*A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher ahead of the game’s release.*
Star Wars Battlefront was a beloved game two console generations ago. The successful film franchise had previously been the fore-front of some quality games (KOTOR especially) but Battlefront had a true cult following unlike the others. Not only were the games large in size, diverse in worlds but had nearly endless replay-ability. However, changing studio hands and an uncooperative LucasArts, Battlefront III went undeveloped and lost forever (game play still can be found on YouTube). Electronic Arts went out of their way to buy up the Battlefront rights with the intent of pushing the game out before the massively anticipated, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. DICE, EA’s in-house development team was put to the challenge.
Star Wars Battlefront will fool most on-goers almost immediately. Battlefront looks like Star Wars. This is in thanks to DICE’s work with Disney/LucasFilms to grab a hold of original designs used for film model construction. So, that X-Wing you see? That was the X-Wing design hand crafted for the movies. The same with all the vehicles and weaponry. Not only that but the sounds, wow, the sounds. This is ripped right from the LucasFilm’s database. Blasters ignite with sparks, shattering your speakers with the familiar sounds of the universe. AT-AT’s plummet the snow as their cannons fire with immense, Earth shattering sound. DICE set out to make this game as authentic as possible and for the most they achieved it.
However, we come to the remaining of the game. First off, actual infantry combat is solid. This is not ground breaking by any means but neither was the previous iterations. Infantry combat is as run as gun as it gets, with blasters going from pistols, heavy blasters and standard issue rifles. They, much like their Battlefield counterparts, have certain trade offs that you, the gamer, need to decide you want. For the most part, it works. Storm troopers spark when they get hit and explosions are a thing of absolute beauty. However, the sniping in the game is not very rewarding. For something that can devastate an opposing player in one hit, it feels oddly unsettling killing a rebel with zero blow back.
Infantry combat is designed around an earning system, combining Halo 5’s requisition system with the familiar strokes of Battlefield and Call of Duty. Designing a Rebel or an Imperial after your play style is nice but no where as accommodating as the different classes. Each time you increase a level, you have different unlocks, such as grenades, different blasters or even a surprising amount of player skins. It was a nice surprise to see different species being featured here (although you require a rather high unlock for those).
Heroes can add a notch to the infantry. However, unlike the previous games were players had an assortment to choose from, here you get three per side. Unfortunately, they grow pretty stale and in the same fight you will see multiple Luke Skywalkers or Darth Vaders. It makes the game feel a bit limitless. The Heroes, particularly Darth Vader, have atrocious voice actors. Not once does his dialogue ever come close to anything Vader would say, nor would sound like.
DICE gives you twelve game modes here. About half of these game modes are not entertaining or repetitive. The stand out of these modes has to Supremacy. Supremacy acts as a conquest, where two teams duke it out for controlling points in the map. It feels like Walker Assault without the AT-ATs but here it is far more effective. Walker Assault gets bogged down, without controlled movement from the Walkers, the match feels quite restricted. Ironically enough, EA touted Walker Assault as the end all be all, but it has one of the least likable set-ups in the game. Heck, even Fighter Squadron is far more enjoyable. Fighter Squadron is an all out air to air dogfight. Which surprisingly, the air to air combat works far better here than any of the other modes. Controls feel tight and allow for some quick maneuvering around mountains and quirky valleys.
Electronic Arts didn’t hide from anybody the quantity they were giving here. Four planets would be featured, with one of them, Sollust, being created especially for this game. It is odd, in a universe as big as Star Wars, does anybody need to create more planets? Especially when so many planets are being left out. The maps are quite different, from Endor’s forest terrain that features multiple pathways and Hoth’s barren trenches. However, despite their differences, these maps feel pretty gated off. Battlefield always felt quite large, adding not only a city size scope to most of its maps but verticality. For the most part, this is not the case here with Battlefront. The maps play like a big rectangle, each with a choke point that more than 75% of the combat happens.
Out of these planets, it is hard to pin-point one that feels better than the other. Sollust is refreshing, thanks in part to its new design. Hoth, unfortunately, is one that is quite a bore. Visually it lacks the appeal the others have and has majority of the unbalancing issues. Endor’s design is by far the best of the four planet with plenty of places to flank, snipe and design your own personal attack.
As for the intent of Battlefront, nobody can look past the fact that this game is being rushed out for The Force Awakens. As a business decision, sure, it makes a lot of sense as this game will be drummed up in thanks to the movies immense hype. As a consumer, especially a company selling to consumers, it feels dodgy. Heck, you don’t even have to play the game before getting hit up with Battlefront’s $50 dollar season pass, even showing you the expansions you will be missing out on. Isn’t that a big crass? You, the consumer, just spent $60 dollars and now are being asked to fork over nearly the same amount for more content. Why? Why not feature that in the game already? Because people will buy it, for Star Wars sake.
Star Wars Battlefront is not a catastrophe, but that doesn’t save it from being questioned. When you have a company with nearly endless resources like Electronic Arts, you expect a game with both quantity and quality, a level of immersion that should be expected for a universe this gigantic. Battles should be dense, with plenty to do and honestly, there isn’t much that will last gamers here. Sure, the games intent was to apply to the masses (insert dollar signs) but in doing that, a lot of the sacred Battlefront heritage was lost. That all being said, Battlefront will win people over with its authentic designs. Battles, at times, will reach moments of chaos that illicit true joy but all too often they are lost in the scuttle of weak map designs and unbalanced spawns. By no means is DICE’s attempt here a failure but this is far from the game both Star Wars fans and Battlefront fans deserve. This is a rent at best.