Editor’s Note: This is a review of the Star Wars: Battlefront II title that was released in 2005. For a review of the new game by the same name, click here.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… I know, I know, I’m obviously not the first writer to begin a review of yet another Star Wars product with George Lucas’ famously overused line. And I’m sure I won’t be the last. But perhaps no installment has better warranted the use of this phrase than the franchise’s latest video game, Star Wars: Battlefront II. Because this time, the starry sky of yesteryear truly is the limit for gamers.
Not Quite ‘Episode VII,’ But It’s Close
When Episode III – Revenge of the Sith broke box-office records this past May, Lucas was adamant that the movie was the final piece of the Star Wars puzzle. In Jedispeak, complete the circle was. But many had a hard time believing this colossal money-making machine would truly be retired. “Although Lucas has absolutely said he is finished with the series, it is inconceivable to me that 20th Century Fox will willingly abandon the franchise,” commented film critic Roger Ebert, “especially as Lucas has hinted that parts of [episodes] VII, VIII and IX exist at least in his mind. There will be enormous pressure for them to be made, if not by him, then by his deputies.”
Consider Battlefront II the first sign that Lucas’ “deputies” are already hard at work. Last year’s original game had you fighting for the Confederacy of Independent Systems, Galactic Empire, Rebel Alliance and Old Republic at various times and on 10 different planets. It was a Force-junkie’s dream.
This one’s even bigger. With awe-inspiring scope and detail, Battlefront II more than one-ups the initial best-seller by including virtually every prominent character and environment in all six movies. Ever wanted to duke it out with those tusked guards at Jabba the Hutt’s palace? Done. Wonder what it would feel like to be hot on the trail of Imperial Stormtroopers running the hallways of the Death Star? Wish granted.
Even non-Lucasites unsure whether Aayla Secura is a person, place or thing will find fun things to do here. The “Galactic Conquest” option is a virtual game of Risk combined with individual planetary assaults. For online gamers, the ancillary variations of capture the flag, manhunt or assault will serve as the cherry on top. After gaining control of a handful of planets with your overpowering infantry, you get a taste of why galactic domination can spoil even the meekest of us. I’ll admit that with a galaxy as vast as this one, it was hard for me to put down the controller.
Dealing With the Dark Side
Also making the hyperspace jump from big screen to video game are the standard Star Wars sore spots. The Eastern-influenced mysticism of the Force, while not highlighted, still trumps the deadliest of weapons with its “cool” factor. And though the game shies away from the PG-13 gore shown in Revenge of the Sith (no severed limbs or charred bodies, thank you), this third-person shooter involves a hefty share of real-life laser tag and lightsaber takedowns. This is no Doom in regards to realistic violence or over-the-top grisliness. But no matter how you look at it, Battlefront II is still all about “kill or be killed.”
Mirroring the movies’ story line, there’s also a little deception thrown into the game. In the “Rise of the Empire Campaign” you play a trooper clone who goes from just another soldier to Darth Vader’s personal guard. That transformation includes lying to the Jedi council you once served and eventually turning your back on them—and slaughtering a temple full of Jedi youngsters. (Just like Anakin did in Sith.)
Clearly, “awe-inspiring scope and detail” isn’t enough of a reason to give a game a free pass. Neither is a T rating. Discernment should always be a player’s first thought. And since Star Wars has never been easy to categorize as “good” or “bad,” real work is required to make decisions about whether this is a battle worth fighting—again.