Battlefront II, Pshaw! Give Me Tie Fighter

Battlefront II, Pshaw! Give Me Tie Fighter

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Star Wars Battlefront II is a painful experience. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a good game, much better than the first; but it’s also a stark reminder of a time when LucasArts made the best space sims on the market, and how that time is long past.

For most of the 1990s, the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games would have placed at the head of my top-10 list. This was in the early days of good Star Wars gaming, so some of that appeal came, no doubt, from the ability to play anything inside the Star Wars universe. Though it has been about a decade since I’ve laid eyes on them, I think it’s more than simple novelty and nostalgia that make these titles stick in my brain.

Battlefront II makes the mistake of reminding us of these glory days. The ground portions of the game are quite good, and a definite improvement over the flaccid original. The game feels more at home on the PC and less like an afterthought port. Its graphics are clean and appealing, if not cutting-edge, and the various story modes, units, and mission types are drastically improved. While the strategic element feels canned, it’s a nice idea that shows potential for growth.

The biggest addition, however, is a new space combat mode that allows for dogfights and capital ship engagements. The mode will probably be fairly appealing to younger gamers, and it’s really not that bad. The scale is suitably epic and the combat straightforward and appealing. For older PC gamers, however, it’s like a faint hint of a shadow of an echo of a far better age in Star Wars space combat. Ships have only a minimal energy model, controls and weapons are arcade-simple, and evasive maneuvers are preset. It is, in every sense of the word, a shooter.

I hadn’t even thought of TIE Fighter in years, but five minutes with Battlefront II made me realize that, even with the embarrassment of Star Wars gaming riches we now have at hand, a crucial component remains MIA. LucasArts needs to return to the SW games that put them on the map, and bring back good sim-style space combat.

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