One of the best licenced Star Wars games ever and one of the most replayable team-based shooters of all time, but this Steam port is blighted by a number of serious bugs.
Not to be confused with 2004 game this was a sequel to or either of the critical failures that came out a decade after it, Star Wars: Battlefront II is a fantastic use of one of, if not the, single hottest IP still in production and a marvel of stimulating game design that remains as satisfying today as the day it came out.
The player becomes a single solider in one regiment of any of the 1977 – 2005 Star Wars films’ armies, Republic clone, Confederacy battledroid, or Empire or Rebel Alliance infantry, or one of a handful of specialist roles, to fight one’s counterpart enemies in any one of dozens of maps based on all your favourite cinematic locations and also a load of the more obscure “Expanded Universe” planets. Gamemodes include your standard “Conquest” – kill all the enemy units, “Assault” – the same basic principles except it’s dogfighting in space, and “Capture the Flag” which involves the typical move-the-objective-back-to-base gameplay or stop the enemy from doing so gameplay you might expect. Along with all these are a few more novelty modes supported on a few maps such as “Hunt” wherein a much more dominant force easily massacres a weaker team under the flimsy pretence of any part of this being remotely fair or balanced, or a special Easter Egg mode where all the heroes and villains from the films duke it out amongst themselves around the Mos Eisley Cantina from the original film.
Taking over from the 2004 title, SWBF2 took every aspect of its predecessor and improved upon it or added more; introducing larger open maps with more active units present, space combat, playable ‘Hero’ units – powerful characters that can be temporarily used to sway the tide of battle, and a larger roster of playable environments, all of which are highly-varied and exceptionally well-designed from a gameplay perspective. The singleplayer AI bots remain a decent challenge and work well together to form an effective obstacle to victory without being obtusely-overpowered or too-easily dispatched, often a fine line to walk in team shooters. Persistent unlockable weapon upgrades that the player receives as they make their way through the campaign and earns experience add a nice reward to the learning curve, and give newcomers reachable targets to aspire to earning. That aforementioned campaign sees you take on the role of an unnamed Clone Trooper from the infamous 501st Legion, as they undertaking daring missions in a range of scenarios that mix up the gameplay with new objectives and variables to complete in a plot that runs parallel to the films.
While this game gets an exceptional amount of mileage out of this wide array of maps, the true reason it has stuck around for so long is the vibrant fan community which surrounds it. The multiplayer matchmaking works exactly the same way as the singleplayer, except with a lobby system instead of just jumping right into your own game. Up-to 32 VS 32 player battles make many modern games look reserved by comparison and the upgrades to the hosting servers that have arrived with this Steam release are perfectly fine at managing the load without much lag, latency problems or any other performance issues on this front, presumably due in part to the game’s decade-old polygons (which do totally still hold up) being relatively easy to handle by the machines of today.
Additionally, the ten years this game has remained in the community has led to an amazing about of high-grade fan content such as new maps, new playable units and a range of new characters and vehicles. This content can be found at most mod-hosting websites, and SWBF2 will often be one of the largest categories for such, but, be warned, hundreds and hundreds of new maps can start to way awfully heavy on the harddrive quickly.
Lastly is my unfortunate observation which I evidently share with many other people playing on the Steam platform is about some issues which seem to crop up in this port. While this Steam release is barebones with no graphical upgrades, new content, no Trading Cards or Achievements, or any new features as you often see will re-releases – and there’s nothing wrong with that, simplicity is nice – but there is a whole range of different bugs and glitches in this release that mostly just crash your game on certain maps, often when a round ends, or because of certain in-level triggers in the campaign, and it’s odd that it seems these issues are not getting patched anytime soon, as the publisher and rights-holder, Disney Interactive’s LucasArts branch, don’t seem to be paying this game much attention. These bugs are certainly annoying and occasionally gamebreaking, but one can persevere through and appreciate the game for what it can be, and that it is available for a decent price and on Steam.
I easily recommend the game, but, if you have the option to play on an original disk or on another platform, perhaps use that method instead.