I’ve played a number of PSP titles, and it’s always interesting to see how a developer gets around the limitation of having only a single analog stick to work with. It can provide some significant obstacles, but generally they overcome them. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for LucasArts and Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron.
This latest installment in the Battlefront series places you in the boots of a clone trooper who was created from the DNA of a Jedi Master. I’ll admit that playing a cloned Jedi does have its appeals, but the game never really follows through on this. You’re simply another trooper with skills moderately better than the rest. There’s also a story of two brothers on separate sides of the battlefield, which doesn’t end up being nearly as interesting as one would hope.
The game takes you through a number of battles seen in the movies and other Star Wars canon. Yet again you’ll see battles from a slightly different point of view. This time you’ll be rotating through a series of scenarios that include a ground battle, space battle and firing some sort of large gun at the surface of the planet, or a ship. At first this seems to liven up the gameplay, however, you quickly realize that every single level will have you doing these exact same things. Give it three or four levels and you’ll have pretty much played the entire game. The rest is just a re-hashing of the early levels with a new face painted on them.
Speaking of the missions themselves, most of them are a complete joke. You’ll have a number of objectives to complete before you progress. Usually they consist of going to a location, sometimes an action has to be carried out once you get there (pull a lever, blow something up, etc.). The funny thing is that if you aren’t specifically ordered to kill anyone, you can breeze through many parts of the game by running past all of the enemies until you hit the next checkpoint. Talk about taking the ‘battle’ out of Battlefront.
I would usually be disappointed to find out that I can simply run past all of the enemies. Unfortunately the controls are so abysmal in this game that I found it to be a saving grace. With your single analog stick you control player movement, camera and aiming. I don’t mean to say that the stick controls these things individually in combination with another button. No, it does all of these things at the same time, which makes it difficult to do anything at all.
Movement is clunky at best, since the camera is situated directly behind you at all times. There is no strafing, so if you want to shoot an enemy around a corner, you have to walk out there, slowly turn, lock on to them, wait for the auto-aim to kick in, then fire. I say that the auto-aim is a necessity because it truly is. Your crosshairs remain in the same spot on the screen at all times. It is a rare occurrence indeed when an enemy is squarely in your sights. You can zoom in with your weapons, at which time you are free to aim, but I rarely recommend this. It takes a precious few seconds to pull it up, then even longer to actually move the crosshairs where you want them. Oh, and don’t worry about targeting a specific enemy. Even if there’s someone right in front of you, there’s no guarantee that it will be the one you’ll end up targeting.
You do have a variety of weapons to choose from, unfortunately these are restricted to a few predefined sets. You can stop at stations setup throughout the game and switch these out, and occasionally you are forced to do so. For instance, you need to equip the ‘Pilot’ loadout so that you can use the fusion cutter to repair a turret. (How cutting at a pile of rubble turns it into a fully-functional turret is beyond me, but that’s another matter entirely.) Thankfully you can switch loadouts as often as you like, so when you’re done, you can equip something useful.
The storyline had some potential, but overall the game felt clunky and uninspired. The controls were miserable and the gameplay too repetitive. If you’re looking for your next Star Wars fix, I wouldn’t suggest picking this one up.
Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron is currently available for the PSP and DS.
[ LucasArts ]