Star Wars Battlefront is at times a Schrodinger’s cat of games, neither a Battlefront nor Battlefield, while simultaneously being somewhat both. With incredible visuals, music, and the help of some painstaking attention to detail the game feels as it is one of the best realized Star Wars games in recent memory. At the same time however it weird changes to formulas and a late game sense of want make Battlefront a great game that just needs more to it.
Where everybody knows your name
Star Wars Battlefront is the effort of EA and DICE bringing their know how on large scale conflict to one of the most memorable and well-regarded shooter franchises of the PlayStation 2 era. This is not however a direct sequel to either of the previous games, and that should be noted for those expecting the same experience this time around, as it is a decidedly different take on the conflicts within a galaxy far far away.
Immediately noticeable across all versions of Battlefront is the incredible visual fidelity held within. The forest moon of Endor, ice planet Hoth, and deserts of Tatooine have never been so fully realized, with so much detail. The thicket of the jungle on Endor is especially impressive, with differing foliage, trees that bend and crack when broken, and a density of said foliage that allows players to run within mere meters of each other compeltely undetected. Jumping into these worlds is immediately engrossing, as snow speeders dart across the sky, AT-ST walkers shake the ground beneath them, and blasters dot the sky on their way to infinity. It’s truly a sight to behold from a high level, as well as right down in the action.
Utilizing their affection for sound and incredible attention to detail, DICE has also been able to incorporate true-to-universe sounds for most everything in the game. Although it’s almost a must for a star wars game to integrate the stalwart and familiar sounds of the films, it has to go appreciated that new devices like the thermal imploder have incredibly cool, deep, and unique sounds all their own. This paired with the quintessential work of John Williams soundtracks does wonders to make the player truly feel part of the epic struggles put forth on each map.
No match for a blaster at your side
Moment to moment gameplay in Battlefront won’t be foreign to either camp from Battlefront or Battlefield, as the bottom line will be to aim gun and fire. Beyond that however the game starts to make its unique stamp on the shooter space with mechanics like the lack of a true clip, instead opting for an overheating mechanism that can be avoided by pulsing on the trigger, or practicing the good old Gears of War style active reload.
Players have control over their choice of blaster, each somewhat unique and familiar to movie fans that might recall “oh that’s like Boba Fett’s gun” or see the description that reads “standard issue empire rifle”. The weapons vary a bit in their accuracy, damage, fire rate, and range, with each offering certain bonuses and catering to differing play styles.
From there players also get to customize their “hand”, a collection of three cards that contain items varying from powerful sniper rifles and grenades, to powerups boosting accuracy or damage against vehicles. Hands come into the tactical mix in that the savvy player might have an anti-vehicle hand, as well as a standard assault hand. One having ion torpedoes and vehicle damage boosts, while the latter maybe taking two grenades and a focus fire upgrade. All of these options are swappable in a menu, however the frustrating part is that these don’t appear to be able to be swapped during a match. Players can edit and change them between matches, as the screen before starting is by far one of the most informative and helpful in a DICE game yet, allowing players to change the card, their appearance (multitudes of haircuts and even new races are available at certain levels), as well as peek at the challenges they’re working towards for more valuable credits.
Credits make the world of Battlefront go round, as they unlock visuals like new haircuts, faces, and emotes, as well as once the appropriate level is reached to unlock a weapon, they’ll cost credits. Credits are earned in a fashion not unlike XP in games past, where score is calculated and objective points gained by playing the game mode correctly, and your final score is converted to credits to spend. These credits are only earned in game, and never through microtransactions (although it does seem if there were to be transactions introduced this would be the spot, it’d be a bad move all around due to the fact that players could just buy all the guns they wanted).
In my experience, Captain Solo, there’s no such thing as mere luck.
A major draw of the screenshots, promotional materials, and potential for swings in battle come from the existence of heroes. Heroes come in the form of pickups on the battlefield, which can be a bit of a crapshoot if you’re going to get, but when you call in the pickup your character kneels while a choice of three options are brought up. Heroes get Luke, Han, or Leia while the villains are Boba Fett, Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. Heroes can be a fearful sight on the battlefield, as seeing Luke summersault around, not knowing if he sees you is terrifying, but you know for certain if you start pelting him with lasers he probably won’t take it well. Heroes have quite a bit of life, but certainly aren’t invincible, as focused fire on them can take them down very quickly. A skilled hero player will be able to manage the abilities at their disposal, as they all make sense for the character. Boba Fett has his flamethrower and rocket, Vader and Luke use their sabers with expert skill, and the emperor uses his lightning abilities just as done in Return of the Jedi. Heroes mix up the moment to moment, and demand the attention of all close combatants, making the flow of battle a bit choppier and interesting.
Battlefield pickups like turrets, droids, and card refreshes are sprinkled throughout the map and need to be used strategically. Too many times the I got flashbacks to Battlefield games past where players would do things that didn’t actively help the team, and in Battlefront not only does your team need to play the objective, but also use the turrets and placements tactically. Placing a droid or turret to create a bottleneck or in a position as to suppress the enemy is tantamount to victory, but unfortunately most players just plop them down first without thinking of the placement.
I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit. – Han
Chances are you might’ve read any smattering of other reviews for Battlefront and they largely say the same thing; the game dries up after a while, and feels lacking in the content division. I wish I could report that I feel differently but for my time in the game I hit the wall that seems to happen sooner in some Battlefield and Call of Duty games than others. This wall is easily summed up as “why am I doing what I’m doing?” and the answer in Battlefront after a while simply becomes for more faces, races, dances, and maybe a few new guns. After a bit, the chase becomes less important to the player and the fact that there are only 4 planets in the game really starts to weigh on the repetition. The environments are beautiful, sure, but once you’ve played 30 or so matches in a few game modes, you stop finding new things and start seeing the similarities or utilizing the same strategies. With the Battle of Jakku DLC coming, it might help things, but it can’t be assumed that one more addition will really shake up games that much.
The season pass is rumored to include 4 new heroes, 20 new pieces of “tech”, and 16 maps over 4 expansion packs, which might serve to bring some more variety and change to the game, but for a grand total of $110 invested at that point, players have to hope that’s the case. Those 16 maps also aren’t detailed. It remains to be seen if they’re like the current builds, with one giant map that serves the larger modes in Supremacy and Walker Assault, broken out to smaller areas for the deathmatch, capture the flag, and other smaller modes. Judging from the product available on shelves now however, the game just feels like the maps done were very well so, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that 2 more wouldn’t have made the variation better.
This isn’t to say there is no variation in Battlefront as there’s a veritable buffet of modes to play, with Supremacy and Walker Assault being the big team stars. Supremacy is the Star Wars equal of Conquest from Battlefield past, while Walker Assault is more like some classic rush. Walker Assault is just as it sounds with two sides going at it, the empire escorting their walkers along toward the final target on the map, hoping to keep the walkers alive the whole way and stop the rebels from activating beacons which call in bombing runs. Once a bombing run is completed the walkers become vulnerable to attack from the ground and air vehicles, then a new set of beacons pops up further back in the map for the rebels to activate and defend while the empire attempts to overrun them. The mode is fun, frantic, and has a lot going on, just like the best of Battlefield.
In addition to these modes there’s clever names for the typical death match, capture the flag, king of the hill and more. In addition to competitive multiplayer, DICE and EA have opted for a cooperative and single player experience that’s a bit odd, if not unique. Single player consists of training to learn the ropes of flying an X-Wing, fighting as a hero, and using the speeder bikes on Endor. Also available is the survival mode, and missions that essentially fill a map with AI combatants. The co-op is fun enough for wave-based survival, and while it doesn’t mix things up terribly, it also doesn’t feel absolutely tacked on (just mostly). These single and cooperative modes serve as ways to earn more credits through challenges, and yet another change of pace, but it drums up wonderings of what kind of story might have been told here, or if Galactic Conquest mode could’ve been input in lieu of another mode instead, and told new stories of the Empire falling, or rising to greater heights.
Puzzling however is the inability for squad spawning, as the new partner system allows you to spawn on one other individual instead of in the typical spawn points. In games past from DICE there has been a squad of 2-5 that players could use as spawn points, but this go-around if you’re not with a partner, you’re stuck spawning in the back of the action, negating any momentum you might’ve gained regardless of being with a partner or not. Also puzzling is the detail that vehicles like the snow speeder are single occupancy, meaning that you’re the pilot and tow cable operator. While this makes sense in the X-Wing and Tie Fighters, and one could argue the AT-ST as well, it removes some of the most fun elements of Battlefield and Battlefront games past, picking up a squad of soldiers to drop behind enemy lines, or get shot down in the process.
+ Beautiful Visuals
+ Attention to Detail
+ Incredible and true-to-source audio
– 4 Planets at launch causes map repetition entirely too quickly
– Lack of drive after a few hours leaves the player wanting
– Squad options and spawning are lacking
– No motivation for coordinated attacks or opportunity to jump in vehicles together
The Bottom Line
Star Wars Battlefront paints an incredible digital picture of the Star Wars universe. With authentic visuals and sounds, the most details and beautiful realization of the universe ever, and familiar settings and sound that pull the player in to their childhood fantasies, it does a lot right. The inability to squad up, motivation drying up after a few hours, and no true cooperation rewards barring the cooperative game modes, the game feels like some serious decisions were made in the wrong direction. Battlefront should be about playing and coordinating with others for galactic supremacy, but comes off feeling more like a big deathmatch that while still pretty, doesn’t string the player along and motivate return.