Publisher: Lucas Arts
by: Jim McLaughlin
Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron departs enough from the Battlefront series to feel like a different game to fans of the series, but retains plenty of familiarity.
The controls have been tweaked for ease of use, while adding some new frustrations to veteran players. The default lock-on scheme from Renegade Squadron is still available, which is a blessing on a system that has only one analog control. The lock-on control has now been added to space combat...online veterans will be quick to prefer the previous "camera lock" control and manual flight stick. However, a quick press of the contextual trick button (which will pitch your ship into a barrel roll or u-turn) breaks the target lock; this should dispel most complaints. In a backwards move, the button to manually reload weapons has been removed. Holding the left shoulder button once again allows your character to sprint - but now the animation takes slightly longer to commence, which results in some awkward moments during battle.
According to Rebellion, some of the original design from the canceled Free Radical Battlefront 3 project - which featured ground-to-space travel - has remained intact, minus some proprietary tech. An in-engine cutscene now splits the space and ground battlefields, and to be honest it's very slick. Vehicle damage suffered in one zone carries into the next, and can even be seen in the transition cutscene. To justify the ground-and-space feature, Rebellion allows interaction between the two in the form of being able to attack capital ships from large planetary cannons, and vice versa. Unfortunately, only pre-designated ground targets can be attacked from space, so really the only purposes it serves is to expand the multiplayer levels and to give more diversity to the serviceable - and expectedly cheesy - plot.
For the most part this is Renegade Squadron re-hashed with a few new bullet points. Customization of your multiplayer character seems to be carried directly over from Renegade Squadron, with the exception that many options are unlocked as you progress, so bragging rights abound online. Score values overlay your targets, giving it a slight RPG feel. Melee has been added in the form of Jedi characters and infantry staff weapons which work quite well, actually. Approaching a docking bay or planetary atmosphere automatically initiates docking or transitioning if you forget to press Up. It's obvious that this was built with long-term play in mind for more casual players, and while combat is a bit tougher - the game overall is more forgiving. Coming in at $30 US at retail (a full $10 below Renegade Squadron's release price), the game is hard not to recommend for PSP owners, especially with its solid online play, engaging campaign, and quickplay mode.