There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? The dark side. And the light. An awakening as though millions of tiny voices could be heard across the galaxy crying, “FINALLY.” Ten years after the last release in series, Star Wars Battlefront makes its triumphant return to modern consoles. The hype, it’s real. All of it. It’s Battlefront! Oh my God there’s Luke vs Vader! And it looks so good! But hold up, the trailers for The Phantom Menace looked awesome too and, uh, yeah… Anyway, just how does EA DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront turn out? Let’s take a look.
What’s It About?
There may not be a more apt name for Star Wars Battlefront because it’s little more than Star Wars themed fights on a battlefront. That sums up about 90% of the game. It’s a multiplayer game, which may not sit overly well with those who like a single player experience. The original Battlefront games had decent to solid campaigns; 2015’s Battlefront simply doesn’t offer one. I was immediately reminded of Titanfall, another multiplayer game with a feigned attempt at a single player campaign. Battlefront had a huge opportunity here and simply fails. But why?
With a game based on such a franchise, you naturally run the risk of any campaign being a retread, but the payoff can be solid (see: Lego Star Wars). You simply need a good take, whether it’s a retelling or your own story. Without a single player campaign, it misses a big chunk of what makes the fans so connected to the franchise: being a character in a fully realized setting.
Countless people played through the stories as kids. They reenacted generic not only battles, which Battlefront offers, but also particular scenes. Most kids wouldn’t just mindlessly bash together some action figures or shoot toy blasters without some sort of story behind it, even if they were unknowingly creating fan fiction. That’s where Battlefront really fails in its presentation. It didn’t do. It barely even tried.
What you get is a multiplayer game with a few single player modes (one of which is just training), and a game I see struggling to hold up as is. Oh, but don’t worry! An insanely expensive Season Pass is coming to add more maps and planets because surely you’ll grow tired of the same 4 planets. It’s too soon to tell whether the Season Pass could save the game from being overly simplistic. But considering what we have so far, and the excitement to play through the Battle of Jakku (the game’s first free DLC; a lead in to The Force Awakens), I wouldn’t expect anything that can drastically change the experience. Perhaps it will just be some new, good looking fan service.
Why Should I Care?
Alright, so with that campaign rant out of the way, let’s focus on what the game actually does offer: battles!
One of the major selling points for Battlefront was DICE’s unprecedented access to Lucasfilm archives in order to make one of the most accurate Star Wars games possible. Having followed the game throughout its development at conferences such as Star Wars Celebration and San Diego Comic Con, I can vouch firsthand how much access they got and man, the game looks fantastic. From a purely visual standpoint, you feel like you’re in that galaxy far, far away. The uniforms; the vehicles; the blaster fire; the lightsabers. Battlefront offers one of the most authentic Original Trilogy settings you may play through (note: there is no prequel inclusion here). When you’re playing through Walker Assault as a Rebel and you see that AT-AT coming towards your shield generators — it’s a sight. Your view can easily be switched between first person and third, a nice touch to give you some difference perspectives. However, you can’t just bask in some pretty visuals and beautiful Star Wars music, as good as a mood that can create. You need to get boots on the ground.
While there are a variety of maps, there are only four locations: Tatooine, Hoth, Endor, and Sullust. With a focus on the Original Trilogy, Sullust is the odd-man out. I have no issue with the inclusion, but it doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose outside of “Hey look, a planet you’ve never really seen and get to play on! Isn’t that cool?” I suppose, yes. But why am I there? Surely a campaign could have told me that! Though if you order a Season Pass, you can have more because that’s what we want — limited options to start so we can continue to pay for more.
Once you’re on these planets, the ground combat works out fairly well for being a point-and-shoot situation. You won’t end up getting much team-based strategy here more than you would in a Halo or Call of Duty games. Playing most often as a Rebel Soldier or an Imperial Stormtrooper, characters handle well, but to amp up your customization, you’ll need to earn credits to unlock weapons, skins, and Star Cards.
Battlefront’s credit system works okay but tends to come up as a chore in order to get you to play more. For as much time I dedicated to the game for review purposes, I was able to reach Rank 8 but only earn enough credits to unlock maybe four additional weapons and two Star Cards. You won’t often be rewarded with just a straight-up unlocked item. You will have to purchase via credits, which are either earned or paid for via microtransactions. Star Cards can take even much more credits or microtransactions. They’re temporary power-ups, such as a third pistol, thermal detonators, or an ion shot. But you can only have two to start and your eventual third slot will have a charge-based Star Card. For example, I can use an ion shot 25 times before I need to buy it again. It feels cheap, which is ironic because it can be expensive.
That system is negated once you start playing as a Hero, who are powerful enough to use their own type of unique Star Cards. You’ll get three heroes from each side: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia for the Rebellion; Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett for the Empire. Beyond each power being unique to the character in general, there are subtleties that make them that much more fun to use. Vader’s Force Choke, for example, will give the controller a slight rumble so you know you just destroyed the Rebel scum. Han Solo can funnily charge into battle, a nice callback to one of his New Hope actions. Now, can their powers tip the balances of a fight too much? It depends on the game mode. In multiplayer, they won’t do that too often. Taking on a hero solo isn’t smart, but two-man squads can stand a fair chance. Boba Fett tended to be the biggest pain on the field because of his jetpack, so you may hate Boba Fett.
In single player, I won matches 100-0 against the AI in multiple instances, so they can definitely be overpowering there. Single player will give you the easiest access to heroes, as you can enter games directly as a hero. Multiplayer will often randomize who gets to be the hero, which is fair. If you don’t get to be a hero, Battlefront’s partner functionality will periodically give you the choice to enter as another player’s guard. That means a different uniform and usually a heavier weapon. It’s a nice enough touch, but won’t totally benefit the experience.
There are a healthy amount of multiplayer modes available. Blast will be your standard deathmatch mode. There are king of the hill options, and what I found to be a nice take on capture the flag with Cargo— simultaneous attempts to steal the other team’s cargo pods and defend your own. Droid Run is fun yet simple; similar to kind of hill, you fight for the protection/control of three GNK power droids on a map. Where Battlefront will start to shine in particular is in the vehicle battle opportunities.
There’s a small variety of vehicles to get in the cockpit of and give you the most pure Star Wars experience. Aerial combat in particular with Fighter Squadron mode was my favorite, where you take control of an X-Wing, A-Wing, TIE Fighter or Interceptor, or potentially the Millennium Falcon or Slave I. The controls for vehicles aren’t too stiff and I actually tended to enjoy them more than ground combat. Ground vehicles such as AT-ST and AT-AT walkers handled well too, if not surprisingly lumbersome with the latter. As much of a fan of speeder bikes I’ll admit to being, they handle very wildly in the game. But I may just be that awful with a speeder bike (very similar to Scout Troopers!). There won’t be too many problems with vehicles in game modes, as they are temporary powerups in modes such as Surpremacy. However, Walker Assault features a ton of AT-AT walker activity and can be particularly tough if you end up as a Rebel.
What Makes It Worthy My Time and Money?
Perhaps the primary problem with Star Wars Battlefront is that the game doesn’t feel complete. I don’t mean that in a way to say the game feels like a beta. That’s not quite it. But there’s just a handful of maps. A healthy amount of modes, but in a limited setting and with only so many options unless you’re willing to pony up fake or real credit to get more. And I think ultimately that’s what the game is: a big entry fee to get general access, but if you want a full experience, you better be ready to start paying. A Disneyland joke comes to mind due to IP ownership.
That said, it’s a solid game to pick up and play. You can fit games in quickly and be done with it; a giant casual game. But perhaps it’s a giant casual game you should get after a price drop.