We recently had an opportunity to try out some of the new multiplayer modes on the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of LucasArts' upcoming team-based shooter, Star Wars: Battlefront II. Unlike last year's game, which featured only one primary game type, Battlefront II will let you participate in different modes like one- and two-flag capture the flag, assault, and hunt. There are also space-based maps where you can jump into space fighters.
Before we get to talking about the game's maps and new modes, it certainly bears mentioning that Battlefront II will finally allow players to take control of Jedi, both in the single-player game and in multiplayer. As you'd expect, the Jedi are extremely powerful and difficult to kill. Just one or two swipes from their lightsabers are enough to bring down a normal trooper. Most Jedi are also extremely acrobatic, and they possess the ability to double-jump high into the air. Some even have special powers, like force lightning or the ability to throw their lightsabers. Only one Jedi per side can spawn in at a time, and it's up to the server host to decide how the Jedi becomes available. On the default settings, a Jedi becomes available after 10 points are scored, but this can be adjusted up or down, or changed to a strict time-based setting. So who gets to play as the Jedi when it becomes available? By default, the player with the best score is offered the first opportunity to become the Jedi. But again, these settings will be adjustable, so the Jedi can be awarded to a random player, or even to the worst player. You don't have to be dead and at the class-select screen to jump into your hard-earned Jedi avatar, either. If you're in the midst of battle and the opportunity arises, you'll see a prompt at the bottom of the screen that asks if you'd like to take control of Luke Skywalker, or whichever Jedi is available to your faction on that particular match.
We played a capture-the-flag match set on the starship Tantive IV, pitting the droid separatists against the Republic. After a period of time, Yoda became available and we were able to quickly cut a swath through the swarm of droids. There isn't much to the saber combat. Simply mashing on the attack button will unleash an extremely powerful string of attacks. On the other side, General Grievous spawned in eventually. He made mincemeat of the clone troopers with similar ease, swinging his four lightsabers with graceful precision. Head-to-head, Grievous took down our poor Yoda in both of their encounters, although we were able to repay Grievous once with some concentrated blasts from a clone commander's chaingun. So the Jedi certainly aren't invincible, but it definitely takes a concerted effort from regular troops to take one down. One interesting thing to note is that friendly fire is on by default in Battlefront II. You can't be careless about tossing grenades or swinging your lightsaber around, lest you take out a bunch of teammates by mistake.
Six different space assault maps are also available, which seem to be a ton of fun for those who prefer piloting. There weren't many obvious differences between the space maps, as they generally feature a pair of capital ships and maybe a few escort frigates thrown in for good measure. You'll be able to choose between a pilot class or a marine, and then you'll run to the hangar in order to choose a craft. On the Imperial side, a variety of TIEs are available, including regular fighters, bombers, and interceptors. The rebels, in turn, have X-Wings, Y-Wings, and A-Wings. It doesn't take a flight-simulator expert to figure out how to fly. Moving the left stick maneuvers your ship around, while clicking the right analog stick engages afterburners. You also have the ability to execute barrel rolls to break out of the sights of enemy fighters or turrets. The interceptors and A-wings are quick and nimble, and they're perfect for taking down other fighters. The Y-wings and bombers are slower and have better armor, and they're used for attacking different elements of the capital ships, like the sensor arrays, command bridges, and gun turrets. It takes quite a few bombing runs to knock out the different components, but each time you destroy one of these crucial locations, you'll hinder the opposing team's ability to fight.
What's most interesting about the space assault fights is that you can board the enemy capital ship with a fighter or transport, hop out, and then sabotage the ship from the inside, on foot. Marines obviously carry better weapons for infantry combat than the pilots do, but pilots can slowly repair their fighters while in flight. Overall, the space assault maps promise to add a lot of variety to Battlefront II online, as they seem to require a lot of teamwork and coordination--more so than any other game type.
The final mode we tried out was "hunt," which is a simple, free-for-all type of game in which your goal is to "eliminate as many of the indigenous species as possible." Our thirst for gungan blood compelled us to load up the Naboo map, where we were able to take control of only one separatist droid class--the super-battle droid. The match there pitted our laser- and rocket-armed droids against gungans who were using grenades and turrets to defend themselves. The hunt games end when one side reaches a certain number of kills or the timer runs out. Oh, and for those of you who hate ewoks, you'll be pleased to know that there's an Endor map where you can control Imperial snipers to blast the furry buggers.
Star Wars: Battlefront II will be playable online for up to 32 players on Xbox Live, 24 players on PlayStation 2, or 64 players on the PC. Unfortunately, it seems that games hosted on PS2 consoles are still limited to four human players, with up to 12 bots used to fill out the rest of the map. In order to get to 24 human players in a PS2 match, it's likely that you'll need to play on a special LucasArts-hosted server, or run special server software on a PC, as in last year's version. So far, we're pretty impressed with what we've seen of Battlefront II's new multiplayer modes. Assault, capture the flag, and hunt should complement the standard conquest mode nicely and will keep the game fresh and interesting for Star Wars-minded shooter fans. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more on Star Wars: Battlefront II leading up to the game's release this November on the PS2, Xbox, and the PC.