Don’t get cocky
The Star Wars Battlefront games were some of the first to turn me toward hardcore gaming, and a new installment was all I could have asked for. Concerns arose over time that the game would not hit the same standard I have come to expect from the series, instead playing as a run-of-the-mill shooter with a Star Wars coat of paint. As a Star Wars game, Battlefront hits an impressive level of detailed authenticity. As a shooter and continuation of the venerable franchise, it brings a solid experience that will leave you wishing there was more of it.
Star Wars Battlefront does not host any story-driven campaign, and while there are a small number of modes one could play on their own, it has clearly been conceptualized as a cooperative and competitive endeavor. The game takes place on four planets of the Star Wars universe: the frozen valleys of Hoth, the volcanic hills of Sullust, the barren wastelands of Tatooine, and the “forest moon” of Endor. Each setting is beautifully and richly detailed, exhibiting the studio’s genuine passion for the material. Terrain design like the tree-top rope bridges of Endor or the network of ice tunnels around Hoth are a few examples of level formatting that gives the locations interesting tactical function while staying true to the Star Wars lore.
Thirteen intriguing and meticulously structured maps sound like a more than sufficient selection, but issues result from the limit of four planets. Aside from an exception or two, maps are either one of the four large arenas set on the different planets, or a smaller area sectioned off of a bigger one. So, while the selection is quantifiably large, each of the maps for a particular planet have a very similar feel, giving the impression that there are only four true locations. The lack of a campaign doesn’t help this, as players will be spending literally all their time in these few set locations.
The game’s cooperative play is divided between three different modes, or “Missions”, and can be enjoyed solo, offline via splitscreen, or online with one other companion. The options for this partnership include fighting back waves of opposition in Survival or duking it out in Battle mode, where gamers choose to control either one of the game’s Hero/Villain characters or just a normal soldier (who can be customized to some degree), going head-to-head alongside squads of NPCs. There are also Training missions that will bring players up-to-date on some of the game’s more unique mechanics, but this generally becomes tedious after its first run through. These two-player missions have honest appeal when tackled with a friend—and any content to flush out the game is welcome—but they serve as little more than occasional distractions from what we’re really here for.
The competitive multiplayer is clearly Battlefront’s heart, with nine game types allocated across the thirteen maps according to the number of players each can host. It should also be quickly mentioned that we are about 12 hours after launch, and the servers and matchmaking seem to be working just fine.
Battlefront’s two biggest modes, Walker Assault and Supremacy, are set on the large maps of the four planets. Walker Assault was the most entertaining, as the Rebel team attempts to hold a sequence of objectives while the Imperials push through the resistance escorting powerful AT-ATs. Supremacy is second only to Walker Assault in scale, where teams fight over one of five objectives. Points cannot be captured out of ordered, and the first team to push the other past the final point claims victory. These modes both support vehicles such as speeders, snub fighters, or AT-STs depending on the map, and also unleash the game’s powerful Hero/Villain characters: Luke, Leia, and Han for the Rebels, and Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and the Emperor on the imperial side. The epic scale of combat in these two matches gives Battlefront some of the old series’ flare.
The other gameplay types like Blast, Droid Run, and Drop Zone are more standard in their objectives, designed as variants of common objectives like Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Capture the Flag respectively. These options vary on player count, but their restrictions on map size do not allow for Heroes or vehicles. Again, this gives a repetitious impression considering they are all fundamentally focused around capturing a specific number of objectives that may or may not move when captured.
Slightly more interesting are the Hero Hunt and Heroes vs. Villains modes that make full use of the franchise’s aforementioned iconic figures. Hero Hunt involves one player being selected as the Hero, while the other seven infantry competitors try to take them down. The last infantry to deal damage to the defeated Hero is rewarded the next role. Heroes vs. Villains is a little more evenly matched but also more complex. Two teams host three heroes/villains and three supporting infantry as they duel to eliminate the other side. The iconic characters do not respawn, but infantry do, and the first team to win the majority of the rounds takes victory.
Finally, there is Fighter Squadron, and fans of dog-fighting will find their calling in this mode more than any other. Imperials and rebels select either a bomber or a fighter and then battle it out across the skies. Hero/villain ships, specifically The Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave I, can also be utilized to turn the tide of the battle. These missions are a mildly entertaining respite from normal ground combat, but the four different aerial maps come with little identity when the sky looks arguably the same regardless of where you are—and it’s ultimately more rewarding to fly in other modes where there are ground targets to pick on.
Though the game may be starving for content, what is present is polished to a shine. The core gameplay of gun combat, capturing objectives, and blowing stuff up is the best thing Battlefront has to offer. Good thing, too, considering that makes up close to all the game offers. There are 11 different blaster weapons that vary in situational effectiveness, but their unique functionality deserves special mention. Unlike contemporary shooters where bullets execute virtually instantaneous damage, blaster shots stay true to the movies through aggressively extended air time. While other games (including those in developer DICE’s back-catalog) have you predict enemy movements only when sniping, Battlefront necessitates shot adjustment for enemies even just feet away. It is certainly not a bad thing—and gives the game a respectable identity—but the mechanic could take veteran shooter fans quite a while to synchronize with.
Continuing with its design individuality, weapons do not have to be reloaded. Instead of running out of ammo, standard weapons will overheat if fired continuously, leaving the player vulnerable while they cool off. Different blasters will overheat at different rates, and this function can cause some weapons to feel objectively superior to others. Once one finds a weapon that fits them, however, the originality of the gunplay is a refreshing change from the status quo. This can be experienced in both first- and third-person perspectives via a simple button press, and they are equally effective with minor benefits provided to each option where first-person may provide a more focused perspective, but third-person can help you see around corners.
A player’s equipment loadout is set up through the game’s Star Card system. Cards are unlocked by ranking up and then purchasing them via in-game currency, and up to three cards are held in a “hand”—two on either side as equipment slots and a middle card, or Charged Star Card, hosting the player’s ability. Equipment can range from sniper rifles, anti-vehicle rockets, various grenades, jet packs and more, while Charged Star Cards bestow abilities such as explosive shots, better accuracy, faster weapon cool-down, and so on. When activated, these skills only last a limited amount of time, and a player can only use them a set number of instances in total. If one runs out of these Cards, they must collect more around the map or purchase them with the in-game currency.
The system may not be revolutionary in a practical sense, but the equipment and abilities add an interesting dynamic to the minute-to-minute skirmishes. Your card loadout can also be shared with your partner, who can be spawned on to speed up your reentry into the fight. The first few matches of any multiplayer can often be intimidating, but acquisitioning a partner’s superior set-up could shift the odds in one’s favor.
When your card hand isn’t getting the work done, randomized power-ups may do the trick. Scattered around each map are small floating icons that can be picked up, granting some serious equipment like massive thermal imploder grenades, automated turrets, target-seeking rockets launchers, airstrikes, and other perks to provide a notable edge in battle. Hero characters and pilotable vehicles are also acquired through their own tokens, putting the game’s more specialized features on an even playing field.
The aforementioned Heroes/Villains may be last mentioned in this extensive Battlefront breakdown but they are certainly not least. All characters have three special abilities, like Luke’s force push or Boba Fett’s flamethrower, along with extended yet non-regenerating health to limit their time in the battle. These icons are powerful and fun to experiment, but there is a unfortunate unbalance between them—most egregious of which is Boba’s ability to jetpack up to an unclimbable position and snipe continuously.
Star Wars Battlefront is a beautiful looking and uniquely entertaining shooter brought down by just not bringing enough to the table. Apart from several balancing issues, there is genuine fun to be found in the moment to moment gameplay, if only there was more of it. This is the right direction, we just need a few more confident steps.
|Developer: EA DICE • Publisher: Electronic Arts • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 11.17.15|
The Star Wars Battlefront name is holding strong, but if this is set to reboot the franchise, they could have packed a little more meat on its bones.
|The Good||Blasters will make you rethink how you play shooters, in a good way.|
|The Bad||The high price tags of modern games can make this a tricky buy with its insufficient amount of content.|
|The Ugly||Jar-Jar…psych! He’s not actually in the game, spoiler alert…or is he?|
|Star Wars Battlefront is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Electronic Arts for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|