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Friday, October 23, 2009

Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron demo

Last night I downloaded the Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron demo to my PSPgo from the PS Store. Free and about 78 MB, it's worth downloading to try it out.

This is probably my most anticipated game of the year, so I have really high expectations.... expectations that I've tried to keep in check while waiting for the game to come out.

Ever since the original Star Wars Battlefront on Xbox, I've had to eat my words for my initial impressions of the 2 follow-up games. I played the Star Wars Battlefront II demo on my Episode III DVD, and it was an earlier build of the game so it wasn't as polished. I was at first very disappointed... but the actual game became one of my favourites.

Same with the PSP Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron. At first I thought they messed up the formula, but I have to say it is one of, if not my favourite game of all time.

So maybe my initial impressions are a bit harsh. But still, as cool as Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron is in concept, there seem to be some annoyances that really mar the experience.

They kept the 2 control settings: "Default" & "Alternate". I choose "Alternate" because it makes the face buttons for look. The problem is, it maps the steering for spaceships to the face buttons. The analogue nub is only for controlling speed: you push up or down basically. That seems like such a huge waste, and to not have the analogue nub steer a flying vehicle seems so very, VERY wrong.

I've tried it with the "default" controls which does map ship steering back to the analogue nub, but it still seems very awkward, not to mention that I don't want to have to adjust the options every time I switch from ground to air playing.

For Battlefront II & even Renegade Squadron (which is the developer of Elite Squadron too) they made a point to address that the vehicle control in Battlefront I was bad, and that they were going to improve on that... which they did. So Elite Squadron's starfighter controls seem like a major step backwards to the clunky awkward feel of Battlefront I and even worse because space battles are a huge integral part of the game.

Another thing I noticed right away was the overall game interface. It looks fancy, but cluttered. I *hate* how all the enemy soldiers have these HUGE circles around them, showing health but obscuring who they even are. They could be WWII Nazis as far as I can tell with that junk just making a mess & taking me out of the Star Wars experience. Do we really need those huge circles?

The graphics & design have made a bit of an improvement, they have to be commended for that. But these issues really bug me. So far I've played all 4 factions on the demo's Tatooine map, and the overall battle seems a bit random & chaotic; echoing some of the *broken* aspects of Battlefront I's gameplay.

The maps do seem big, much bigger than Renegade Squadron. Right now they seem a bit TOO big with pointless areas, but I might just need to get used to them.

I hope this demo is just an early build and that the actual release game will be more polished, but I doubt it as it's coming out November 3, 2009-- a bit over a week from now.

There's so much that's cool about this concept: you fight on the ground, and can fly up into space, where you can fight other starfighters or board an enemy capital ship. The capital ships are more expansive than they've ever been on the PSP. But I wonder if the idea's a bit too ambitious for its (or developer Rebellion) own good. Maybe the game will grow on me, maybe I will end up eating my words again. I sincerely hope so.


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