A New Hope
The original Star Wars Battlefront games have always held a special place in my heart. Call it nostalgia but those two titles really hit the spot back in school, delivering more ways to engage with the Star Wars franchise I couldn’t get enough of. Almost everything I saw in the lead up to DICE’s Battlefront launch kept me excited to return to the front lines of Star Wars’ biggest battles – but does it live up to the legacy?
The rebooted Star Wars Battlefront is DICE and EA’s baby born from the acquisition of the Star Wars brand by Disney. Leaving the prequel trilogy behind, Battlefront focuses on iconic scenes, battles and planets from the original trilogy, as well as looking forward to The Force Awakens and beyond with future DLC. It’s quite a wise move on the part of DICE to have this focus, allowing them to build a game that is authentically Star Wars – from the expansive battlefields to the heroes and soldiers upon them.
Upon starting up the game, you’re greeted with a tutorial that guides you through the basics of the game. You can then jump straight into multiplayer or hone your skills in several other training missions and player vs AI battles, but if you played the beta or are familiar with shooters you can probably skip most of these. There is one tutorial that’s definitely worth playing however, the speeder bike training on Endor. The speeder bikes not only control really well, but are an absolute blast to fly through the trees and rivers of the planet, chasing down the rebels just like in Return of the Jedi.
Though these speeders are great, you’ll spend most of your time Star Wars Battlefront on foot. The basic gameplay is pretty simple, a watered down version of a game like Battlefield. This made it feel a lot like the original games, but I quickly realised that this was because of how simple the originals were, before a lot of the FPS advances that are staple these days. The lack of a secondary weapon (outside of your cards loadout) and advanced mobility options feels a little out of place in the current shooter atmosphere.
At its core, it works as a shooter, with the basics all performing admirably. Aiming, shooting and running all feels good, but there’s no real depth past that. There seems to be very little in the way of complexity or difficulty that makes you feel like you’re learning and improving as you play – easily dispatching foes with high weapons and clever tactics right out of the gate. This will probably draw a lot of people to the game, especially those without a background in shooters, but I fear it’ll be the very thing that stops them playing for months to come.
Heroes are a fun addition to the general infantry, adding new weapons and abilities to the battlefield. They’re pretty well balanced too, with experienced players able to do some serious damage but they didn’t feel like they were invincible. I much preferred playing as the gun based heroes Leia, Han Solo and Boba over lightsabre wielding Vader and Luke as they played much better – the force abilities and lightsabre strikes weren’t as reliable as I’d like, especially against other lighstabre wielding heroes.
Battlefront deals with the vehicles in a very odd manner, with some fully controllable like starships and AT-ST’s, while some like the AT-AT walkers were merely walking turrets. You can also just simply jump on speeder bikes on some Endor maps, which ended up feeling a little out of place after the token pick up system all the others rely on. All these vehicles control quite well, and I really enjoyed my time in the starships especially. All Imperial and Rebel ships are outfitted with different abilities like shields, speed boosts and missiles, each their own unique ship. You’ll only find these in online modes however, aside from replaying the early tutorials, which means competing with a whole team for the small pool of vehicles on the map.
With no formal single player experience, you’re left with the choice of online multiplayer or solo and local co-op survival rounds. This is a fairly simple horde mode style experience, pitting you against waves of imperials with only your teammates and drop pods for support. Each of the four maps, one per planet, has a varied enemy structure to keep play fresh – such as Tie Fighter attacks while playing on Sullust – but ultimately it doesn’t sustain attention for too long. Playing with a friend locally or online can help this, but unless you have a real affinity for survival game modes there’s little to keep you playing here.
The enemy AI in Battlefront are less than stellar, something that these solo and coop modes highlight. You’ll want to skip straight past normal difficulty to hard if you desire any challenge whatsoever, with enemies regularly standing still in the line of fire and missing wildly when attempting to take out you and your friends on low difficulties. There’s definitely plenty of things to do in this side of Battlefront, but the game’s online multiplayer is easily its strongest and most attractive aspect.
Diving into multiplayer for the first time will have you almost overwhelmed by the many modes available to play. Despite having new names they’re all variations on staple multiplayer shooter modes, taking place on fourteen large and small maps across Hoth, Endor, Tatooine and Sullust. Each of these provides very different environments to battle amongst, but it would have been nice to see a few more locations make it into the title (which will undoubtedly to come in future DLC packs).
Blast and Drop Zone seemed to be pretty popular, the team deathmatch and domination style game modes. Both of these play out on the map chunks, smaller sections of the large Walker Assault maps, with a no vehicles, six vs six style. This is a good place to jump in and get to grips with the weapons and cards you’ve chosen, but I had a lot of mixed feelings after playing.
Some maps are perfectly sized, offering tense team battles and spectacularly close finishes, while others ended in complete mess of poor spawns. I lost count of how many times I spawned behind enemies or right in front of them, with the minimap often indicating foes were behind me within thirty seconds of spawning. This could also be easily abused, but thankfully this wasn’t the case in most of the matches I played.
Walker Assault is where Battlefront is at its best. With huge maps, all the best things about the game crop up here. Base defense, aerial dogfights, explosive ground battles and the saga’s heroes all quickly cemented this mode as my favourite in the game. It really puts you right in the middle of iconic film battles, and I loved every second of it. DICE have also tweaked the balance after the beta, resulting in a more balanced and tense match each round where both teams have a fairer shot at victory.
Fighter Squadron, the starfighter only mode, proves a lot of fun too, giving you plenty of AI and players to shoot down. It’s a great mode but much like Droid Run and Hero Hunt, the novelties start to wear off as you play them over and over, isolating the better aspects of the game into dull filler modes. A lot of what seemed to be quite an expansive lineup of modes simply don’t deliver engaging matches.
Despite this, what really makes Battlefront impressive is the authenticity in its presentation. From the sounds of the lasers to the sparks that fly as they hit to the roar of Tie Fighters flying overhead, no game has made me feel like I’m inside a movie like Star Wars Battlefront has. Each map triggered that sense of nostalgia within me, remembering scenes from the original movies, and flying the Millennium Falcon into battle was a personal highlight of my time with the game.
Ultimately I had a lot of fun with Battlefront. It’s a stellar Star Wars experience in its best moments, with plenty of callbacks and material that’ll delight fans. The only issues with the game stem from an over simplicity and a lack of meaningful content, with only a handful of modes that are actually worth spending a lot of time in. With such a focus on multiplayer the worries of longevity stayed firmly in my head the whole time I was playing, and despite DLC plans already announced, I’m honestly not sure just how many people will be still engaged with Star Wars Battlefront come early 2016. Either way, time will prove to be Battlefront’s biggest test – just never tell me the odds!
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed) and PC
Review conducted on a digital retail copy via EA Access on live public servers.