Star Wars Battlefront Review: A Disturbance in the Force...
Star Wars Battlefront will be a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Those that think they remember the original Battlefront games will probably be disappointed. Those that actually remember the original Battlefront games will probably be delighted. Those hoping for a Star Wars flavoured Battlefield will be enraged, and those that just want to immerse themselves in the Star Wars universe will have the time of their lives.
For all intents and purposes, Star Wars Battlefront is a reboot of 2004’s title of the same name, and both of these games serve one purpose: pure, unadulterated Star Wars fan service. There is no story or through line to the Battlefront series, it is simply a collection of game modes set in the Star Wars universe with a focus on infantry and vehicular combat. These game modes are often set during the epic battles featured in the Star Wars films and are designed to give a sense of immersion within the Star Wars universe.
In this respect, Star Wars Battlefront does it’s job with gusto. This is the most immersive Star Wars experience to date, thanks to the fantastic visuals, sound design and dedication to representing the Star Wars universe. However, in terms of gameplay, Star Wars Battlefront leaves a lot to be desired.
The best way to describe the gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront would be to say that it is Battlefield-lite. On the surface it shares a number of similarities with its fellow DICE product, yet after a short period of play time you realise the two are distinctly different games serving two different purposes. Both games are very competent first-person shooters with fun vehicular combat set against grand backdrops. The key difference however, is that Battlefield has a deep interconnecting network of gameplay systems and Star Wars Battlefront does not.
The mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront are shallow in almost every aspect. Movement, combat, vehicular capabilities, meta-game progression, customisation, team-work opportunities, strategic options – it all feels very limited relative to the other offerings available in the modern online multiplayer landscape.
As infantry (where you’ll be spending the majority of your time), the main reason for this restrictive feeling is that your baseline loadout is severely limited and is intended to be bolstered by equipping abilities using three available slots. The only thing you are given from the outset is a rifle and the ability to sprint, crouch, jump and melee. This means that everything else must be assigned to one of the previously mentioned slots, including grenades, movement abilities, secondary weapons and special ammunition. The plus side of this, is that you could equip three different explosives if you wanted to or equip a number of long-range weapons - leading to some interesting variance in play style amongst the user base. The much more pressing down side of this, is that you constantly feel as though your combat potential is limited, which leads to constant feeling of longing for a different loadout in specific combat situations.
This feeling of shallow combat potential extends to the vehicular combat too. The few vehicles that are in the game all have a maximum of three abilities that operate on cooldowns. These abilities range from missiles to overshields to speed boosts and are not only rather unexciting, but offer very little in the way of unique gameplay opportunities.
These limited gameplay mechanics are only highlighted because the core gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront is actually very fun. The game features nine different game modes that vary in scope, objectives and player count. Standard online multiplayer game modes such as ‘capture the flag’ and ‘team deathmatch’ are present alongside a number of modes that offer some variation on the standard rules. There are also a few unique game modes that have been introduced which really show off the potential of Star Wars Battlefront.
Heroes vs. Villains is a small-scale infantry battle between the rebels and the Empire, where three of those infantry on each team are Hero characters. The rebels have Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, whilst the Empire has Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Bobba Fett. Each round a player is selected to play as one of the heroes for their team and the game ends when one team eliminates all the heroes on the opposing team. Each Hero has three special abilities tied to cooldowns and all the heroes are rather enjoyable to play with and against. It’s a silly, fan-service game mode that is actually a good deal of fun, despite the hero models looking astoundingly ridiculous.
Another unique game mode is Walker Assault; a large-scale, 40 player fray that recreates the famous Battle of Hoth from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (and other similar scenarios), where the rebels are defending their base against an onslaught of Empire forces. The sheer scale of the battle is absolutely phenomenal and playing as rebel infantry fighting off attacking Empire forces, as the huge, lumbering AT-AT’s loom ever closer in the background is just awesome. There are also plenty of vehicles, turrets and power-ups on the battlefield that give the game mode a healthy dose of chaos.
Completing matches, challenges and levelling up rewards Credits which can be used to purchase loadout cards (yes, they are cards for no good reason), new weapons and aesthetic character customisation options. There are a decent number of different weapons on offer, yet the only real noticeable difference between them is the clip size (there are no bullets, only overheating limits) and recoil. Customisation options are limited to selecting different faces for your character and equipping different emotes. There is a huge number of different faces on offer, however the majority of them are absurdly normal-looking and only a few alien faces are available for the rebels at higher levels. The customisation options are ridiculously disappointing, as It’s hard to get excited about spending my hard-earned Credits on ‘Asian man with Goatee’ face for my Stormtrooper or a dumb ‘bow’ emote.
Star Wars Battlefront is a predominantly online multiplayer experience, however there is a small amount of content that can be played offline in both single and multiplayer settings. The Training Mode offers a variety of unique missions that are less tutorial and more independent campaign-style mission. The first mission takes place on Tattooine and has you piloting an X-Wing on a scouting mission that is ambushed by Tie-fighters. The mission is designed to teach the game’s flying mechanics and offers a number of side objectives that can be completed for extra Credits, such as ‘complete the mission in under 5 minutes’ or ‘complete the mission without using missiles’. Completing these objectives is challenging and the scenarios themselves are rather well-produced and a great deal of fun. Unfortunately there are only about 6 different training missions on offer and once all the objectives are completed, there isn’t much replay value here.
The game also features some offline deathmatch battles and Horde Mode game types that can be played solo or cooperatively, but there isn’t much substance to these game modes and playing through them gets dull quickly. However they also feature a number of challenges that can be completed for Credits, so they might be worth going through for the easy Credit gains.
The best thing that Star Wars Battlefront has going for it, is its commitment to the Star Wars aesthetic. The game not only looks and sounds fantastic, but everything about the game’s aesthetic design is in service of creating an immersive Star Wars experience – and the developers absolutely nail it.
Star Wars Battlefront is easily one of the best-looking console games this year from a technical standpoint. Textures are crisp and well-crafted. Environments are lush and dense with detail. The lighting is stunning and the particle effects are Hollywood-level spectacular. Not to mention the abundance of familiar Star Wars references and details that are crammed into every level. All of these details go into really selling you on the Star Wars experience. The forest moon of Endor, looks like it does in the movies. The way Tie-fighters take a hit, spin out of control and explode on the ground in a flash of fireworks is fantastic every single time it happens, because it happens just like it does in the movies. As a Star Wars fan, there’s no other experience that makes you feel quite as present in the Star Wars universe as this game.
This immersive experience is further enhanced by the incredible sound design. Everything sounds the way it should, whether it’s the variety in laser sounds from the different weapons, or the muffled, high-pitched roar of a tie-fighter as you chase down an enemy from the cock-pit view. The heavy use of classic Star Wars orchestrated music while you’re in the midst of battle also gives the action a real sense of grandeur.
The original Battlefront games are so fondly remembered nowadays because they were incredibly impressive for their time. The prospect of not only being able to participate in your favorite scenes from the Star Wars fiction, but to also be in control of those moments was hugely enticing. However, most people don’t remember just how clunky those games were and how shallow the combat was. In this respect, it’s clear how this reboot of Star Wars Battlefront ended up the way it did. DICE has gone to great lengths to modernise this classic Star Wars Battlefront philosophy for an audience in 2015, but they haven’t quite gone far enough.
Star Wars Battlefront looks, sounds and plays like a great 2015 title, but it has the gameplay depth and complexity of its 2004 predecessor. The limited combat potential, the uninteresting meta-progression and the small (though, quite capable) pool of game modes means there is very little here to keep you invested for long. Which is a shame, because the game’s aesthetic is downright incredible. Nothing has ever made me feel like a part of the Star Wars universe quite like Star Wars Battlefront did. I could happily spend many more hours running around the familiar Star Wars locales, shooting laser beams and crashing X-wings, I just wish there was more to the gameplay to go along with it.
Final Say: Skip It