Ever since the first Battlefront game the series has revolved around the unsung soldiers of the battlefield instead of the heroes of the Star Wars Universe. Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron takes the series in a new direction by following a specific character rather than the unnamed infantrymen. Elite Squadron is the first DS installment of the Battlefront series and it spans the entire saga of the Star Wars films as well as some of the New Republic storyline after Return of the Jedi.
Throughout the entirety of Elite Squadron you follow a special clone trooper named X2. Yes, his name is X2 and they always call him X2. With his brother X1, also always called X1, they fight with the Republic during the Clone Wars. When the Republic betrays the Jedi Order X1 sides with the Republic, now turning into the Empire, while X2 sides with the Jedi and then the Rebel Alliance later on. The overall story is not bad, but it has been done before in other Star Wars games. The interesting thing about the story is viewing the famous battles from the films from the perspective of the Elite Squadron because it is often quite different from the views shown in the movies.
Elite Squadron is split up into actual missions and segments that tell you part of the story before and after each mission. The missions themselves are in 3D while the story telling segments are a series of more detailed drawn images. The 3D is not bad for the DS, but it is not the best either. Some of the models are blocky, but you can still tell different units apart on the field so you never feel like you are fighting random blobs that don’t look like anything. I also noticed that when there was a lot happening on screen the frame rate rarely dropped. The game flowed very smoothly with occasional minor hiccups.
What I really enjoyed was looking at the artwork during the story before and after the missions. Even though there are limited cut scenes, the detailed artwork helps breathe life into the story. The best part is there are 39 different pieces of artwork to look at and after you finish the story you can go into the extras menu and look through all of them.
The music in Elite Squadron is exactly what any Star Wars fan will expect. The soundtrack is ripped from the films and throughout the game you will hear many of the epic and memorable pieces. Normally this would look lazy, but if any Star Wars game did not have the iconic and familiar soundtrack it would feel incomplete. Overall the music is tied in to the missions well and since the game is set in the Star Wars Universe, it works.
A disappointing aspect of the audio is the sparse voice acting found in the game. The entire story is told through text and the only voices you will hear come from the random soldiers yelling around you. Every now and then you will hear one of your soldiers yell something along the lines of “for the Rebellion,” or you will hear a stormtrooper say the iconic “rebel scum” line. While the lines are not badly done, they are positioned too far apart and when someone yells something the game feels more artificial than it would if the voice acting was taken out altogether.
When you start playing Elite Squadron you may notice that it is different than previous Battlefront installments. Instead of giving you the traditional third-person shooter feel like in the other games, this one opts for a top down view. With that view point and the linear levels the game feels more like a Star Wars dungeon crawler. However, that is not a bad thing at all and that style of game play works. The only thing bad about it is some Battlefront fans might not get what they expected.
Almost every mission is broken up into an on foot section and a starship piloting section. The on foot parts of the missions are linear and straightforward. They usually involve either pushing a button or destroying a computer to progress further in the level. The only problem with these sections is the lock-on system. Sometimes it auto-targets an enemy effortlessly, but other times you will be right next to someone you are trying to kill and you have to keep pressing the L button until the game decides to lock-on to that particular enemy. Needless to say, even with the finicky lock-on system you will be destroying many a stormtrooper and battle droid throughout these segments.
At certain points in each level you can choose to change classes. The four classes are assault, heavy, engineer and spy. Each class has its own signature style and special perks. At some points the game forces you to change classes to pass certain obstacles, but most of the time I chose the heavy class and laid waste to many of the enemies with my minigun sometimes before they even got onto the screen.
There are a variety of boss fights in the game and they are always on foot. Unlike the levels, which are usually pretty easy to fly through, some of the boss fights require you to figure out a strategy to win. This made the boss fights enjoyable and it was a good break from shooting down squads of random enemies.
The other main section of the missions is the dogfights in space. Most of them require destroying a set number of enemy ships and none of them are very difficult. You are restricted to moving only left and right while the up and down buttons speed you up and slow you down respectively. Since the enemies fly on the same plane as you it is easy to hit an enemy you can’t even see just by looking at your radar. This system made the flying sections rather boring, but most of them are not that long.
In addition to the on foot and space sections of Elite Squadron there are some levels that put you in either a ground vehicle or a turret. The ground vehicle sections require you to get from point A to point B in a speeder without hitting anything or getting shot down. These are generally enjoyable and pleasantly break up the flow of walking around and shooting enemies. The turret sections require you to destroy a certain number of targets before they destroy an object of importance and overall they feel like artificial and not needed extensions to the single player game, even though it is very short.
After finishing the single player there is a multiplayer mode attached to this game as well. You and up to three friends can get on the DS wireless connection and play a few different game types. You can either all go head to head or team up against each other and fight through different levels on the ground, in capital ships and in space. There is also a hero mode, which lets you choose different lightsaber wielding heroes and villains in a free-for-all match. These modes are fun for a little while, but you won’t be going to this game for an optimal multiplayer experience.
Elite Squadron is a promising introduction for the Battlefront series on the DS. This installment gives you a decent, but predictable story about the ever-growing conflict between the light and dark side, good graphics, a classic and enjoyable soundtrack and a style of game play new to Battlefront. Elite Squadron is very fun to play, but with my single player campaign clocking in at just over 3 hours and 15 minutes and multiplayer modes that are not very engaging, I can’t see many people keeping this game for longer than a weekend rental period of time.
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Published by: LucasArts
Developed by: N-Space
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Release Date: November 3, 2009
Genre: Third-Person Shooter