I was seven years old when Star Wars first came out, and I can still vividly recall reenacting the scenes with friends in my back yard — blasting our foes to smithereens with imaginary laser rifles and light sabers while saving the galaxy. As it turns out, times don’t change all that much. With the release of Star Wars: Battlefront by Aspyr, you can now relive those battles on your Mac.
Using the same concept behind the popular World War II shooter, Battlefield 1942, Star Wars: Battlefront () lets you fight in the many battles you’ve seen in Star Wars movies. You can become an Imperial Storm Trooper, for example, fighting the traitorous Rebel Alliance, or you can become a Rebel, fighting the corrupt Empire. You can even go back in time to the prequel movies and fight in the Republic Clone Army or the Separatist Droid Army.
You can decide what type of soldier you want to be. Most of the soldier classes are the same regardless of which faction you choose. However, each faction has one special class of soldier with a unique skill. For example, Rebels get Wookies, who are handy with Bowcasters. Droids on the other hand can use Droidekas — droids that roll like bowling balls and come equipped with their own shield and heavy blasters.
The game takes you to many of the locales you’ve seen in the movies, including the scorching deserts of Tatooine, the cloud city of Bespin, the lush planet Naboo, and the ice planet Hoth. With each new location you’ll need to adapt your strategy to fit the specifics of the landscape.
The best part of the game, though, is being able to man the cockpits of various Star Wars vehicles — everything from an X-Wing, to a TIE Fighter, to a two-legged AT-ST. You can even take control of a Republic Gunship.
While some of the more wide-open maps lend themselves to joyrides in whatever vehicles have been put there, others clearly emphasize combat on foot — the cityscapes especially are very claustrophobic. On those maps, hopping behind the controls of a speeder or gunship may actually be more of a liability than a help. Be warned, though: Going up against other players operating vehicles as infantry can be a daunting task, depending on the size — your weapons will have a negligible effect on some of the more massive vehicles in this game (like the elephantine AT-AT, for example).
You can play by yourself following a single player campaign system, or use a skirmish option that lets you square off against computer-controlled players. As fun as that is, though, the meat of a game like Star Wars: Battlefront is its multiplayer capabilities. Mac users can square off each other over the Internet using GameRanger, and multiplatform gameplay is supported if you can exchange TCP/IP addresses with your PC opponents, or if you’re playing on the same Local Area Network (LAN). Aspyr deserves credit for making this game cross-platform multiplayer compatible, even if it’s a bit limited.
The game looks and sounds terrific. It comes complete with the familiar John Williams movie scores and lots of chatter from other soldiers over intercoms. It also gives you plenty of options for adjusting the visual effect to match the capabilities of your hardware. As a result, the game’s system requirements are relatively modest: it calls for a 1GHz G4 with OS X 10.3.6 and a 64MB video system or better.
The Bottom Line Star Wars: Battlefront puts you in the action of your favorite Start Wars moment — and does so with a great deal of style. The wonky cross-platform multiplayer support is the Achilles’ Heel in this otherwise terrific Mac conversion.