Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Missing Pandemic

My buddy Jason came by for a visit today and we wound up - for the second time in a row - playing Star Wars Battlefront 2.
For those of you who missed this on the XBox (which is the platform I played it on) and now have a 360, there are a few things I need to say.

One, the gameplay is classic.  Two, the emulation is effing flawless.

So, what is Battlefront 2?

Battlefront 2 is a tactical 3rd person shooter in which your goal is to capture as many bases as possible in a scenario and slaughter the other team's guys.  When you enter a map, you choose a base to start from and then pick a role.  The available roles are based on the force that you're playing for, and the forces are based on the timeline in the Star Wars movie canon.  On top of the standard unit roles, there are also Leaders which can be selected.  Leaders include gunfighters, Jedis and Sith Lords. 

On the battlefield, you can fight with your standard equipment or engage in vehicular combat if the mission allows for it.  There are also space battles, which are an awesome change of pace.

Obviously, the game is geared more towards multiplayer, but it has a single-player mode that can be played locally, too.  It also has an awesome mode called "Galactic Conquest" which is a combination of Battlefront 2's action mixed with some light strategy.  This can be played in single- or multi-player and it can be co-operative or competitive.  Unfortunately, this mode can't be networked.

The multiplayer modes are the standard base-capturing mode, deathmatch and capture the flag, which are fairly common modes in just about any shooter.  What's uncommon is the the game's lightning-fast pace combined with the Star Wars universe, and the gameplay just doesn't get old.

XBox Live is pretty much done, but if you have the space and patience, you can always link systems.

The game was given average reviews, but coming back to it after it having been out for a few years, I think many reviewers were being stingy and dismissive - as well as short-sighted.  This game is an excellent gem from the last generation.

That said, the developer was Pandemic Studios, or just Pandemic.  Pandemic went insolvent after releasing The Saboteur in 2009, another gem for the 360 and PS3.  Before that, they made the Star Wars Battle front games (two titles), Full Spectrum Warrior and the Mercenaries games. The also made the first two Destroy All Humans titles.  Other than the second Mercenaries title, these were all made for the XBox and PS2.

While I did not play the Full Spectrum Warrior titles, I did have the pleasure of playing both Battlefront titles, both Mercenaries titles and, as previously mentioned, The Saboteur.  All of these are rock solid, if a little glitchy, and well worth a look.  Destroy All Humans had its moments, although I did not play the second as I lost interest with the first.

Full Spectrum Warrior was a military action/strategy hybrid, and that's all I really know about it.  Both titles were developed for the XBox, PS2 and Windows PC, and the first title in the series was originally developed for the US Armed Forces, who were actually very upset with the final result.

Mercenaries is an open-world 3rd-person shooter series where you had free reign to destroy almost everything with vehicles and air-strikes.  The second game in the title also allowed for online co-op play.  A bit of trivia, the first Mercenaries game was actually supposed to be a reboot of the Strike series (Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, Urban Strike, etc.), but Lucas Arts picked it up instead of EA.  It does actually feel like one of the Strike games, if just a little bit.  The first game, Playground of Destruction, was developed for the XBox, Windows PC and PS2.  The second was developed for the XBox 360, PS2, PS3 an Windows PC.  The PS2 version was universally panned by commercial reviewers.

The Saboteur is also an open-world game, but it's mostly played on foot.  It takes place in WWII-era Paris, and you're working for the French Resistance.  While vehicles do play a role in the game, they're more a means of getting from point A to point B.  Much of the game will be played on foot as you jump and climb to avoid the 3rd Reich.  Unlike the other Pandemic games, Saboteur has a bit of an artsy visual angle; when you are in Nazi-controlled territory, the world is mostly black, white and grey.  Liberated areas are in full colour; it's just an interesting dynamic.  Plus many of the important landmarks, such as the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, and of course, the Eiffel Tower are present.  While The Saboteur was released two years after the second Mercenaries game, it was being developed alongside it, and it's even referenced in Mercenaries 2 by means of a pickup item.  The Saboteur was developed for the XBox 360, Windows PC and PS3.

The first Destroy All Humans takes place in the 1950's and it's more or less a straight mockery of 1950's sci-fi B-Movies.  You play an alien who's objective is to harvest human DNA, while obliterating the entire species.  You do this with ray guns, anal probes and your heavily armed flying saucer.  You go all over the U.S. terrorising hicks and G-men alike allin the name of genocide.  And progress.  The second game takes place in the 1960's and supposedly offers up local co-operative multiplayer.  Unfortunately, I lost interest with the first game, and so I ignored the sequel.  Both were developed for the XBox and PS2.  Later sequels were developed by other companies and can be found on the Wii, XBox 360 and PS3.

Pandemic's pedigree includes far more titles than these, but these are wonderful highlights of the last two console hardware generations from a studio that is now gone.  Pandemic had bases in the U.S. and Australia, and developed games for the PC, Sony and Microsoft consoles from 1999 to 2009.  In that time, they developed  for Activision, 3DO, THQ, LucasArts and Electronic Arts, who dissolved them just before the release of The Saboteur.  The remaining former members of Pandemic work EA; some are supposedly working on a sequel to Mercenaries at EA Los Angeles.

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