“Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron” is a streamlined yet fleshed-out version of LucasArts’ successful “Battlefront” series of team-based action games set in the “Star Wars” universe. Based on the premise that Star Wars fans would love to jump into the battle of Hoth from “The Empire Strikes Back” the “Battlefront” franchise applies the same basic formula to locations throughout the Star Wars universe. “Renegade Squadron” is built exclusively for Sony’s handheld PSP. It’s a modest but effective title that should appeal to the existing base of “Battlefront” fans who like to Hoth it up, online and off.
In November of 2005, Lucasarts, the gaming arm of LucasFilms, piggybacked the multiplatform “Star Wars: Battlefront II” onto the marketing wave for the DVD release of “Revenge of the Sith,” the last film in the recent Star Wars trilogy. It became the top licensed game and one of the top-10 overall vidgames of the year in terms of U.S. sales.
This latest installment has slighter aspirations. It’s being piggybacked onto the release of Sony’s redesigned, lighter-weight PSP. “Renegade Squadron” is available as a standalone game or included with the Ceramic White PSP bundle, for people who want their handheld gaming systems the color of the Millennium Falcon.
The basic concept of running (or flying) around in Star Wars-themed arenas and shooting Star Wars-shaped characters (or spaceships) is solid. Though the sound effects are as good as a console game on the Playstation 2, graphics are stripped down to fit the PSP, resulting in bland settings and tiny targets off in the distance.
The bigger problem, however, is the interface, which offers two options: sloppy aiming or sloppy steering. Still, this is a far better PSP version of Battlefront than gamers got back in 2005, when “Battlefront II” was inelegantly adapted to the PSP. Aside from “Renegade Squadron’s” disappointing controls, it shows every sign of having been designed purposefully for the PSP and has several improvements over “Battlefront II.”
Most notable is that players can equip their characters in many different ways with points they are allocated at the beginning of a gaming session. Grab a cheap gun and spend heavily on a stealth suit, a speed boost and fast capturing, then sneak around seizing territory behind enemy lines. Take a fast firing chain gun and extra health, then hang back and offer supporting fire. Bring the vehicle repair kit and hop into a tank or AT-AT. Or just mix and match according to mood. There’s a DIY approach to the game’s balance and playing style that doesn’t feel very “Star Wars” (seriously, a shotgun?), but it makes for flexible and varied gameplay.
As a single-player game, “Renegade Squadron” presents a set of missions intercut with illustrations in the style of a graphic novel, which far outshine any of the in-game graphics. These missions are largely an excuse to offer a tour of the maps, where players can fight against computer controlled bots or jump into 16-player online. With more than a dozen maps, a half-dozen game variants, and literally hundreds of character configurations, “Renegade Squadron” is refreshingly limber for a handheld videogame.