And here we are, the Star Wars hype train blasting full speed ahead. Can’t even turn a corner in any store without being advertised Star Wars Reeses Puffs, Chewbacca hoodies, and ‘the dark side’ lipstick, I shit you not. But what would Star Wars hype be without a game to help things along, having it been quite some time since the last really good Star Wars game came out (I’m considering the Force Unleashed series to be mediocre). This brings us to nostalgia, the fuel that brought about Episode 7 to begin with, because if you had a console or PC in the mid 2000′s you likely at least heard of Battlefront and it’s sequel. So now we have a reboot, with DICE of Battlefield fame, giving their own take on a series that originally gave us a Battlefield take on Star Wars.
Battlefront is a primarily multiplayer driven experience, there are single player options such as AI battles, survival missions, and a couple of tutorial missions to get you going, but the heart of the game rests on multiplayer. This is a shame, because the tutorial missions themselves are a symbol for what could’ve been a great single player campaign. They feel incredibly immersive and the cutscene direction shows the potential for some great moments, but the focus here is away from AI driven battles. In the multiplayer front, there are 9 different gameplay types, but in reality only 3 of them really stand out. Fighter Squadron are your aerial battles complete with AI fighters to make for hectic dogfights, Walker Assault has the Imperials defending their AT-AT’s from the Rebels, and Supremacy is a 5 point capture map, except that only one point cam be taken at a time, creating an ever flowing front line so that the battles stay in one place, there’s no going to the other end of the map behind enemy lines to cap a point. The rest are rather standard fare or simply not as fun to play, you have your Deathmatch (Blast) Capture the Flag (Cargo), Domination mode with moving cap points (Droid Run) and King of the Hill (Drop Zone). The two bonus modes are Heroes vs. Villains which has the special heroes you can play as fighting each other, and hero hunt, where 1 hero faces off against 7 enemies, and whoever kills the hero becomes them. It’s a shame there’s no playlist option to be found, so you can’t be on a server that starts out on Walker Assault then switches over to Supremacy. It’s also worth noting that it’s matchmaking here, and while no server browser or dedicated servers are present, it doesn’t hurt Battlefront that much. Frankly, the casual nature of the game ends up not really needing those sorts of options, and the party system the game provides functions well enough as you go from server to server.
The main issue here is that infantry combat, on its own, feels rather flat, and Battlefront is at its best when all of its elements are together. There is also a limited number of maps per mode, typically 4, so if you only really find yourself enjoying the general combat on Walker Assault for example, you only have 4 maps to play on. Even the other great mode, Supremacy, uses the exact same maps as Walker Assault, where as other game modes mixes up the maps more, often times using a different area of the planet. Maps are based on 4 planets, Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and Sullust. 3 of those planets were featured in the original trilogy, but Sullust wasn’t, and feels like an odd choice for a game that so heavily relies on nostalgia for the films when the game felt like it was screaming for a map on Cloud City, or the Death Star, even Dagobah could’ve worked. You have a wide array of vehicles at your disposal, which all but 1 (speeder bikes) of them you pick up using power ups you can find on the field. Power Ups might seem a bit outdated by todays standards but they actually feel right at home in Battlefront, you can pick up turrets, droids, special grenades, the aforementioned heroes, and vehicles. You also have Star Cards, which are usable weapons or devices, as well as a bonus ‘trait’ that levels up as you get killstreaks. This is as in depth as the multiplayer gets, but the cards do feel significant in their usefulness. You have different types of grenades, sniper rifles, missiles, a jet pack, as well as a limited use card that can do things such as reveal enemies, stop your gun from overheating, or make your gun deal more damage to vehicles. These cards start out with 25 uses, and they don’t refresh every match, meaning you have to constantly keep an eye out for extra ‘charges’ you can pickup on the field if you’re low.
Now there is going to be the inevitable critic that complains that this is simply Battlefield with a Star Wars skin, and I want to emphasize that this really doesn’t feel applicable here. The similarities stop at the way first person movement is handled, especially when you consider that the game can be played in first and third person. Speaking of which, for the most part, I found myself in 3rd, simply because it felt like the greater field of view and ability to see around corners provided a massive advantage. Air vehicles in particular feel especially nauseating in first person, nearing unplayable. I will agree however that the first person view feels extremely immersive, but if your gun doesn’t have a scope, there’s no aiming down the sights, and there is no real tactical advantage to using 1st. Once you get that out of the way, you have a 3rd person shooter with on the ground pickups without Battlefields signature conquest mode. The game stands on its own, don’t mistake DICE’s signature presentation style as a symbol that its a Battlefield game with a Star Wars coat on.
Where a big problem emerges with the game, is odd choices of balance. Nothing is inherently broken by any means, but what works fine in one game mode, doesn’t typically work in another. With heroesand villains for example, there are 3 per side (Luke, Leia and Han for Heroes, and Vader, Palpatine, and Boba Fett for Villains). While they all have their respective roles in the Heroes vs. Villains mode, in Supremacy and Walker Assault; Fett, Han, and occasionally Luke are clear choices. Vader for example, has an ability to choke 1 person, but Luke gets an ability to force push and instantly kill several people at once. Meanwhile Fett is a force to be reckoned with given his jetpack, high damage blaster, flamethrower, and missiles. Palpatine feels inconsistent in his lightning powers, and suffers from ridiculous looking animations of a dainty old man bolting across the field doing his god-awful spinning dash that everyone wished out of their memory in Episode 3. It’s worth also noting that none of the actors voice their roles, but the replacements are passable, with the exception of Darth Vader, who sounds fairly off. With the weapons, there’s 4 types which essentially boil down to LMG, Shotgun, Rifle, DMR, and Pistol. Oddly enough the pistols completely dominate the close quarter game, especially the last gun you unlock, which was instantly obtainable if you ordered the digital deluxe edition. Outside of the 5 types of gun, they really don’t feel that different. The 1st LMG you unlock feels remarkably similar to the 2nd one, with the only obvious difference being the model they use. For ships the Rebels have their X-Wing and A-Wing (as well as the Air Speeder during the final defense in Walker Assault to take down the AT-ATs), and the Imperials have the Tie Fighter and Interceptor. Oddly enough, the Rebels get a bonus shield on both of their ships, while the Imperials get a boost. Again, it turns into a balance issue on certain game modes, they work great in standard play, but in Fighter Squardron, the boost gives very little benefit, since you’re going at near top speed the entire time, while the shield feels extremely helpful. It would’ve made much more sense for the X-Wing and Fighter to have a shield, and the A-Wing and Interceptor to have a boost. It’s also a shame that Y-wings only appear in the Walker Assault mode and are not usable, and that while Slave 1 and the Millennium Falcon serve as the hero ships in Fighter Squadron, it would’ve been welcome to have the classic Luke vs Vader dogfight possible as well, even if it meant just giving powered up versions of the standard ships. Also, the default keyboard and mouse controls for the ships are horrendous, so they require some tweaking in the sensitivity options, or just plug in a controller and have it nearby.
You rank up like in every multiplayer game nowadays and earn currency by playing matches. The currency is used for unlocked guns, star cards, customization options for your character and emotes. It seems odd that you can choose to have your Stormtroopers helmet off for the sake of customizing their hair, but they simply present you with the same options that the rebels they have. Emotes feel particularly useless, since you almost never have the proper time to stop and use them during a fight. Instead, most of your currency is going to go towards Star Cards, and even after you purchase them, you can spend a hefty amount of currency to get them again for a lowered cooldown rate. If your low on currency, you can boot up the companion app for Battlefront and play a minigame to earn more.
Lets get one more thing out of the way, this is a casual game. I’m not saying that with any sort of negative connotation, it’s just something that has to be acknowledged. This is a game for the mass market, and the lack of serious depth in the infantry gameplay leaves the ground combat feeling flavorless in the infantry only modes, and this is mostly a game that’s catered for Star Wars fans of all ages, and by that I mean Original Trilogy fans, nothing from the prequels here, not that that’s a bad thing.
Which brings me to the closing. So do you like Star Wars? If you don’t, move along, there isn’t anything to see here. While the game looks great, remove the Star Wars property from it and it feels flat, lacking content, and not worth it’s full price tag. If you’re a fan, I’d personally still hesitate. Ask yourself how much you would mind a casual shooter. Again, nothing wrong with that, just don’t expect Battlefield level variety here, just Battlefield looks. As far as a general recommendation goes, it’s a hard sell with the limited content it offers, though I would recommend taking a look at it when you can get the game and season pass for $60, but of course one would have to see if the player count is still high, and if the DLC is any good at all..