Star Wars: Battlefront
The Death Star hangs ominously over a war erupting on the forest moon of Endor. A cacophony of laser fire lights up the darkened tree canopy, drowned out by the clanking of an Imperial AT-ST on the march. The walker is clearing a path to a hidden Rebel base deep within the forest. If this stronghold falls, the war is over. The Rebels are outgunned and seconds away from defeat when Luke Skywalker’s iconic green lightsaber ignites and he springs to action. Luke bats away Stormtroopers like flies, chops down the AT-ST, and the Rebels suddenly have momentum again. The tide of war has shifted to their advantage.
Almost every conflict in Star Wars Battlefront unfolds with this level of intensity and drama – moments that often parallel the excitement from George Lucas’ original trilogy of Star Wars films. From the large scale of the battles to the spot-on animation of the AT-STs, DICE has created the most authentic Star Wars video game experience to date.
The thrill of piloting an X-Wing fighter or soaring through the air as Boba Fett doesn’t last forever, however. Once the magic of stepping into the movies wears off, Star Wars Battlefront doesn’t give the player much to fight for. For developer DICE, the seasoned studio behind the long-running Battlefield series, Star Wars Battlefront is surprisingly light on maps, weapons, and progression systems. The feeling of extreme repetition sinks in early, and outside of enjoying the minute-to-minute Star Wars warfare, hardly any of the unlockables deliver a compelling reason to invest more time. You’re just hopping from match to match, recycling the same tactics and seizing the same points.
Designed primarily as a multiplayer shooter, Star Wars Battlefront offers nine modes, ranging from large-scale 40-player wars to intimate 8-player firefights. Each avenue of play unfolds in four maps set across four locations: Hoth, Endor, Tatooine, and the lesser-known Sullust. The best parts of the experience are contained in just two modes: Supremacy, a war over of territorial control, and Walker Assault, a match of attack and defend featuring enormous and heavily armored AT-ATs. The other modes don’t capture the epic scale of war; they are primarily palate-cleansers, yet fun in the smaller challenges they bring.
The ebb and flow of war is handled well, but the spawn points need some work. I was periodically placed directly in front of enemies, leading to a desperate exchange of fire. Additionally, without any form of map tracking, getting your bearings after death is more trouble than it should be.
All of the maps are well designed, allotting wide-open terrain for vehicles to take to the skies, and plenty of enclosed spaces for heated firefights to erupt. Plus, all of your time on the battlefield is rewarding. Running and gunning with a standard Imperial blaster is surprisingly satisfying, while dogfighting in an X-Wing demands skill and precision. The best parts are the rare occasions when you get to control a hero or villain like Han Solo or Darth Vader. These characters are difficult to take down, and can rack up kills quickly. All of these different gameplay avenues control admirably, and are sewn seamlessly into the conflicts.
Some of my top moments of the year are from Battlefront’s multiplayer. Knocking Boba Fett out of the sky with a prayer of a rocket blast, racking up over 30 kills from the cockpit of an AT-AT, and just watching green and red laser fire rip across the battlefield are just a few of the “wow” moments I encountered. Almost every match brings some kind of crazy event or gawk-worthy visual.
As fun as these moments are, they aren’t enough to provide a sense of progression over extended play. For example, my favorite weapon is the Imperial blaster that you get at the outset. The other weapon unlocks (of which there are only 16) aren’t as satisfying to wield, and the ones that pack a punch are limited since they must cool down between uses. The character-specific unlocks are laughably bad; who wants to be a stormtrooper without a helmet? The jump pack, a back-mounted thruster, is the only unlock that changed my play style and payload for specific maps.
All across the board, DICE favors simplicity, making Battlefront more of a casual experience than the meaty, class-driven competitive shooter the developer is known for. This approach isn’t necessarily wrong, since it allows everyone to jump in and enjoy great Star Wars battles, but the lack of variety limited the time I wanted to spend in my favorite universe.
By no means should Battlefront be considered for its single-player or cooperative play. Both avenues are supported with bare-bones survival and battle modes – neither of which comes close to replicating the large-scale conflicts of the multiplayer component and end up having awkward lulls in the action.
DICE succeeded in creating a Star Wars experience I always wanted to be a part of, but it didn’t hold my interest as a gamer long. It’s a game I plan to revisit often, but not for extended periods of time. Forthcoming DLC could certainly change this approach, but for the time being, the thrills out of the box are extremely limited.
|The Season Pass|
|Star Wars Battlefront is light on content out of the gate, but a season pass promises to reinforce the number of maps, characters, and gear that players can dive into as the DLC rolls out at unspecified dates in the future. The season pass more than doubles the number of maps offered (from 12 to 28), and adds four new heroes, along with a wealth of much needed gear. Given the sparse content available at launch, I can’t help but feel a little cheated by this approach.|
DICE accurately captures the look of George Lucas' films, but doesn't offer enough content to support it.