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Matt Keller
23 Oct, 2007

Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron Review

PSP Review | Your powers are weak, old man!
Once upon a time, one could rely on a game from the Star Wars franchise to be of a reasonably good quality. Somehow, like the films themselves, the quality waned – titles such as The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: Demolition outright sucked; compare them to the awesome Tie Fighter, Dark Forces and Jedi Knight games of the mid to late 90s. Fortunately, the quality of the games started to improve with the 2004 release of Star Wars: Battlefront. The Pandemic-developed effort took the classic Star Wars trilogy and the gameplay of Battlefield 1942 and threw it into a blender and the result was one of the best selling and playing Star Wars games to date. Star Wars Battlefront II improved on the formula and added a meaningful single player campaign, prequel trilogy elements, and the Jedi characters. Free Radical Design will take over development duties on Star Wars Battlefront III, but with that game at least a year away, LucasArts took the opportunity to rush out a quick Battlefront sequel for the PSP. Rushed sums up the Renegade Squadron experience quite well – despite coming from accomplished developer Rebellion, the latest Battlefront title feels rather cheap and tacky.

One can sense that Renegade Squadron will be disastrous from the outset, when the game starts to ramble on about a group of previously unknown Rebels that form the squadron after which the title is named. Now when it comes to Star Wars, extended universe material is usually pretty hit and miss – but come on, it is hardly any achievement to write a better piece than Lucas himself, but Renegade Squadron’s narrative will have players snugly asleep within minutes of turning on their console. Players take the role of Commander Col Serra, the leader of the squadron, as he reminisces about the adventures of Renegade Squadron in the days of the Galactic Civil War. Fortunately, one can avoid the game’s remarkably dull single player campaign and opt for the far more enticing Galactic Conquest mode that was in Battlefront II if they wish to go solo, or team up with 15 friends in the game’s infrastructure based multiplayer modes.

Take that, Swiss Family Robinson!

Take that, Swiss Family Robinson!
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To be perfectly honest, Renegade Squadron bears a lot of resemblance to the version of Battlefront II previously released on the PSP in 2005, but has one major change that makes the experience slightly worthwhile – infrastructure mode. It was a baffling omission in Battlefront II for the PSP (which only let four people go head-to-head ad-hoc), but it does prevent Renegade Squadron from being a total disaster - players are saved from only being able to battle the game’s moronic AI. A typical match works much the same as it always has, centering on a capture and hold or destruction objective. Up to 16 players can compete in a match, with bots filling any extra slots. Rather than picking a class as in previous Battlefront titles, players are given 100 credits with which they can purchase their equipment, which essentially allows them to make their own class – unfortunately the Imperials and Rebels share exactly the same weaponry. Player appearance can be totally customized. The hero class characters, which were a point of contention in Battlefront II, also make a return to tip the balance of the battle. The hero effect now also flows on to the space battles, as players can take control of hero ships, such as the Millennium Falcon and Slave One.

Multiplayer does not completely save this effort, we are afraid. Renegade Squadron manages to stuff up what would have been a reasonably fun multiplayer experience by offering an insipid lock-on control scheme, largely negating any skill required in playing multiplayer – but if the player opts for the direct control method, playing the game becomes a baffling ordeal. Much of the single player side of the game is also ruined by the game’s utterly simplistic controls, but they are at their worst when competing in the game’s many space battles, where they suck out any hint of fun. Lock-on controls in space battles essentially result in the craft being piloted automatically, requiring the player to mash the fire button when an enemy comes into the scope. The other big problem, and major factor towards making Renegade Squadron seem like a cheap cash in, is the fact that the game offers little in the way of new maps, relying mostly on reworked versions of the maps featured in Battlefront II. Renegade Squadron. It does not use its own multiplayer system either – it forces would-be players to sign up to the Gamespy service, which is a bit cumbersome in itself. Even when played with friends, Renegade Squadron is seldom interesting, constantly clunky and reeks of familiarity.

The base single player campaign of Renegade Squadron consists of a scant eleven missions, and is unlikely trouble even the least skilled player for more than a day (provided they do not switch the game off out of boredom). Galactic Conquest and the multiplayer modes have variable mileage – it really just depends on how much the player enjoys playing the game – and as we did not really enjoy playing Renegade Squadron, we cannot pretend that it is a good long term investment. Certainly if one enjoys Renegade Squadron, then they’ll likely get a decent amount of playtime out of the multiplayer component.

Han Solo also tends to drop his intestinal cargo at first sight of an Imperial fleet

Han Solo also tends to drop his intestinal cargo at first sight of an Imperial fleet
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For a game bearing the Star Wars name, Renegade Squadron has a decidedly weak visual presentation. To be perfectly fair, Battlefront II on the PSP was an absolute dog and Renegade Squadron is an improvement on that, but two years have passed, and a number of developers have shown what the PSP can really do – and that is before taking into account the effects of the unlocking of the PSP’s full clock speed. Renegade Squadron has that mucky, blurry and foggy look down pat – it is one ugly bugger. Low poly models and poor texture quality only serve to pour salt in the wound, but it is the sluggish framerate that lands the killing blow. The game’s audio is at the other end of the spectrum, largely due to its use of many of John Williams’ classic melodies from the films. That is not to say that the audio experience of the game is that bad either – some of the guns might sound a little off, but everything else sounds fine. Voice acting is remarkably solid, too.

Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron is a real disappointment. Sure, it has a crack at offering the infrastructure support for multiplayer that its predecessor was lacking, but it falls short in so many areas – graphics, gameplay and fun factor. A key element of a multiplayer-centric game such as Renegade Squadron is ensuring that the player experiences a high level of enjoyment during those first few matches – if you do not catch a player’s interest early on then the whole multiplayer element of the game will be lost to them. Renegade Squadron really failed to do that for us – there are a handful of good ideas such as character customization, but the game offers little depth, controls very poorly and looks awful. That said, it is possible that some players might find greater enjoyment than we did in the title – just keep in mind that it is the very definition of average.
The Score
Despite fixing the major problem of its portable predecessor, Renegade Squadron feels like a cheap cash in with ugly visuals and simplistic gameplay. 5
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  LucasArts
Developer:
  Rebellion Studios
Players:
  1-16

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