Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: November 17, 2015
As a kid, I was always pretending to be in the “Star Wars” universe, whether it was swishing around a lightsaber, or zooming around in an X-Wing. It was always fun to imagine yourself in a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. That fun is precisely what “Star Wars: Battlefront” is built on. From its maps mostly comprising of iconic battlegrounds from the original trilogy, to the implementation of powerful Hero characters jumping into the game, to the games challenges and achievements unlocking figurines for a sprawling in-game diorama, it is very apparent that DICE made this game with the intention of fulfilling the fantasies that many “Star Wars” fans had as star-eyed children.
The visual and sound design for this game are absolutely perfect. The graphics are at the cutting edge, with the jungles of Endor looking lush and vibrant, and the snowy Rebel base on Hoth riddled with detail. The motion blur of running and moving seemed so fluid, that it makes other recent shooters feel choppy by comparison. Everything seeps with little details from the movies, right down to the way your characters throw themselves as exaggeratedly as in the films. And the guns! I thank DICE so much for sticking with the original, WW2-surplus design of the weapons in the original trilogy; each one looks like a movie prop in your hand, not some contraption fabricated for the game. And with that signature look, thankfully comes the signature sounds. Every laser blast has the exact same ring as the movie, be it the standard Imperial E-11 blaster rifle, to the X-Wing shots, to the AT-AT’s heavy cannon. With the exception of perhaps Darth Vader’s, all the voice actors for the hero and villain characters are spot on. John Williams’ brilliant score blasts in the background throughout every second of the action. You can even occasionally hear the iconic Wilhelm Scream when a player is killed! On the aesthetic level, the game entirely immerses in the world of the “Star Wars” original trilogy.
The actual moment-to-moment gameplay feels a lot like DICE’s other popular shooters in the “Battlefield” series as opposed to the old “Battlefront” games made by Pandemic Studios. The terrain is usually wide open, befitting some of the larger scale 20 vs. 20 matches. If you’re lucky and fast enough, you can find vehicles to hop into – allowing you to wreak havoc from above in an A-Wing or dominate the land with an AT-ST in lieu of helicopters or tanks. Bullets (or I suppose, lasers, in this case) have travel time, so it’s often advantageous to aim slightly ahead of your opponent if they’re moving. Aiming down the sights, sprinting, and melee attacks all feel exactly like they do in “Battlefield.” And finally, after every game you earn experience and credits, allowing you to unlock new weapons, loadout items, and cosmetics, like you would in “Battlefield” or “Call of Duty.” If you’re at all familiar with the mechanics of the “Battlefield” series, you’ll feel very much at home blasting rebel scum in “Battlefront.”
However, “Battlefront” does have a significant amount of changes that set it apart as its own game. Scattered across the maps are additional power up items you can pick up and utilize, such as droids, turrets, and rocket launchers – rewarding those who take the time to explore the maps or seek alternate routes to the objective. The aforementioned loadout items are called Star Cards, which include grenades, sniper-type weapons like the Pulse Cannon, and even a jetpack. These are on a timer system as opposed to being a limited resource per life, so if you’re enough of a survivalist, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to chuck Thermal Detonators before your demise.
For primary weapons, you have your selection between blaster rifles like the stormtrooper standard, blaster pistols, and heavy blasters. They vary in power, range, and recoil in order to suit your play style, be it far back and sharpshooting with the EE-3, or getting up close and shooting first with Han Solo’s DL-44. In the same vein as the Power Cards, ammo is also unlimited, so instead of running out of bullets, your gun overheats the longer you fire and you have to let it cool off. It’s a much more laid back, streamlined approach to inventory management, which allows you to worry less about consuming resources and focus more on getting yourself out into the fray.
Vehicles feel simplified as well. One of my biggest gripes about the “Battlefield” games was that once I finally got into a jet, I could hardly keep the thing flying straight, let alone manage to get any kills in the thing. I don’t have that frustration at all in “Battlefront,” with each ship ascribing to the same models of thrusting and locking on with targeting computers before firing away. Some have complained that it is actually too simple, and I must admit that if you were coming into this game hoping for the dogfighting to be as engaging as say, “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron,” you’re going to be disappointed in the lack of complexity. I, however, appreciate how approachable the vehicles are in this game, keeping in line with the game’s overall easiness to pick up.
But of course, the piece de resistance is getting to play as Hero characters. Depending on if you’re Rebels or Imperials, you can cut soldiers down with a lightsaber as Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, blast people from afar as Han Solo or Boba Fett, or rally your troops as Princess Leia or the Emperor. Each one of them has deadly abilities and an incredibly large health bar, at the cost of their health never recharging as a normal soldier’s would. So while you may have limited time with your hero, they’re so incredibly effective, that you’ll be sure to make that time count. There’s no greater power fantasy than swishing Luke’s green lightsaber, hearing him say “May the Force be with us,” charging into the enemy base, slashing some fleeing stormtroopers, and force blasting the three brave enough to open fire on you.
It makes the game type Heroes Vs. Villains by far one of the game’s best multiplayer playlists. In teams of 6 vs. 6, three players control their faction’s heroes/villains, while the other three control regular soldiers, with the goal being to protect your Hero characters while eliminating the opposing. It lends itself to some of the more laid back, yet exciting moments in the game, like Boba Fett and Vader teaming up to crush a foolhardy Luke, or getting to be the rebel soldier that finally takes out Emperor Palpatine after he zapped away your fun being Han Solo. In addition to being the playlist that usually delivers the most experience and credits, it has multiple rounds, each one rotating who gets to be Hero characters, so you’re guaranteed a romp as one of your favorite characters at least once, compared to other playlists where such an opportunity is rare.
The quote-unquote main playlists are Supremacy and Walker Assault, the two game types that involve sprawling, 40-player, all-out warfare. They’re relatively similar in scope and available power-ups, vehicles, and Heroes, but Walker Assault seems to be the superior option. Supremacy is all about which side can capture a series of control points first, and with unevenly skilled teams is often a totally rushed and one-sided affair. Walker Assault at least is always a lengthy endeavor as the Imperials have to escort the walkers all the way from one corner of the map to the other, and the Rebels have to do a ton of work to prevent them from doing so.
If those don’t suit your fancy, there are several other playlists too. Cargo serves as a capture the flag mode, and Droid Run works as a control point game, albeit at a smaller scale and quicker pace. If you want to indulge purely in the aerial battles, you can boot up a game of Fighter Squadron. Or if you want to do nothing other than shoot people up without any funny business, good old Blast is there for you. The gametypes are well-varied, and allow for long game sessions as you play match after match of one type, switch to another playlist for variety, and repeat until you’ve realized hours flew by at hyperspace speeds and you’ve hardly noticed.
But let me now completely shift in tone – turn to the dark side, if you will. No matter how much fun the game is, “Star Wars: Battlefront” has a series of fatal flaws that seriously bring down what could have otherwise been one of the best games of the year.
My biggest complaint regards the campaign: there isn’t one. The only offerings for single player and co-op are Battles (which are just multiplayer matches but with bots), tutorial Training, and the Survival mode. Sure, Survival can be engaging on harder difficulties, but it’s nothing more than shooting waves upon waves of stormtroopers, and it gets really boring, really fast. And it would have been so easy to make a campaign mode! The Training and Survival missions already have beautifully animated cutscenes attributed to them that could have instead gone toward a series of battles from the perspective of the common soldiers. Start with some missions of Rebels stealing plans on Sullust, proceed to the invasion of Hoth, end with a climactic battle on Endor. You could have two campaigns technically, with every mission being playable from both Rebel and Imperial perspective. Hell, you could even throw in bonus missions where you play as Heroes: escaping Hoth as Leia and Han Solo, hunting dangerous bounties on Tatooine as Boba Fett, taking out Jabba’s pleasure barge as Luke… the list is endless. There was so much content available, and it feels like DICE barely scratched the surface with it. Sure, it would’ve been a retread through set pieces of the movies, but isn’t that sort of what we all wanted with this game? It just makes me sad that there’s not a whole lot here for “Star Wars” fans that don’t have the patience to deal with a lot of the online multiplayer experience.
Because trust me, there’s quite a bit with the multiplayer that can test your patience. For one thing, getting into a match at all with your friends is a confusing mess. Instead of being able to make a lobby and enter matches as a large group, one person in your party has to find a game on their own, and then everyone else has to scramble to join them before the match fills up. It leads to a lot of occurrences where everyone find games on their own instead of with one another, and considerable time lost just trying to get everyone to play game together.
Then when you actually start playing some matches, you begin to encounter a selection of frequent grievances. When you finish most games of Supremacy or Walker Assault, you’ll notice that the leaderboards largely consist of people with around 6-10 kills, and 6-10 deaths and then about two people on each team with upwards of 30 kills and less than 5 deaths, because they’re the ones who rush to the powerful Hero and vehicle tokens and hog them for almost the entire match. You’ll quickly learn that certain Star Cards completely outclass others, and thus you’ll encounter a hell of a lot of people spamming the frustrating Homing Shot missile launcher, while the Cycler Rifle is an inefficient colonial musket that nobody uses. You’ll hop into a Tie fighter only to get shot down almost instantly because they hardly stand a chance against the Rebel X-Wings’ firepower or the A-Wings’ agility. Many facets of the game are in considerable need of some balancing patches.
And the longer you play, the more the maps begin to feel stale. Because there are really only 4. You fight on either Tatooine, Hoth, Endor, or Sullust, and then depending on the size of the playlist, either the small, medium, or large variant. Technically, this means that on paper there is in fact 12 maps, but the catch is that you get to experience about 4 per game type. So you can play Walker Assault and get tired of the 4 large maps, and then switch to a smaller playlist to enjoy the same areas but in small portions. It might not be the greatest sin on its own, but considering all that there is in this game is multiplayer, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to feel repetitive.
But don’t worry, the game is going to get better in time… if you’re willing to pay an extra $50. Yes, right there in the menus, sandwiched between “Stats” and “Settings” is a whole tab titled “Season Pass.” Now, I’m not against DLC. I bought the season pass and the expansion for “Destiny” and thought nothing of it. However, those were only $40 each, and additions to a game that already had a bit of meat on its bones. The fact that “Star Wars: Battlefront” is sold for $60 (or more, if you got a deluxe edition to enjoy a scrap of DLC early), has barely any content, and then has the gall to make advertising DLC as prominent in the menus as actually playing the game is utterly appalling.
To make matters worse, when you click on the Season Pass tab to see the details, there are currently none! We don’t even know what the $50 will get us! More maps? More weapons and Heroes? More single player missions? Who knows! The message I’m getting from EA’s business model here is just a big “Fuck You.” It’s like they think that we as “Star Wars” fans are just nerds who are willing to lay down hundreds for vintage dolls, and therefore should have no problem shelling out $110 for a finished product. A foolish thought at best, and an insulting one at worst. I don’t like to bring in the business end of things in reviewing anything, but when it’s as prominent a feature as the base game itself, I feel like it can’t be ignored. It leads me to think this game is the result of one of two possibilities: either DICE and EA made a large game and chopped it up for multiple purchases to squeeze as many dollars out of it as possible, or they rushed a product out to coincide with the release of the new movie and are only now trying to piece together the rest of the game. The people running this show are either as greedy as Jabba the Hutt, or as inept as Jar-Jar Binks. Neither is a comforting thought.
“Star Wars: Battlefront” is an agonizing game to review and rate. It’s a game that I subjectively love, yet objectively hate. The lack of content coupled with shameless DLC peddling is beyond defending, and yet… I can’t deny how much fun I have actually playing “Battlefront.” Despite the annoyances in the multiplayer, it’s still exciting to shoot stormtroopers with impunity. It looks and sounds so much like the movies and leads to many memorable moments, but should that forgive how little there actually is to experience? I’m not entirely sure. I suppose at the end of the day, I’ll just have to settle with giving it only a lukewarm recommendation. If you love “Star Wars” so much that you can oversee its significant faults, then you’ll enjoy “Star Wars: Battlefront.” But if multiplayer isn’t your thing, and you’re a stickler for getting your bang for your buck, you’re better off passing on this one.