Star Wars: Battlefront review

Armies clash in this Star Wars spectacular, and yes, you can kill Ewoks. GamesMaster does the dastardly deed...

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On paper, it's the best idea in the history of all things, ever. A massively multi-player Star Wars game that allows you to re-fight all those legendary cinematic battles, from Hoth to Endor and beyond. Fried gold, right?

Well... if you're lucky enough to have Xbox Live, a decent broadbanded-up PC or you've wrestled with your PS2 long and hard enough to have successfully got it online, then yep, Star Wars: Battlefront can be a thing of transcendent beauty - depending, of course, on the depth of your love for all things Lucas.

But it's not without its problems, the chief of which is that, as a single-player game, it can be awfully pedestrian. Once you get your head round it, it does become more involving, but initially at least, it threatens to be nothing more than generic Star Wars shooter no. 113.

The single-player game is divided into two main sections. One is a series of 'historical' scenarios that follow the events of the films and see you playing as both Empire and Rebels. The second, Galactic Conquest, introduces strategy, in that you're asked to choose which planets you're fighting for and each conquered planet gives you certain bonuses, such as reducing enemy health or guest appearances by the characters from the films. It's here that you'll probably spend much of your single-player time and it's eventually quite engrossing.

But the first time you're thrown into the fray it feels, well, underwhelming. The guns feel weedy, the vehicles unsophisticated, and trekking across the battlefield is a pain. It's only once you understand how to win - by taking strategic points - and learn how to command your troops in order to do so, that the single-player game gets interesting. But it never really flies.

This is unlike the online game, which soars skyward in a burst of Star Wars goodness, taking the tactical kernel present in the single-player game and watering it with actual human ingenuity. It's then that the simplicity of the vehicles becomes a boon, with people mobilising in a skiff to mount a concerted attack on an enemy-held strongpoint, or a dedicated pilot hopping into an X-Wing to give them cover and keep any fun-spoiling TIEs away. It's unfussy, as simple as can be and all the better for it, so that action and tactics can be concentrated on.

It's obvious that to fully experience the beauty of Battlefront you're going to have to be online. And while it falls short of truly classic status, it's a tremendously fun romp that proves to be one of the best reasons yet to get connected.

Star Wars: Battlefront is out now on Xbox, PS2 and PC

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