Smarter Ways to Use Your Mac

Star Wars Battlefront

Have you even found yourself watching a Star Wars film and wishing what you were part of the battle? Now, with Aspyr Media's Mac conversion of Star Wars Battlefront, you can immerse yourself into the action of the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars Battlefront enables you to play as a soldier in one of four factions, the Republic Clone Army, Separatist Battle Droids, Rebel Alliance, or the Galactic Empire. Each one of these factions has five classes of soldiers. These classes standard infantry, heavy weapons infantry, pilots, and scouts. In addition to these four classes, each faction includes its own special class. For example, the Separatist Droid Army's special class is the dreaded Droideka. Naturally, each of the five classes have special abilities which vary depending on the faction you are part of.

Battlefront places over 30 different weapons at your character's disposal, complete with blaster rifles, thermal detonators, and rocket launchers. Each class, with the exception of a faction's special class, carries a sidearm with unlimited ammunition. This is intended to be used as a backup weapon since it has a limited rate of fire and can overheat.

In addition to the slew of weapons, Star Wars Battlefront features a wide variety of land and air vehicles. Rebel X-Wings, Imperial AT-ATs, Republic Gunships, and Separatist Spider Walkers are just a few of the massive vehicles which you can control. Luckily, control of starfighters (X-Wings, Tie-Fighters, etc.) is fairly easy in Star Wars Battlefront. Unfortunately, the only airspace which you can pilot a starfighter is the space above the planet. You cannot fly off into space and fight a battle there. I would like to see this in a future sequel to Battlefront, but you can't have everything. Takeoff and landing are fairly simple, while the weapons systems and navigation are straightforward. FPS games are known to have flaws with the control of flying vehicles, but Battlefront doesn't show any of those flaws. The other vehicles also have fairly straightforward controls.

Most of the vehicles in this game can carry multiple passengers, and switching between posts within the vehicle is as simple as pressing the F key. The interesting part about Battlefront's AI is that you can have a NPC fly a Republic Gunship while you are a gunner. It also allows the AI to actively switch places with your character inside of a vehicle. This comes in handy then you suddenly don't feel like flying, but you want to be a gunner. Just switch places, and the NPC that's in the vehicle with you will take over your previous position.

Another helpful thing you can do is change your game to have a third-person viewpoint. This allows you to broaden your view of the battlefield around you. It's extremely helpful for a Rebel Snowspeeder pilot which needs to tie a rope around an Imperial AT-AT on Hoth. It's hard not to run into the AT-AT while in first-person mode. You can even set a hotkey to switch the viewpoint within the game, and the default key is Q.

If you thought Battlefront had an enormous amount of weapons, you haven't seen its stockpile of maps. You can play on most of the planets from the classic Star Wars movies, including Hoth, Geonosis, Kamino, Tatooine, and Endor. Many of the planets feature two different maps, so you can continue fighting without repeating a map. The game's three different playing modes, Instant Action, Historical Campaigns, and Galactic Conquest, put a different spin on each map, so you won't get tired of playing the same map again in a different gameplay mode.

Detail was definitely on the designers' minds when they created this game. Throughout the different worlds in the game, you'll find that no detail was missed when recreating the Star Wars universe. The Jabba's Palace map even includes Han Solo frozen in carbonite. The result is a spectacular view of the battlefield around you. The game's engineers metered the performance hit of all of that detail so it wouldn't affect your system's performance very much. On a 1.25Ghz iMac G4 with a 64MB GeForce 5200 graphics card, Battlefront runs very smoothly with the game's default video quality settings intact. It's reassuring to know that Battlefront should run well on your system as long as it meets the game's minimum system requirements.

Although Battlefront offers the best quality graphics I've seen in a game which will run well on my Mac, its audio quality is lagging at times. Throughout the game's soundtrack, I sometimes hear pops and crackles. I suppose that this is due to the fact that I have a pre-release version, and I hope Aspyr has fixed this in the retail version of Battlefront. Despite these small problems, Star Wars Battlefront has a great soundtrack comprised of tracks from the Star Wars films. The game's audio is presented in Dolby Digital Pro Logic II, complete with 3D audio effects and optional surround-sound output. This is a great feature for those gamers with surround sound speaker systems and Macs that include optical digital audio outputs.

As for multiplayer gaming, Battlefront supports Mac to Mac gaming via GameRanger. Mac to PC gaming is restricted to gaming over a LAN, which may be a little troublesome for some users who would like to play with their PC-touting friends. This is most likely due to the fact that cross-platform multiplayer clients such as GameSpy are charging developers like Aspyr obscene amounts of money to license the clients. Even though you can't play cross-platform via the internet, Battlefront's multiplayer mode offers an interesting and entertaining gameplay environment.

Overall, this is the absolute best game for Star Wars fanatics and regular gamers alike. If you're looking for an eccentric gaming experience within the Star Wars universe, you will absolutely enjoy this game. Even if you dislike Star Wars, Battlefront offers much for the run-of-the-mill gamer. It may have its limitations, but Aspyr's conversion of Star Wars Battlefront gets my pick for our Best Mac Game of the Year award. I am looking forward to Star Wars Battlefront II and hope that Aspyr will be able to obtain a license to port that game over to the Mac sometime in the near future.

Pros: Immersive gameplay in a variety of Star Wars environments; detail was not sacrificed at all during production; AI is more intelligent than others; gameplay is smooth , even on old hardware

Cons: Audio sometimes pops and crackles (probably is fixed in retail version); costs over twice the amount of its PC counterpart.

MB Buying Advice: This is a must-buy for Star Wars fans and gaming enthusiasts. The rich gaming experience offered by Star Wars Battlefront far outweighs any limitations with multiplayer and audio. The price of $50 MSRP is high, but it is definitely worth it for this excellent game.

Posted by: MacBrilliance News Staff on Aug 01, 05 | 9:28 pm