May the force be with you.
The world hasn’t seen a new Star Wars film in a decade, and neither has it seen a return of EA’s Star Wars Battlefront series. With the newly released Force Awakens bringing new life back into the Star Wars franchise like a translucent Alec Guinness, it’s only fitting that the video games are treated to the same reboot.
The original two Battlefront games were developed by Pandemic on the now-defunct LucasArts’ behalf, and while suffering notable AI issues and a distinct lack of single-player, the games provided one of the most visceral experiences from the Star Wars universe that had yet to translate to interactivity: the battles themselves. Both were successful, but by the time of LucasArts’ dissolution, any games in current development were put on hold, and we never got another sequel.
But impatience leads to anger, and anger leads to the Dark Side. Our wait for EA and Battlefield developer DICE to re-master the old ways of the Force has been rewarded, but does this battle deliver all the thrills of its former fronts? In many ways it does, and then some, providing the most realistic Star Wars simulation you could hope for. In others, it leaves much to be desired for hardcore enthusiasts, both gamer and fanboy alike, offering the most universally appealing and streamlined shooter at the cost of a robust experience.
Great, Kid. Don’t Get Cocky
Let’s get the most disappointing aspect of Star Wars Battlefront out of the way: the game has no single-player mode to speak of, which was to be expected, but is also disappointing, as even the original two games featured a loosely strung set of missions bound by a narrative. Clearly, both EA and DICE knew what Battlefront is all about first and foremost, the multiplayer, and so have decided to omit a plot entirely from this entry. This should not be a surprising turn of events to anyone familiar with DICE’s Battlefield series, which has always led the field in big-team multiplayer shooters. Still, it would have been nice if something had been thrown in for the rogue leaders out there playing solo.
The multiplayer tries to make up for the absence of story in sheer volume, providing a plethora of modes in which to hone your skills with a blaster or lightsaber. Essentially, every conceivable battleground scenario from the films is available from Day 1, including speeder chases, aerial dogfights, ground assaults, and lightsaber duels. Like the films, Star Wars Battlefront seeks to rekindle the nostalgic wonder of our early childhood years re-watching the original trilogy over and over again. And on this note, the game sincerely succeeds. Whether it’s wrapping the legs of an AT-AT with a tow cable, or narrowly dodging Endor trees in an Imperial speeder, the best moments are here to live out in a variety of game types that range from the Supremacy mode – which acts as your standard Conquest variant – to Walker Assault, which pits fighters against the aforementioned Imperial tank-like machines featured in The Empire Strikes Back.
While the intimidating number of modes is welcomed, many are forgettable, recycling the same action over the noise of slightly differing tasks. For example, both Droid Run and Cargo feature the same style of gameplay as the main mode Supremacy: capturing different nodes on the map in order to tilt the battle in your favour. Once you filter out the dilution, there’s about 3 or 4 good modes you’ll be sinking your lightsaber into over and over, which include the traditional Capture the Flag and Deathmatch variants, and these modes differ only in setting and whether or not you’re manning an X-wing or storming the front as a foot soldier. The excitement of the surplus of modes quickly fades fast, and you’ll soon lock yourself into the game’s highlighted ground maps.
The maps themselves appear to have been designed with a priority on emulating the film’s worlds than the practicality of a multiplayer battlefield. That is to say, the levels have been reproduced almost exactly as they appeared in cinematic form, but isn’t necessarily a positive point. Often, the layouts of each stage present problematic 32-player geography, spawning players too close together, littering one section with caves but leaving another stretch of map completely barren, and notably leaving little room to maneuver in the forest speeder.
The sound effects are on point from gun ray blasts, to TIE fighter strafes, to lightsaber swings.
The gameplay is composed of three main types: ground, aerial, and hero combat. The majority of the modes focus on the DICE’s signature foot soldier styled gameplay. After all, the point of the Battlefront games was always to step out of the one-man-army idea and perceive the bigger picture of the Star Wars universe. The multiplayer action is fun and frenetic, but may not offer hardcore gamers the kind of experience they may have been seeking out of one particular Battlefield 4 mod. The aerial dogfights are awesome, but they can also get confusing. While there’s definitely no greater thrill than locking onto an enemy fighter and becoming embroiled in a cat and mouse deathmatch, some of these moments drag for far too long, leaving you wondering for just how long you have to fire at the TIE in your sights before it submits.
The last gameplay type involves heroes – i.e. the main characters of the films – who you control against the enemy team in an imaginary engagement to see just who would win in a duel: Luke or Vader, Han or Boba, Leia or Sidious? This mode is one of the more gimmicky, and didn’t hold my attention for long, but the inclusion of main characters, a concept that was introduced in Pandemic’s Battlefront 2, is a necessary one that rewards players with a chance to become their idols, even for brief moments at a time.
Graphically, this is what you’d expect for a Star Wars game made today. The levels do their films’ counterparts undeniable justice. Check off every visual tick. Crisp textures? Check. Vibrant lighting? Check. Detailed weapon and character models? You betcha. There’s nothing to disappoint in the graphics department. The same would go for the audio, were it not for a somewhat sketchy original score, which tries to strike a balance between reminiscing and rehashing, but comes off as lacking the hugeness of John Williams’ iconic orchestral themes. Despite this auditory hiccup, the sound effects are on point from gun ray blasts, to TIE fighter strafes, to lightsaber swings. Though I’m not sure if I ever heard a conveniently placed Wilhelm scream.
Overall, Star Wars Battlefront is a fantastic first shot at the Star Wars canonized game universe. It isn’t perfect, and takes less risks than the original Battlefront did back over a decade ago, but in honouring the original trilogy over the prequels, it falls suit with Disney’s rebrand of the film franchise, emphasising the importance of fan taste over selfishly inclined creative ambitions.
Star Wars Battlefront was reviewed on Xbox One.
Lasts Longer Than You Would Against That Death Star
The run and gun shooting is fun, and the modes are plentiful, if not always fresh. Despite a less than ideal score, and some frustrating moments in vehicles, Star Wars Battlefront is almost everything you’d want out of a streamlined Star Wars big-scale multiplayer game. Try to pick this game up. Scratch that. Do it.