Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Nov 02, 2009

For reasons as inexplicable as Jar Jar Binks, the Star Wars: Battlefront series continues on as a handheld exclusive, despite its previous success on consoles and computers. Marketed as the largest Battlefront game to date, Elite Squadron is an unquestionably ambitious title for a portable system. Will the promise of one connected battlefront, encompassing both space and land, cause the gameplay to fall to pieces?

The Pros
  • Simultaneous battles in space and on land
  • Strong customization options
  • Smooth online support for 16-players
The Cons
  • Imprecise controls
  • No new game types
  • Automatic targeting a necessity

For reasons as inexplicable as Jar Jar Binks, the Star Wars: Battlefront series continues on as a handheld exclusive, despite its previous success on consoles and computers. Marketed as the largest Battlefront game to date, Elite Squadron is an unquestionably ambitious title for a portable system. Will the promise of one connected battlefront, encompassing both space and land, cause the gameplay to fall to pieces?

Star Wars: Elite Squadron (PSP)

The X Factor

As the sequel to 2007's Renegade Squadron, Elite Squadron features an identical lineup of play modes with a few notable tweaks and changes. The single-player campaign has been revamped, focusing on the exploits of two clone troopers named X1 and X2 whose storylines are as generic as their names. Both protagonists will find themselves on opposite sides of conflict in missions, which take place on 11 different planets and in scenarios spanning all six films.

Elite Squadron's biggest change over previous versions is its seamlessly connected battle environments. Instead of just engaging rival factions on a planet's surface, you can now blast off into space to continue the action in the cosmos.  After jumping into a ship, you now have two choices (apart from crashing and burning): assist the ground troops fighting on land or point your ship toward the sky and tap on the directional pad to fly into space. A short, non-interactive transition sequence will play and you'll find yourself amidst the stars and near a capital ship. How convenient.

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It's a Trap!

The interesting part of the game’s space combat is not the dogfights with other spacecraft, but instead, the ability to fly inside a capital ship, land, and mount an assault on foot. This can be accomplished by gaining control of a planet surface's ion cannon and using it to deplete the capital ship's shields with two well-timed blasts. Once the shields are down, players in space can board the vessel and attempt to destroy its reactor (and even use an escape pod to save themselves from the resulting blast). If you don't attack the capital ship, it can send targeted laser blasts down to the planet. While the expanded battlefront is actually quite limited in both size and scope, the added layer of strategy does make the game more engaging, especially online.
   
Unfortunately, many of the gripes from Renegade Squadron can be applied to Elite Squadron. The frame rate is inconsistent, characters are a tad sluggish, and the controls are dodgy. The default controls involve pushing up to move forward; however, pushing the analog stick left or right will cause your character and the camera to rotate, which makes for a dizzying and disorienting experience. Combat on land primarily involves continuous circle strafing while holding down a target lock button. Attempt to shoot manually and may the Force be with you—It is simply too difficult and frustrating to go it “Han Solo”, so expect to take the easy and less satisfying route whether you're on the ground or flying.

Star Wars: Elite Squadron (PSP)

Tour de Force?

Fortunately, Elite Squadron manages to rise above its deficiencies by delivering some robust multiplayer action for up to 16 online combatants. You can play a conquest match (be the first side to score 1000 points) or three capture-the-flag variants. Also included from earlier versions is the galactic conquest mode, a turn-based strategy game with optional real-time combat, which can be played against the weak AI or a (hopefully) wiser friend. An impressive amount of customization options are available, from weapon loadouts to upgradeable attributes to appearance changes. Alas, there's not one moment in Elite Squadron where you'll think the gameplay is best served on a handheld. Chewbacca has been crammed into Yoda's gnarled closet.