We sit down with a copy of Stars Wars: Battlefront II for the PSP to see how well this third-person shooter's single-player gameplay translates to the portable medium. The PSP version seems to have almost as much going for it as its console brethren, including a number of different modes, the option to play as either Rebel or Imperial troops, a ton of different vehicles, and both ground and space battles aplenty. Though we were unable to check out the multiplayer portion of the game, we noticed you could set up four players in many of the same modes that you have in single-player, as well as customize the battles with varying artificial-intelligence competitors and time limits.
Single-player is divided into three different subsections: instant action, challenges, and galactic conquest. Instant action is almost exactly what you would expect, as it lets you get in to gameplay after only a short sequence of option screens. You can create a playlist of any of the 13 available maps, including Yavin, Kashyyyk, the space surrounding those two planets, Endor, Hoth, and others. After map selection and ordering, you go on to choose the game type, which includes two versions of capture the flag, hunting indigenous species, assaulting enemy spacecrafts, and plain old deathmatch. Your final option is to select the era that you wish to play in, and you can choose between the Clone Wars or the Galactic Civil War. The game then randomly generates the scenarios based on your selection, and you can go right in to gameplay, switching between maps without having to jump back out to the menu. At the beginning of each map, you can determine your allegiance and the type of soldier you want to commandeer, whether it's a marksman, a heavy weapons unit, or another differently outfitted troop. You'll also be able to both acquire points and unlock superior soldiers, which, on the Rebel side, for example, includes a wookie warrior and a bothan spy.
Though the instant-action matches do contribute to your career statistics and point accumulation, the other two single-player modes allow for progression, as well as stat-building, which is a little more compelling than exclusively playing randomly generated instant-action games. Challenges put you in the shoes of an Imperial enforcer, a rogue assassin, or a Rebel raider. As an Imperial enforcer, you'll be restricted primarily to hunt mode, in which you must assassinate the indigenous people of whatever planet you're on, including jawas and ewoks. A rogue assassin's objective is to take out certain targets among a group of enemies. You'll have to fight your way through the smaller troops and avoid their fire to ensure that you get to the required targets within the time limit. Finally, Rebel raider missions typically involve collecting an object from the enemy and returning it to a checkpoint in your territory. This capture-the-flag-style mode has missions on both the ground and in space. In one Rebel raider mission, you must hop on to one of four Rebel ships: an A-Wing, X-Wing, Y-Wing, or Alliance assault craft. Once in the air, you must land on an Imperial battle cruiser, collect a data chip, and then either take your ship or hijack one of the enemy TIE fighters to return to the Alliance cruiser. Do this four times within the time limit and you've successfully completed the challenge. As you successfully complete objectives within the challenges, you'll be able to upgrade to relevant named characters, such as Boba Fett or Han Solo. You'll also have free rein of any of the unoccupied vehicles around the environment, which are map-appropriate, so you'll find snowspeeders on Hoth--just as you would expect.
Galactic conquest is the most diverse gameplay option of the three, and you'll be able to engage in both space and land battles frequently in it. The objective is to take over planets by conquering new ones, by protecting your current property, and by engaging in space battles with opposing fleets. You'll travel to a number of different Star Wars planets, and you'll make use of all different types of gameplay to outwit opposing forces. In space battles, your objective is to take down the enemy fleet by disabling various parts of the ship, such as the life-support module or the communication towers. As you successfully defeat fleets and conquer planets, you'll get significantly greater rewards.
Though the PSP version doesn't boast the same level of graphics as the console versions, it's surprisingly similar in both look and feel. The music and sound effects are coming along very nicely, and the Star Wars theme, in particular, is almost cinema-perfect. There are several different control schemes, but it takes a while playing with any given one before it feels normal. Also, it will take some practice to figure out how to get past the extreme difficulty of some levels. Usually this just requires respawning at a different command post, but often it requires tricky use of routes or switching the troop you control. Some of the soldiers have the benefit of unlimited ammo--in addition to the pitfall of an overheating weapon--so each weapon (and each soldier) has both strengths and weaknesses. So far, Star Wars: Battlefront II for the PSP looks like it's shaping up to offer a suitable adaptation of the console games' mechanics in handheld form. We'll bring you more on the game as it nears release later this fall.