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E3 2009: Hands on with Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron on PSP

A light year leap

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Product: Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron | Developer: Rebellion | Publisher: LucasArts | Genre: Action, Film/ TV tie- in, Strategy
For: PSP   Also on: DS
Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron PSP, thumbnail 1
No matter that the films came to an end a long, long time ago - the battle between Jedi and Sith rages on within a new arena on portables.

Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron
comes to both PSP and DS later this year with an ambitious eye for huge scenarios that span planetary surfaces and the vacuum of space. Our hands on with both versions has us keen on the PSP iteration.

Building on the iconic battles of Renegade Squadron, Elite Squadron expands the battlefield for seamless transition between planet surface and space. No longer are battles strictly played on the ground or in space, but actually span both arenas for gigantic fields of action. It's now possible to run around on the ground, hop into an X-Wing and exit the planet's atmosphere to dogfight in space.

Eliminating the line between the two environments is more than just cosmetic. Combat on the ground influences the action in the air. Seizing control of an ion cannon, for example, lets you take out a capital ship's shields enabling you to board it.

Mounting the ion cannon takes you to the first-person, the cannon charging up with a press of the X button. Firing a good shot involves timing when you lift your finger from the button so the shot lands within the green portion of a vertical gauge running up the left side of the screen.

Using an A-Wing or other small ship, you can fly up to the defenceless ship, board it, then destroy its generators to obliterate it.

These layered battles run across all of the game's modes including a new story-driven campaign that follows clone brothers across the Star Wars series. Other modes include online multiplayer Deathmatch and Capture-the-Flag variations and a new Heroes vs. Villains mode that pits notable Jedi and Sith characters against each other.

Returning in remixed form is Galactic Conquest, the inventive mode introduced in the Renegade Squadron that sees new functionality and depth here in Elite Squadron. In addition to delivering new scenarios, Galactic Conquest will support hot seat multiplayer rounds.

Considering how much we liked it in the last game, we're eager to check out the changes that LucasArts promises will radically extend the value of Elite Squadron with hours more gameplay.

Changes have also been made to streamline the character customisation process. When equipping your character, you're presented with a slate of preset load outs. Alternatively, you're welcome to save three load outs that appear on the equipment list and are easily activated when entering a battle or visiting a spawn point.

Since it saves the time of having to manually flip through weapons and equipment, yet still allows custom load outs, it's a positive tweak that gets you into the action much more quickly than before.

About the only thing we didn't like about the PSP version of Elite Squadron was the controls. A considerable amount of tuning is needed to tighten them up, as moving and aiming with the analogue stick doesn't feel right.

Holding down the R button locks onto the nearest enemy for firing, which helps a bit. However, exploration is a bit tricky with the current scheme. To the game's benefit, the controls work well when manning a vehicle or turret.

There's plenty of time to polish up the controls ahead of the game's fall release, fortunately. The PSP version is the one to keep your eye on, as the DS incarnation can't quite handle the expansive environments and layered battles.

We're also concerned with how Elite Squadron will balance ground and air units to prevent those who take to the skies from dominating matches. Ground units appear to be at a severe disadvantage, so it will be critical that this issue is addressed ahead of the autumn release.

Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson 4 June 2009
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