While the PSP isn't quite as powerful as the current generation consoles, companies are still trying to port games over to the handheld and, for the most part, are achieving moderate success. Most of these titles result in stripped down versions of the console games, but some of them have been relatively on par with their console counterparts. As the original Star Wars Battlefront title remains one of the best-selling Star Wars games ever (and even squeezed into our Top 100 Games feature recently), a sequel was crushingly inevitable. Just as inevitably, the PSP version is a little watered down in comparison, and it's a factor that does reflect on the end product.
Not that there's really been many drastic features removed in the transition from console to PSP. There are three main single player modes; Galactic Conquest, Instant Action and Challenges. The Galactic Conquest mode offers four main campaigns which take place in the Star Wars universe. The basic objective is to take control of your enemy's territory and, as the main mode in the game, it's fairly deep and quickly becomes addictive.
The Challenges mode is exclusive to the PSP and has three games modes within it including Rebel Raider, Rogue Assassin and Imperial Enforcer. All of them are fairly standard and generally just involve shooting a target. Rebel raider puts you in the role of a rebel smuggler who is attempting to collect contraband scattered throughout the map, the objective being to collect the contraband and take it to your base. Rogue Assassin puts you in the role of a clone trooper turned bounty hunter as he hunts down deserters for the empire. The last mode, Imperial Enforcer, basically has you taking out targets for the empire. None of the modes are particularly deep, but they are more like three exclusive modes for the PSP, rather than one. The Challenges mode also serves as an easier way to earn unlocks in the game though and rewards you well for the hard work, with some memorable Star Warscharacters making an appearance.
All the character classes and space battles have made the shift to the PSP which means you can do battle in classic Star Wars environments with characters like Darth Vader, Han Solo and Obi-Wan. We're pleased that no characters had to be sacrificed in the transition to the PSP. Memorable battles such as the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War will be instantly recognisable to Star Wars fans.
One of the biggest omissions in the game however is the lack of online play. Admittedly, Lucasarts has still included support for four player ad-hoc local multiplayer but it is disappointing that no infrastructure mode is present in the game. AI bots fill the rest of the map, and the experience isn't quite as epic and addictive as the online multiplayer from the console versions. By taking away the online play it feels like part of the appeal of Battlefront II has been lost simply because the single player mode used to take a backseat to the multiplayer; now, it's the other way around.
The PSP's control system hasn't exactly been renowned for being ideal with shooters, and unfortunately Star Wars Battlefront doesn't find a way around the problem. There's a few different control schemes - the default control scheme maps movement to the analog stick, and there are other control options including a retro option which lets you aim and move with the face buttons. We appreciate that Lucasarts has tried to come up with some alternative control options, but none of them feel particularly comfortable. The control issues feel a little worse on this game as well, simply because there is so much happening during the game at once.
Aside from the control issues though, the gameplay still remains just as complex as the console versions, which is a little daunting initially. There is a lot of variation in the combat so it doesn't just become a repetitive shooter, which is great. The environments are all very expansive and interactive as well, so whilst it may seem like you're doing the same thing over, this is actually not the case.
The graphics do the job fairly well, but they aren't exactly memorable. It is the little details that are more impressive, such as the fact that the characters are well modelled and there has been no downgrades to the maps. There is a lot of variety in the maps and the characters are all instantly recognisable which makes the game a lot more enjoyable. Even though the action becomes quite intense we didn't experience any slowdown during the game, which is worth commending - indeed, it's amazing just how much can happen on screen without the frame-rate starting to creak.
The sound in the game feels very epic and authentic, with classic Star Wars music making it into the game. The main problem we encountered with the sound was that the weapons often didn't sound very realistic, more like an animal being punched while it is sleeping. This is a disappointment as it takes away from the overall authenticity of the game, certain weapons sound better than others though.
Despite the lack of an online mode the Galactic Conquest mode still takes a while to go through. There are a lot of unlockables in the game which should keep you playing through the game, even if just to unlock all the characters from the Star Wars universe. The multiplayer just simply isn't as good as we're used to with the Battlefront games because the game only supports four players and bots.
Alas, Star Wars Battlefront II isn't as good on the PSP as the console versions. If you are looking for a console shooter on the handheld, then this is your best bet. It's unfair to expect more from the PSP when the demands are so huge, but the PSP is easily online ready, and Star Wars Battlefront II just doesn't feel the same without going online.