I’ve done a few short videos about Battlefront 2 (I’ll link them below) and I’ve mentioned it in a few Star Wars games lists over on the YouTube channel. But I want to do a proper full review on this game, so here’s my PC review of 2005’s Star Wars Battlefront 2.
We’ll follow the usual formula and start off with a little bit of history. Back In 2004, Pandemic were an up and coming developer having just released a hit with Full Spectrum Warrior. LucasArts were working with a lot more outside developers and they themselves were acting more like a publisher than a games developer. Under the leadership of Jim Ward, LucasArts approached Pandemic to develop a big online shooter based on Star Wars. Star Wars Battlefront was an instant success and became the biggest selling Star Wars game to date. No brainer, LucasArts wanted more and gave Pandemic an incredibly short 12 months to come up with a sequel, Not only did they not make a totally shit game, but against all odds Battlefront 2 was a triumph and backs up my theory that 2005 was the greatest year in the history of computer games. The history is only a small part of what I like to look at. What I’m particularly driven by in my computer games is the narrative experience. The story, and the way that story is presented to me. And blow me down if Battlefront II doesn’t deliver on that.
Battlefront II Story
No Star Wars game before or since manages to project such a human story onto the otherwise impersonal sea of white-masked Imperial stormtroopers. Battlefront 2’s single player campaign is narrated by a retired Imperial veteran, reminiscing over his tours of duty as an elite clone trooper during the glory days of the Republic. The narrative follows the campaigns of the 501st clone trooper legion, an elite legion of troopers whose exploits would go on to become legendary in the Star Wars universe, whos vets include Captain Rex, Echo and Fives. The 501st’s arc stretches from the very beginning of the Clone Wars and serves as a clever vehicle to illustrate the metamorphosis of the Grand Republic into the evil Galactic Empire. Throughout the Clone Wars, our trooper is fighting alongside the Jedi, protecting Republic civilians from the threat of the separatist droid army. But as the story unfolds, we’re shown exactly how the clone troopers are used less for the protection the Republic and more for the subjugation of those same people. Executing key political targets, forcing regime changes and after The Emperor issues Order 66, hunting down and executing those same Jedi during Operation: Knightfall, the first time our nameless narrator expresses doubt about which side he’s coming down on.
The 501st becomes Vader’s personal unit and through the eyes of our clone trooper we’re shown the formation of the Empire. The clones of the 501st begin to be replaced with more-readily-available conscripts, much to the chagrin of the proud fighting clones, and the Republic’s clone armour is transitioned into the armour of the Imperial Stormtroopers. Battlefront 2’s story then goes on to bridge the gap between Episodes III and IV. The 501st oversee the construction of the Death Star and the birth of the Rebel Alliance, as rebel agents infiltrate, the base, steal the plans and launch a devastating strike on the Empire. From the perspective of our trooper though, these aren’t the same heroic rebels we know. We’re being shown the actions of cowardly terrorist scum. Seeing these familiar events from the other side of the fence gives a unique and welcome perspective to the Star Wars universe. It’s about our character starting as a good guy and kind of becoming a bad guy somewhere along the way.
I found this moral quandary pretty interesting. Our narrator is staunch in his beliefs, he doesn’t back down from his commander’s decisions. There’s a slight waiver in the wake of Order 66, but our trooper is driven by duty and honor and that subtext gives Battlefront 2 a unique flavour given the backdrop of the Star Wars universe. For once this isn’t a story about glorious leaders. It’s not really about the heroes or generals, it’s about the boots on the ground, the ones following orders from up top. It reminds be of that line from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson – “…Their’s not to make reply, Their’s not to reason why, Their’s but to do and die…” Which in the case of the clone troopers is literally true, they’re bred and conditioned from birth to follow orders. Battlefront 2 is probably the most underrated story in a Star Wars game. It could have been anything. Pandemic were told to literally shoehorn a single-player story in, but the smashed it out of the park. It ended up being really good and I’m grateful for that.
I say story but it’s probably pertinent to point out that the “story” is only carried out in cutscenes between levels. There’s no unfolding narrative experience like in, say, Jedi Knight or KotOR. If you skip the cutscenes you won’t be given any real context to what you’re doing level by level. This is because the game was conceived as multiplayer only and so the focus is really on the action. The core focus of Battlefront 2 is building on the basic game modes which were present in the first Battlefront, which again took their cues from DICE’s Battlefield games.
Battlefront II PC Gameplay
Most of the missions follow the “conquest” style of play, where the object is to capture certain points on the map. Once captured, this becomes an active spawn point and you go on to capture the next. Even during the single player campaign, dying just gets you respawned as another trooper. You can see the multiplayer game showing through here, with a few classes unlocked at the start of each level and better classes getting unlocked afteryou rack up a good enough K/D. The objectives do change from mission to mission to keep it fresh. You might have to defend a spawn point for a time limit, you might need to retrieve an artifact and bring it back to your spawn point. By and large though each mission is made up of your usual deathmatch, conquest or capture the flag gameplay. There’s only a set number of reinforcements for your side so if you run out of respawns the mission is a bust. The opposition have infinite resources in this matter which on the later levels starts to get pretty hard. Speaking of which, the last few levels are rock hard. Mostly because they’re timed missions but the time isn’t on display anywhere. You’re having a go and the mission will just fail because you weren’t quick enough. Pretty annoying, and definitely made me swear but it does make you knuckle down and pound through the mission, which is stressful but pushes you on to complete your goal I guess.
Battlefront 2 might be over ten years old now but I think the gameplay still holds up. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a modern shooter but the controls are still really tight, the balancing is still really good and the range of playable characters keeps it feeling fresh all the way through. Oh yeah and there’s space battles which are absolutely sick. The campaign only has about half a dozen space battles spread over the whole timeline but every one is a treat. I miss space shooters, TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance were ace games, and LucasArts’ own Starfighter and Jedi Starfighter were good too. They even brought them into the new Battlefront in a fashion and I think the variety adds to the game. There’s also a mode called Galactic Conquest, which is kind of like Star Wars Risk or a cut down version of Empire at War. But each time you move to conquer a planet you can then go down and actually fight the battle yourself. I think that alone would make a game in itself but they just added that in here as a Brucie much like how Free Radical added all that extra stuff in Timesplitters 2.
It’s really those extra flourishes that take a good game and elevate it to special status. Although they were up against it, Pandemic pulled it together and delivered the amount of attention and polish you’d expect from a game that too four years, not one. I increasingly like to talk about the sound, music and voice acting when I review games Pandemic delivered on this. The hero characters are almost all played by their proper Clone Wars cartoon voice actors; Obi Wan Kenobi is voiced by James Arnold Taylor, Tom Kane voices Yoda, Nick Jameson plays Palpatine, TC Carson as Mace Windu, Corey Burton is excellent as always doing his Count Dooku. Battlefront 2 features Scott Lawrence’s penultimate performance as Darth Vader after his ten-year run of voicing Vader in every Star Wars game. Outside of the Clone Wars show, LucasArts veteran Bob Bergen reprises his Luke Skywalker. Bergen is a workhorse, he’s in absolutely everything and by now he’s racked up more hours as Luke Skywalker than Mark Hamill ever has.
The star of the show though is the excellent Temuera Morrison. Morrison played Jango Fett in the Attack of the Clones film and continued to play Jango and Boba Fett as well as a few fan favourite clones for several years. Morrison had contributed heavily in the first Battlefront but Battlefront 2 is a crowning glory. He voices Jango and Boba but he’s also the voice of the nameless clone veteran who narrates the story. His monologues and soliloquy really are good. The night before Operation Knightfall is such a good bit of voice work. Really top job, Morrisson adds a weight of legitimacy to the production and makes it feel like a canon “missing episode”. Again, Battlefront 2 was his penultimate Star Wars outing. Morrison wouldn’t appear again until the new DICE Battlefront some 10 years later.
The music is a constant pleasure. Using cues from all six film John Williams scores, avid listeners can figure out where in the timeline they are just by listening. As was pretty standard in the 2000s, the score for Battlefront 2 is largely made up of film music with no original content. What is unique though is that Pandemic managed to acquire some extended or unused takes of tracks from the prequel trilogy and used them. It gives the game just enough originality and crafts a sound which is undeniably Battlefront, which the newer games haven’t got quite right.
Is Battlefront II (2005) Still Worth Playing?
And what’s the point banging on about a game that’s well over a decade old if you can’t play it any more? As with all the games I cover here on Second Wind, Battlefront 2 is still available to buy on digital storefronts. It isn’t available on Xbox One it isn’t available on PSN at the time of writing, but the PC version is for sale on both GOG and Steam. As the game is multiplayer focused, I should point out that in fact you can play this game online. Gamespy shut the official servers down in 2014, with PC fans moving over to GameRanger. However, servers for the PC version were put up three years later, which support Steam and GOG cross-play. If you want to play online, I am getting matches every day. I’ve never seen a time when there hasn’t been people online and I’ve only encountered good times playing this game. Something about the game being old probably means the people playing it hold the game with a certain air of reverence, it’s a very nice culture of gamers. Battlefront 2 has all the heroes, all the maps unlocked from the start. Battlefront 2 may not have some of the complexity of the more recent games but there’s none of the trappings of the modern AAA scene, you get it all with no hurdles.
Not only do multiplayer servers work but there’s patches for modern graphics cards, so you can get this game running in 4k, in widescreen with little to no issues. And as this game came out in the halcyon days of PC modding there’s a King’s bounty of extra content. There’s graphical overhauls, lighting mods, higher resolution character models and maps. Of course you’re not going to be fooled into thinking it came out this year, you can’t get it looking like the DICE games but you can get Battlefront 2 looking really nice. My recommended mods are Battlefront Evolved and HarrisonFog’s HD Graphics Mods and Rezzed Maps. With these running Battlefront 2 looks a damn sight better than any game from 2005.
In 2005, Battlefront 2 was a riproaring success. It was a phenomenal sequel and was instrumental in bringing the online shooter to console gamers. There was a planned Battlefront 3 slated to be developed by free radical. I’ve made more in-depth videos about it here but suffice to say Battlefront wasn’t seen again for 10 years. I can’t recommend Battlefront 2 2005 enough if you’re looking for a fun online shooter OR a decent single player experience. It’s easy to feel sad in the light of the more egregious business practices seen in newer Star Wars games. We might not get a Star Wars game like Battlefront 2 2005 ever again. But the fact is, nobody can take Battlefront 2 Classic away from us. Chock full of content all available from day one, no microtransactions, no silly loot box business. The 2005 Battlefront 2 will stay as our gold standard for Star Wars online games and it’s a solid purchase no matter who you are.
Battlefront 2 Classic 2005 is £7.50 on Steam, Origin and GOG at the time of writing. There is so much content in this game for that money, it’s well worth the money. When you look at it, £7.50 will get you a pop vinyl of Orson Krennic or the 1/2 Rotisserie Chicken down the Harvester. Battlefront 2 Classic is usually in the Star Wars bundles and you can usually find it heavily discounted when the Steam sales start up, so if you don’t buy it today put on your wish list and wait for it to go cheap.