I'm glad Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron's space-to-ground transitions made it into the multiplayer — there was some initial confusion about whether or not the PSP Infrastructure could handle it.
But the final answer is yes. Yes, Elite Squadron can handle all 16 players leaping from space combat to ground battles and back again almost at once. Yes, it can get hectic and confusing. And yes, you will totally love it.
What Is It? Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron is the latest in the cross-platform Battlefront series. This instalment on PSP and Nintendo DS keeps level with the series' theme of dropping players into "everyman" Star Wars characters with some special chances to play as "hero/villain" characters in certain levels.
What We Saw I played six multiplayer Conquest Mode matches with an assortment of other games journalists and QA testers who totally owned our collective face. The worlds we saw are: Tatooine, some Clone Wars planet I didn't recognise, Hoth, Kashyyyk, Dantooine and Mustafar. Conquest matches, for those of you unfamiliar with the series, involve capturing command points and destroying enemy spacecraft in a certain amount of time.
How Far Along Is It? The game is out November 3.
What Needs Improvement? Hey! I Didn't Want To Go Planetside! If you're flying a spacecraft, the game sometimes takes liberties with your locations. For example, you can hop in an X-Wing on the ground and try to jet up to space by flying skyward and pressing up on the D-pad — but the game doesn't think you should be up there quite yet and so it either doesn't send you right away, or it doesn't send you at all. This same thing happens in the space-side of levels as well, which gets really annoying if you're flying close to the planet while trying to shoot somebody and the game decides to send you planetside even though you didn't press the D-pad.
Tough To Change Targets: You can lock on to enemies both in space and on the ground — but I was having a heck of a time figuring out how to change targets if I didn't want keep shooting at something. This really became a problem if I happened to be targeting a turret on a Star Destroyer because my ship would automatically angle toward it even as I tried to jet away from the ship so I wouldn't crash directly into it.
My Kingdom For A Melee Button! It seemed like you'd automatically melee-attack somebody when pressing the shoot button if they got close enough, however it didn't happen all the time. I know there are some weapons that are automatically melee-only (e.g. lightsabers) — but if everybody has the potential to melee with their guns, I'd really like a separate button for it. I'm a huge fan of the pistol-whip.
What Should Stay The Same? Space Combat: Loved it. Loved it so much, I actually started to avoid going planetside.
Escape Pods: A big part of the battle phase is destroying the enemy's command ship that's hovering above the planet. You accomplish this by bringing down the enemy shields (with the ion cannon that's planetside) and then boarding the craft with your ship (easier said than done). Once inside the ship, combat changes to the ground format where you're running around as a trooper, a droid or a special character. You've got to get to the reactor core station inside the ship and wreck it, whereupon it triggers a timed explosion. You've got about two minutes tops to either fight your way back to the ship you boarded with (assuming it wasn't shot up) — but the best option is to grab an escape pod which sends you right back down to the planet.
It's What Multiplayer Was Meant To Be: If you've ever gotten together a bunch of gamers to take a crack at any multiplayer mode, you know when things are going well. People enjoy themselves and really get into the rivalries. When a big event happens—like a command ship exploding—there's a cry from the victim team and a cheer from the aggressor team. When somebody morphs into a Jedi at a random point in battle (depending on how well you're doing), there are squawks of disbelief to see a lightsaber on the field. And when the match ends, there's a collective groan because it felt like it ended too soon.
Final Thoughts I'm buying it. I really hope my PSP-owning friends do, too, so I can gun them down in space.