Friday, May 10, 2024

20th Anniversary Review - Star Wars: Battlefront [2004]

By the mid 2000's LucasArts had significantly reduced in-house development of their own games, instead licencing to other developers and publishing all games using the Star Wars brand. This practice gave rise to some incredible Star Wars games encompassing almost every gaming genre. These included  Bioware's RPG Knights of the Old Republic, Raven's 1st/3rd person shooter Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, SOE's MMORPG Galaxies and Petroglyph's RTS Empire at War

The biggest success story however was Pandemic Studios multiplayer objective-based 1st/3rd person shooter Star Wars: Battlefront. This was a Star Wars take on EA's WWII Battlefield franchise and it hit the market at the perfect time. Battlefield was immensely popular at the time and a marketing tie-in with the original Star Wars trilogy DVD release as well as it being right in the middle of the Episode III hype train aided Battlefront in becoming the best-selling Star Wars game of all time at that point.

Being primarily a multiplayer game I never had much interaction with the Star Wars: Battlefront series. That said I have actually picked up most of them over the years so that one day I might sample their campaign modes just as a curiosity. With the "problematic" release of Aspyr's Battlefront Classic Collection earlier in the year and the fact that it's now 20 years since it launched I felt it was time to sample and on May 4th I tried it out!

From what I know about the original Battlefront, its single player campaign was apparently its weakest link. Basically a set of connected missions from either the Clone Wars (prequel) or Galactic Civil War (original trilogy) era. The player first plays as the Confederacy and later the Republic Army during the Clone Wars and then as the Galactic Empire and later the Rebel Alliance during the Galactic Civil War. My goal was not to spend too much time (or to even finish the campaigns) so I only sampled the initial levels of each campaign. 

For the prequels I played as the Confederacy as various models of Trade Federation Battle-Droids during their battle on the fields of Naboo against the Gungans. The objective was to eliminate the Gungan menace by destroying their Famba (large creatures which carried shield generators) and remove their advantage. I do admit to enjoying killing Gungans with heavy weapons but it was otherwise a simple victory. The next mission was much more difficult, securing the Naboo capital, Theed. Here I used several different types of Battle-Droids, including snipers and heavy weapons variations to eliminate Royal Guards and destroy weapon emplacements. I was defeated during the first of these but succeeded the second time. The third mission with  seemed much longer than the others and also ended in defeat so I turned my attention to the original trilogy campaign.

I was a bit more clued in to how the game was played now when I switched to this campaign. It was much more fun taking control of various Stormtrooper types as they pacified Sand People and Rebels on the deserts of Tatooine. My favourite death was being eaten by a Sarlacc that I got too close to. Once I was victorious in the Dune Sea, the next battle was in Mos Eisley. Here I fought as a Dark Trooper alongside Darth Vader himself and eliminated Rebel resistance in the spaceport, ensuring victory. I tried to save at this point and perhaps continue the next day but I could not actually find a way of doing this! Once I exited the campaign it wanted me to begin the whole thing again, something it was not my intention to do so I left it there.

I must note that I played the Steam version of the game which was released in 2019. It ran flawlessly at 3440x1440 @ 175FPS for the brief time I played. It had load-times for each level that while only mere seconds, still surprised me. The cutscenes for the campaign consisted of woefully digitised clips from the movies to "explain" the battles you were partaking in. It is the most bare-bones effort of storytelling in a game I've seen in a while but I wasn't expecting anything unique or specially crafted here.

Final Verdict: I think today, due to the superiority of it's sequels that this exists purely to satisfy the curiosity of students of game design, fans of gaming in general or to die-hard Star Wars fans. In my brief time with Star Wars: Battlefront and despite not playing against human enemies I can see the appeal of playing this shooter in 64-man battles where tactics were used, objectives completed and victory assured by the side with the best plan and communication. I look forward to similarly sampling the much lauded superior sequel Battlefront II soon enough.

Technicals: 1 hour playtime through Steam on Windows 11 with an RTX4070Ti @ 3440x1440/175

Bugs: None 

Availability: From Steam or GOG for €9.75. Review copy purchased for €5.48 in Nov 2019.

Star Wars: Battlefront series:

Star Wars: Battlefront [2004]
Star Wars: Battlefront II [2005]
Star Wars Battlefront [2015]
Star Wars Battlefront II [2017]
Star Wars: Battlefront Classic Collection [2024]

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