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As you may have heard, the Star Wars franchise will be making its big return to theaters next month, but The Force Awakens isn’t the only major Star Wars revival we get this year. After a decade on the shelf, Star Wars Battlefront is also storming back to once again bring online multiplayer warfare to a galaxy far, far away.
This new Star Wars Battlefront, created by EA and Battlefield developer DICE, has certainly wowed players with eye-poppingly gorgeous trailers, but there have been warning signs, too. Warning signs like the fact that the game largely lacks a single-player mode and an open beta that left some fans with mixed feelings. So, is Star Wars Battlefront, the multiplayer shooter you’re looking for, or is it all nostalgia and no substance?
Star Wars Battlefront (PC, Xbox One & PS4)
Don’t go into Star Wars Battlefront expecting rich storytelling or an expansion of the new Star Wars Universe, because you’re not getting it. A few of the single-player training modes start and end with brief, largely pointless, little vignettes, but that’s as far as it goes. Star Wars Battlefront trusts the majority of its players know how the war between the Rebels and Empire went down, and doesn’t see much need to elaborate.
Star Wars Battlefront is a good-looking game. A really good-looking game. The game’s stages are incredibly detailed, and packed with all sorts of wonderful little details. The powdery snow that keeps a record of every footprint on Hoth, the heat waves rising from bubbling sulfuric mud pits and lava on Sullust, the butterflies and barely glimpsed flying creatures the populate the lush forests of Endor – sometimes you’ll wish the shooting would slow down for a second so you can just drink in the scenery. I should say the game does have a very slight plasticy sheen to it that makes things look just a tad artificial. Almost like you’re battling on a movie set instead of a real alien planet, which I suppose is appropriate. Star Wars Battlefront recreates the Star Wars universe so well, it even captures its fakiness.
The explosions also look pretty amazing.
In terms of audio, Star Wars Battlefront delivers a heavy bombardment of nostalgia. The iconic Star Wars theme is the first thing you hear when you start up, and the John Williams-inspired tunes rarely let up for the rest of the game. Most of the game’s heroes and villains aren’t voiced by their movie counterparts, but EA and Lucasfilm have found voice actors that sound almost exactly like Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and the rest. Hell, the guy doing Han Solo probably sounds more like Harrison Ford than Harrison Ford does these days.
Star Wars Battlefront doesn’t reinvent the shooter in any particularly groundbreaking way. The game plays similarly to a lot of other modern online shooters, DICE’s own Battlefield series in particular, with a few old-school features, like the ability to play as powered-up Hero characters, lifted from previous Battlefront games.
Battlefront‘s selection of multiplayer game modes is where you’ll find the game’s flashes of originality. Walker Assault, in which you either fend off or defend towering AT-AT walkers and Droid Run where you compete to find and claim cute little droids are uniquely Star Wars experiences you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Aside from that, this is a more conventional shooter than past Battlefront games.
Star Wars Battlefront feels solid in terms of basic mechanics. Controls are generally smooth and responsive, and DICE thankfully took response to the beta to heart and dialed down sniping and explosives fairly significantly. Make no mistake, I still die frequently and horribly in Star Wars Battlefront, but the stages are no longer a hellscape of exploding grenades, and nine times out of 10, I can actually see the person who killed me. There’s still some more balancing to do – folks who buy the deluxe version get access to Han Solo’s DL-44 pistol, and it’s seriously overpowered. You’re going to see “Killed by DL-44” frequently when playing close-quarters stages.
In terms of modes, the game tends to be at its best the more players are involved. Supremacy, a 40-player mode in which you fight to control and defend a series of designated points, feels like a real battle rather than random chaos, with a certain amount of teamwork required to come out on top. It’s the one mode that really hearkens back to the more strategic feel of early Battlefront games. The game’s other 40-player mode, Walker Assault feels distinctively Star Wars, but suffers from balance issues. While not as bad as it was in the beta, it’s still difficult for the Rebels to win on Hoth, while on other maps, the Empire is at a disadvantage. Either way, Walker Assault feels just a bit too complex and restrictive for my tastes.
A screenshot taken moments before this guy was shot by 10 snipers.
Other standout modes include Blast, your basic 20-player deathmatch, and Heroes vs. Villains, a fun 12-player mode in which you have to take out the other side’s three superpowered characters. The mode is round based, with roles being randomly assigned, so even beginner players get to have some fun wreaking havoc with Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker. Finally, Fighter Squadron, an aerial dogfighting mode that conjures up memories of the classic N64 and GameCube Rogue Squadron titles is simple, yet satisfying fun.
Of course, not every mode is a hit. For whatever reason, none of the game’s several capture-the-flag style modes (Drop Zone, Cargo, Droid Run) really clicked with me. The game’s other Hero-focused mode is also kind of a drag. Unlike Heroes vs. Villains, which lets everybody in on the fun, the 1-on-7 Hero Hunt only lets you become the Hero if you kill the active one. The end result is that the two or three best players spend the entire time wrecking shop as Boba Fett and Darth Vader, while everybody else spends their time dying repeatedly while hoping to score a lucky shot.
Star Wars Battlefront ships with four large stages or “planets” (Hoth, Sullust, Tatooine and Endor) which are divided up into a variety of smaller stages depending on which mode you’re playing. Make no mistake, though, certain areas are reused heavily between the various modes, and familiarity sets in quickly. Endor, with its ample camouflage and cover and elevated Ewok village runways is my favorite planet, with the rocky chokepoint-packed Tatooine running a fairly close second. Unfortunately, Hoth, with it’s mountains and wide-open plains, is a frustrating sniper’s paradise, and Sullust is just kind of nondescript.
Even if you don’t like Ewoks, you’ll probably enjoy playing on Endor.
Sadly, the Star Wars Battlefield single-player experience is barely worth mentioning. The game serves up a handful of training missions that teach you how to use the game’s various vehicles, but they’re over before you know it. Battle and Survival missions provide more-or-less the same experience – you run around with only vague goals to guide you and blast waves of exceptionally dumb AI enemies. Battle and Survival missions all support local splitscreen multiplayer, which is a nice touch, but it’s blatantly obvious these modes are afterthoughts, as they almost immediately start to feel like a drag compared to the online multiplayer modes. Save them for a rainy day when your Internet connection goes down, otherwise, don’t bother.
Okay, here’s where things get tricky. As already mentioned, the single player modes get old fast – I seriously doubt most players will put more than five hours into the game’s missions. That leaves the multiplayer to carry the game, and it certainly delivers on modes, but it scrimps in almost every other area. With a mere four planets, six heroes/villains and a paltry dozen-or-so guns, Star Wars Battlefront starts to feel repetitive surprisingly fast. For a game that had one of the most complex fictional universes ever created to draw from, there’s just not enough going on.
Of course, those who want to master the game’s every map and intricacy will no doubt pour a lot of time into Star Wars Battlefront, but less perfectionist gamers may feel the need to roam relatively quickly. With all the online shooter options out there, there’s just no reason to subsist on bread and water. Of course, you can supplement your diet by buying the Star Wars Battlefront season pass, but that’s a subject for the next section.
First off, I’m pleased (and rather shocked) to report that Star Wars Battlefront doesn’t feature any microtransactions. I totally expected there to be some sort of Force Bucks on sale. Pay a 99 cents to boost your character’s midi-chlorian levels! So, kudos to EA for resisting that, but that said, they’re leaning on the game’s season pass pretty hard.
It’s clear EA’s plan is for Star Wars Battlefront to become a “platform.” Start with just barely enough content and features, but keep players hooked by rolling out a regular stream of new stuff. It’s actually not a terrible system if that content is reasonably priced, but Battlefront‘s season pass costs a whopping 50 bucks. EA is essentially asking players to cough up enough cash to buy two games to get one properly-stocked shooter.
So, Star Wars Battlefront is a bit stingy with the content, but at least that content is solidly crafted. Glitches are actually fairly rare; I never had the game crash on me, matchmaking is quick and easy, and the online action was always buttery smooth in my experience. It’s clear an exceptional amount of time and effort was sunk into every minor aspect of this game.
Star Wars Battlefront is an exceptionally polished, spectacular-looking game that really captures the spirit of the original Star Wars trilogy. At its best, the game truly makes you feel a part of iconic Star Wars showdowns like the Battle of Hoth or the final confrontation on Endor, which is something most true Star Wars fans have been dreaming of since childhood.
That said, while Star Wars Battlefront delivers quality content, it doesn’t serve up all that much of it. The single-player missions are a complete afterthought, and the multiplayer, with its mere four locations and handful of Hero characters and weapons, doesn’t have the legs you might expect. Of course, EA is planning to expand the game via DLC, but is this game exceptional enough to justify the $120 combined cost of the base game and season pass? I’m not so sure.
Whether Star Wars Battlefront is for you will depend on how into truly mastering multiplayer shooters you are, and how far a little Star Wars magic goes with you. The answer is within you, Jedi.
Verdict: Worth A Chance
This review was based on a PS4 copy of Star Wars Battlefront, provided by EA Games.