When I saw that one of my favourite games on the PS2, Star Wars Battlefront II, had a portable version available on the PSP, which I could download and play on my PS Vita, I was skeptical. Was it possible that this game, which I had spent so many hours playing on the PS2, could be transported to a portable with inferior hardware (compared to its console brethren)?
Well, we all knew the answer to that question is ‘no’, but it’s not as bad as you might think.
The basic premise behind the Star Wars Battlefront series is that you play as a trooper on a specific side during one of two wars – the Clone Wars (droids versus clones) and the Galactic Civil War (Stormtroopers versus Rebels). You can play as either side, and the action takes place on one of the well-known planets in the Star Wars Galaxy (such as Tatooine, Dagobah, Hoth, and Endor, for example). Gameplay revolves around defeating the opposition, either through defeating all their troops (shown by a number in the top of the screen) or by capturing all of the ‘command posts’, which are points that can respawn friendly troops, and capturing all of the command posts on a map and holding onto them for 20 seconds will result in a win. One of the benefits of playing on a PS Vita was the controller – on the PSP version you had to use the face buttons to move the reticule, but on the PS Vita you can map this to the second stick, meaning I was able to use both sticks in the game.
There are several modes, the first of which are “challenges”.
Challenges sadly replace the excellent “Rise of the Empire” campaign from the console versions, which was a brilliant work of art and a pinnacle in game story-telling, in my opinion, so the fact that they left it out was a little depressing. Unfortunately, the challenges don’t make up for the lost campaign. They are a collection of basic tasks which wouldn’t be out of place in a mobile game. There are three challenge sets, one which sees you annihilating the native species of a planet as a sniper, the second sees you playing the part of a rogue stormtrooper assassinating imperial officers on planets, and the third sees you playing as rebel smuggler tasked with locating objects and returning them to a specific location. The first two were a bit of fun, but I can’t see myself playing them in the future. The rebel smuggler one, however, was a mess concerning the area of game design. During one of the levels, which takes place in space, you had to get an object from the enemy spaceship. No problem there. Coming back, I was shot down, and I could not find the item anywhere. So it reset, I went to the enemy ship, picked it up, and got shot down again. The level was timed as well, so I didn’t end up finishing. The AI seemed to have a real spike during this level, because I could run to the enemy ship all the time in other modes with no problem, and that is just weird and annoying. Games should not have difficulty spikes to make you keep playing the game.
The next mode is conquest, and this is everyone’s favourite mode if you speak to fans of the game. In conquest, you take control of a fleet during the time of one of the wars mentioned earlier, on any side. After each battle you will earn credits, which can be used to purchase new fleets, bonuses, and classes of soldier. You then move a fleet around the map, with the goal of conquering every planet in the galaxy. Extra strategy is added when you realise that if your fleet and the enemy’s fleet collide, a space battle will occur, and that the conquering the enemy’s home planet will yield a significant credit bonus for you and a severe hit to the enemy’s income. Failed invasions of planets or losing a space battle will result in the fleet being destroyed, which can add an extra layer of strategy. This is a really good mode, and its easy to see why it’s considered the best, but I felt that it was just too easy, and this is due to the AI of the enemy being very simple. I played 4 full rounds of conquest (one as each side) and in that time I only ever lost one or two battles. Often at times the AI will just run to you to be slaughtered, so once you find a good hallway where enemies will just run towards you and you can slaughter them, you can easily win (because you’ve got tons of reinforcements and you’ve singlehandedly killed 40 enemies).
The next mode is instant action, which allows you to choose a map and faction and play a skirmish. You’re able to group several maps together into a playlist of sorts, but I don’t think it’s possible to save it. There’s not much to say about this mode, the AI is still very dumb.
The final mode is multiplayer, but unfortunately the PSN title hasn’t been updated to support online multiplayer, so I had no way to check this component, as I don’t know anyone else who had this game and a Vita/PSP.
I found few problems with this title, but unfortunately these problems are major and detracted from the experience. The first problem is the AI, which, as mentioned before, was just too easy to defeat (this was on the normal, default setting as well, but I don’t know how much better/more difficult hard mode is). However, the great thing about this title are the maps, which are just like their console counterparts (apart from one or two where the number of command posts has been downgraded); even though the art isn’t as good, but that doesn’t really matter compared to the amount of fun I was having, and it’s not like the console version was much better. Unfortunately, a major problem is a lack of maps; there’s about half as many here as the console version, which is a slightly disappointing effort. I would rather that the challenges were removed and more maps were added. If I want to be really nit-picky and let the Star Wars fan in me speak, because there’s a lack of maps, the starting planet for the factions in conquest can be different to what you expect them to be, and it really irks me that Naboo is the Republic’s starting planet, but that does seem like the best choice out of the maps available. Same with the Imperial’s starting planet, which is Endor. It just irks me that there are maps better suited, but these just weren’t put in.
While Star Wars Battlefront II is a great game on all platforms, I can only think of one reason to get this PSP version, and that’s if you’re a fan of the genre and/or Star Wars, and need something to play on the commute to work. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot worth getting here, especially since the PC version, which has conquest, instant action, online multiplayer, and the Rise of the Empire campaign, is available for less than than this version.
– Fun Gameplay
– No detail lost on maps
– Layers of Strategy
– Same Star Wars Music
– Some poor game design
– Can be too easy at times
– Bizarre starting planet choices
– Half as many maps as console versions
– No campaign