Long have we waited, long have we suffered the likes of Obi-Wan (Issue 03, 3.3) (yuk) and Jedi Outcast (Issue 10, 6.5) (mmm?). And for what? For this. For the Star Wars game you always hoped you'd have the chance to play, for a Star Wars game that rewards you abundantly for being a fan, and for a Star Wars game that lavishes you with every detail, droid and blaster from every moment of every film. This, even more so than KOTOR (Issue 20, 9.5) for those of us without a disposition for RPGs, is the ultimate Star Wars game. The ultimate.
From the icy wastes of Hoth watching lumbering AT-ATs quiver into view on your telescopic lens, to the log-swinging Ewok craftsmen trapping Scout Walkers between felled trunks like chop-sticks, everything is here, and you get a hand in it all.
The premise is simple. Epic battles (land, not space, but watch out for Battlefront 2 if our source at LucasArts is anything to go by) are re-enacted and you can replay them exactly how you'd choose if you were there. Up to 24 players can go at it on Live, blowing each other into smithereens, just as a lone player can go against 23 bots in Campaign mode. You have to obliterate one side and overthrow their command posts before they do it to you - easy.
There's very little to distinguish Live and single-player modes, such is the quality of bot AI, and although Battlefront is very much a multiplayer title, unlike other titles specifically tailored to be played in company, the single-player campaign will make you grin as wide as the galaxy itself. Environments are recreated to a perfection little seen in games. Sweeping vistas, music that dances off your goosebumps, cameos from Vader and chums, and a crazy collection of vehicles will have you returning time and time again. You even get to see glimpses of Episode III and the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk.
Such is the madness on screen, don't be surprised to be caught in the middle of huge pyrotechnic firefights which can threaten to overwhelm you with their ferocity. There literally is no lagging, slowdown, or loading of any kind; you're just plunged into it. To help you survive the brutal assaults you can play via either first- or third-person perspectives, and the control systems are fluid whether you're galloping over the dunes of Tattooine (watch for the Sarlaac's tentacles) or steaming towards a crippled AT-AT, a tauntaun under you, and a rocket launcher in hand for any survivors.
The choices you make very much dictate the outcome of battles, too. The AI is so perfect that if you were to sit back and watch, numbers on each side would deplete steadily until the battle's won. With a little interjection from you and depending on how good a strategist (and shot!) you are, the fight will sway either way. By giving the simplest of orders you can command men to hold their ground or follow you into the fray, thereby altering, almost imperceptibly, the tide of war. Don't worry though, the strategy is just another asset, not a necessity for success. That of course comes down to your trigger finger, and ability to fly through spitting hot laser fire in skies that are literally shredded by Imperial hate.
We can't quite get across just how playable Battlefront is, other than saying again that this is what you always hoped a Star Wars game would be. Apart from a constant need to switch perspectives and invert your axis when switching between ground skirmishes and vehicle battles, this is as perfect as you had hoped it would be. A tremendous, sweeping, beautiful game and further evidence, if it be needed, that Xbox Live is the way forward for gaming. Wow.
Breathtaking. Truly one of the most remarkable Star Wars games ever. A joy to play from start to finish, every time.