Star Wars: Battlefront II was a gem of a game on the last-gen consoles, mixing hectic firefights with Jedi playability and a variety of alien species to both hinder and help your domination of the galaxy as a member of the infamous 501st legion. But it is a game produced and played on last-gen consoles, so does it hold up alongside the smooth, HD games we play today, eight years after release?
The main attraction of Battlefront II for me were the skirmishes that played out against both bots and friends. Fighting for objectives in Conquest as a clone trooper or a Droideka against the familiar settings of Coruscant or Mustafar while a horde of enemies bombard you with laser fire and grenades. As one of the first games I played and took interest in, I couldn’t have been introduced to video games in a more exciting way. As an experience repeated now – after years of gaming gradually redefining itself in terms of quality and content – the multiplayer remains as playable as ever. Sure, it’s lost some of its edge in terms of video quality, and the bots occasionally seem to have left half of their brains at home, but it continues to bring the enjoyment that newer shooters like Call of Duty will likely lose in another eight years.
The campaign is a slightly different story, however. For fans of the films, the storyline supplies what is necessary, mapping the 501st legion’s journey from the second to the fifth movie with an unknown trooper narrating the events. But it plays somewhat lazily and, although it adds a different view to the overall story of the Jedi downfall, it hardly develops anything new for the campaign to be particularly original. If anything, it plays out only as the multiplayer, broken up by cutscenes.
Then there were the novelties of the game: aliens, Jedi and Sith, and space battles. Killing your way to Obi-Wan Kenobi or Darth Maul and abusing the force to tear the enemy apart were joys in themselves and added something brilliant to the gameplay, making it more than just a way of using the Star Wars name to sell. Add space battles on top of that and you have another way of playing the game that could have crashed and burned, but instead allowed for tough dogfights and ship-to-ship sabotage. The sabotage elements do have their pitfalls, though. Enemy pilots walk around absently and virtually blind to your infiltration until it’s too late and you’re on your way out of their half-destroyed ship.
The aliens are a different story, and I have always found it difficult to find much enjoyment in their involvement. Jar Jar Binks and friends fighting off clone troopers to defend Naboo? Please. And Ewoks fighting off storm troopers was cringe-worthy in the movie; god knows why it was included in the game. The only worthwhile aliens are the powerful Wookies with their crossbows.
So, does Battlefront II hold up in the current generation, on the border of next-gen consoles? As a multiplayer game, even without Xbox Live, it holds up almost flawlessly and manages to remain a classic with its variety of maps and game types. Even the bumpy campaign is still solid, although it could be more interesting. If tweaked a little – such as adding more difficulty options, doing something more with the alien races (or just cutting them out), and given a HD makeover – Star Wars: Battlefront II is a game that could easily be sold on Xbox 360s and PS3s and find itself a new audience.