Battlefront began at Pandemic Studios in 2002. Greg Burrod, executive producer on Battlefront stated "We wanted to create an online shooter title for the Xbox, PS2, and PC which would allow for team strategy and would feature battles and worlds from every one of the six Star Wars films." Models and animations for the game were created in Softimage XSI, a 3D development studio. Most characters used a common animation set and the minimal number of bones were used due to concerns with hardware limitations at that time. World environments were created with the developer's proprietary editor, ZeroEdit. The terrain-based landscape was formed using the editor's brushes to adjust height, texture application, and color shading. 3D models were then laid on this foundation along with general objective pathing for the artificial intelligence (AI). The AI used two main systems, again to ensure a minimal load on the hardware. A higher, overall objective, such as which command post to head towards, would only be calculated every few seconds per unit. Lower level objectives such as which enemy to fire on or what defensive strategy to take against incoming fire, are calculated continuously.
Some sounds and foley for the game were taken from Star Wars reference material, while others were recorded during a two day visit to Skywalker Ranch, near Nicasio, California. The game has approximately 1,200 foley sounds that are used to convey the impression of such aspects as interaction with flora and fauna, water, and metals. Actor Temuera Morrison voiced the Clone Troopers, reprising his role from the Attack of the Clones film. Tom Kane voiced the character Admiral Ackbar and Yoda. Nick Jameson voiced Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine. Both Kane and Jameson have voiced multiple characters in the Star Wars universe, including reprisal of their respective Yoda and Palpatine roles in the 2008 series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
LucasArts released an Xbox-exclusive playable demo on the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set. The demo included one level, the Battle of Endor. The game released on September 21, 2004, the same day as the Trilogy DVD set. In late 2004, Pandemic Studios released unsupported mod tools for Microsoft Windows, allowing players to create their own maps, as well as edit the weapons and characters for all sides in the game. This release is not supported by Lucasarts. A number of communities now exist solely based around creating maps and characters using these tools, and uploading them for others to download. Aspyr was contracted to port the game to Macintosh systems; it was released in July 2005 for Mac OS. On November 1, 2005, mobile developer Mikoishi and publisher THQ released Star Wars Battlefront Mobile for cellular phones. After eight years the GameSpy matchmaking servers were shut down on November 7, 2012. A GameSpy representative stated the service agreement between LucasArts and GameSpy had been terminated as LucasArts chose to end support on the title.
Upon its release, Star Wars: Battlefront received generally favorable reviews from the media. It currently holds aggregate scores at Metacritic of 76/100, 82/100, and 80/100 for the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox versions, respectively.  Fellow aggregate website GameRankings reports similar scores of 77.74% for the PC, 82.66% for the PlayStation 2, and 80.15% for the Xbox version. Review scores varied from a 50% approval rating to a 94% approval across the three platforms.
GameSpot Editor Bob Colayco praised the gameplay in general, which he compared favorably with Battlefield 1942. He gave high marks to the versatility of playing modes, such as vehicle control and foot battle. He also praised the PC version for its extensive online play. Ivan Sulic of IGN praised the graphics, sound, general Star Wars setting, and online mode, but was very critical of both the AI and the single-player mode. "This is a multiplayer-centric third and first-person shooter, [which] means players who opt to stick to single player will have something to do, but won't be thrilled enough to desire extended play." He cited three major issues with the game's single player element: its easy difficulty, its lack of cohesion, and poor AI teammates and enemies. Of the AI, Sulic stated "Everyone is an idiot. The game appears to use a sort of context sensitive AI, meaning bots in the right positions will do stuff (like use turrets and vehicles and lay down cover fire), but those not immediately engaged in combat will idly stand around helping themselves to an endless breather."
GameSpy's Will Tuttle and Sal Accardo also praised the graphics and online mode, but they too criticized the single player campaign. "Historical Campaign [...] gets very confusing because you frequently switch sides from battle to battle", stated Tuttle. He added that it felt like the game's campaign was "tacked on to allow people without PS2 online to have fun." 1UP.com's Andrew Pfister followed suit, also praising the graphics. "Visually, Battlefront is exceptional. Never before have the Star Wars battles been so well recreated and detailed". He criticized the game's AI, however. He felt that it was too easy to defeat them, and that they often did not follow commands issued by the player. As with other reviewers, Pfister felt the single player mode was the weak point of the game, citing the PlayStation 2 version specifically for players without online access. Overall, he felt the problems with the game were outweighed by its qualities. "Battlefront manages to stand tall as a great game that does the best job we've yet seen of playing out the battles of the Star Wars movies."
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