My first console was a PlayStation 2. I distinctly remember my parents surprising me with it one weekend when I was either five or six. I was definitely in kindergarten, so it was one of those ages for sure. The core of my childhood PS2 collection consisted of just a few titles. I played a lot of Super Monkey Ball Deluxe, a lot of the Ubisoft TMNT game that tied into the 2007 animated movie, and even more LEGO Star Wars. The latter was my absolute bread and butter, as when I wasn’t playing on my PS2, I either was playing with my Star Wars toys or my LEGOs – many of which were Star Wars-themed. So, there was great synergy there.
The LEGO Star Wars titles offered the perfect level of mechanical complexity for my age, and they quickly became my favorite and most-played childhood games. Of course, the fact that the Star Wars IP was attached helped a lot too. But, what really made these games click was their accessible design. This was proven when I received a copy of Star Wars: Battlefront II as a gift from my Grandma around this time. I booted it up, found my way onto Geonosis, and just did not understand the controls or the objective at all. Little did I know that this confusing experience would quickly become one of my top five games of all time shortly after, and would remain as such to this day.
Now the next bit of the story is a little hazy. I genuinely don’t remember how I went from being unable to comprehend the game to playing it every day when I got home from school. I have vague memories of my Dad and/or one of his friends helping me figure it out, but those thoughts are about as fleeting as Rise of Skywalker’s justification for Palpatine’s return. The point is, before too long, Battlefront II was my game of choice day in, day out. Maybe I just learned how to read in the next grade level and managed to get through Battlefront’s manual. Who knows.
Ultimately it doesn’t really matter, since it’s that end point, my love of the game, that lies at the heart of this discussion. If LEGO Star Wars and its sequel brought the films and my real-world LEGO playsets to life, Battlefront brought my action figures’ grand campaigns to life instead. I would set up sprawling conflicts with my figures which would span the entirety of my parents’ living room as heroes from both the prequel trilogy and original trilogy converged in massive era-bending assaults. In effect, that is exactly what Battlefront II provided me with.
what star wars meant to a younger me
This all needs to be contextualized within the time that I grew up. I was too young to see Revenge of the Sith in theaters. I experienced the saga on DVD and caught episodes of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars micro-series on Cartoon Network. This was the core Star Wars media, and the ways that I consumed it, which formed my love for the franchise initially. But “my” Star Wars, the media that was popular during my childhood, was The Clone Wars, which released when I was seven. My first theatrical Star Wars experience was that 2008 animated film, and I watched every episode of the show when it began later that year.
I have a distinct memory of waking up early the morning that my dad was going to take me to see The Clone Wars. I booted up my PlayStation 2 and played conquest matches on Geonosis over and over, because it was the only map in the game that featured Phase I clone armor. I also remember him taking me to Borders bookstore after the film and buying me a Clone Wars character encyclopedia. I don’t remember the actual movie theater experience, but I do remember the day that surrounded it.
The point is, my love of Star Wars was predicated on media that foregrounded the “wars” part of Star Wars. Being a little energetic kid, that action was exactly what I wanted out of the series. Nowadays, I’ve come to really love Star Wars for the awe and reverie evoked by the series’ mysticism and lore. As a kid though, I wanted to see Clones shoot Battle Droids. That was Star Wars to me. It was a mindset that was cultivated by the prominent Star Wars content at the time, which I appreciated for its bombast.
When I think of this era of Star Wars as an adult, I think back to iconic Clone Wars episodes like Landing at Point Rain which were all killer, no filler. Literally – it was the action which sold that series to me at seven years old. To be fair, there is a lot more nuance and substance to the Clone Wars show, which I remembered upon revisiting the series and its final season on Disney+ last year. This show is a wonderful expansion upon various character arcs, lore elements, and genuine themes that the films never touched on. But you don’t appreciate these things when you’re eight.
traversing the battlefield in battlefront
So, my love for Battlefront II was initially predicated on its ability to evoke these large-scale battles. Just about every day I’d run a playlist chock-full of conquest matches on my favorite maps in Instant Action mode. What made this experience so resonant and replayable is that there were just so many options to mix and match. Pandemic Studios stuffed Battlefront II with so many maps and modes. The locales were incredibly diverse too, with even obscure planets such as Polis Massa being featured.
From fights in the sprawling Jedi Temple on Coruscant to the claustrophobic halls of the Tantive IV, if there was a Star Wars location that you wanted to fight in, you could. And I did, over and over again. From memory, I could draw you an exact floor plan for close to every map in this game. I learned every stage inside and out so that I could dominate either the enemy AI, or my cousin when he’d come over for the day and we’d inevitably spend the afternoon with Battlefront. While there are just a few games that I love more than this, there is no game that I know more acutely.
But eventually, my obsession with this game tapered off. First my Star Wars love was redirected to The Force Unleashed and its sequel on Wii. Then, my gaming time was simply shifted elsewhere as I grew older, had more systems, and wanted to experience more games. Somewhere along the way, my Battlefront II copy got scratched from years of play also, and my PS2 itself started having trouble even with clean disks. For many years, Battlefront II exited my life.
That changed when I purchased my Xbox Series S and came to realize just how robust Microsoft’s digital backwards compatibility program is. So, knowing that the one-hundred GB download of Halo: The Master Chief Collection was going to prohibit me from playing that on my first day with the console, I bought the original Xbox version of Star Wars: Battlefront II off the Microsoft Store, and installed its meager four GB of data. Suddenly, I fell in love with the game all over again.
another tour, fifteen years later
This time, my enjoyment was not predicated solely on my childhood experience, nor was it predicated on a sense of fidelity. When I was a kid, Battlefront II was the highest fidelity translation of Star Wars warfare in gaming. Upon my 2020 revisit though, I had experienced Star Wars Battlefront II, which made Star Wars: Battlefront II look downright primitive. Aren’t reboot naming conventions the worst? Of course, here I’m referring to DICE’s 2017 Battlefront II, which was the sequel to its 2015 Battlefront reboot called Star Wars Battlefront, which shares its name with 2003’s Star Wars: Battlefront. Don’t think too hard about it.
Unlike most, I love DICE’s Battlefront games. What they may lack on a mechanical level, they compensate for with fidelity. The sights and sounds of the modern Battlefront titles are so completely immersive and authentic. The game feel is off the charts. And, in the case of Battlefront II, I think that its state post-free DLC is truly excellent. But, I digress. The point is that Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005) was no longer novel in its ability to evoke the scale of conflict which drew me to the game in the first place. That concept had been blown out of the water.
What I came to appreciate instead was the freedom offered by the game through its suite of options, as mentioned earlier. While my childhood enjoyment was largely predicated just on Instant Action mode, that is only a fraction of this overall package. There’s Galactic Conquest, which plays out as a quasi-RTS. There’s the 501st Campaign, which follows the iconic Clone battalion through the end of the Clone Wars, through Order 66, and into the height of the Empire. In short, the game is ambitious and inspired.
At its core, Battlefront II is pretty much Star Wars-flavored Battlefield, but everything that surrounds the core gameplay loop punches the experience up. The flexibility to experience Star Wars through these different avenues is so enticing. And, it isn’t all straight-laced. Both the campaign and Galactic Conquest offer more serious gameplay styles. The Hunt modes, by contrast, do not. In these, players get to control often-underrepresented Star Wars groups, like Wampas, Gungans, or Jawas with ridiculous weapons, running around clobbering traditional factions.
a good blaster at your side, kid
Battlefront II shows an acute understanding of Star Wars’ many complex identities. The game is grand and serious at times. But, it contrasts that with a feeling of camp and humor. No matter what type of Star Wars experience you’re looking for, Battlefront provides it. Space battles? They’re here. Ground combat? Check. Ridiculous side modes? Absolutely. And within these large classifications are plenty of granular options for players to customize exactly the type of Star Wars experience they want. The game is endlessly replayable. Pandemic Studios knew how to have fun and deliver fan service while also building out a framework for more serious Star Wars simulation.
As such, I have just as much fun with Battlefront II today as I did when I was younger. It’s an evergreen package which manages to be just as relevant in 2021 as it was in 2005 due to how robust the experience is. Obviously, it pales in comparison to its successors visually. But when I want to reenact a specific Star Wars battle or just goof around as an Ewok, Star Wars: Battlefront II is the perfect game to hop into.
And, it’s finally readily available to me on Xbox now. Not only is this a cleaned-up edition, it’s also a more complete one. The original Xbox version of the game actually received DLC maps and characters that I never had on PlayStation 2. So, imagine my surprise when I booted up this game that I’d played to death and saw new content alongside the beloved and familiar content which is tied to so many facets of my childhood. It was my “Chewie, we’re home” moment. Battlefront II is my Millennium Falcon. It means a lot to me personally, but it’s damn impressive too.