Booting up Star Wars Battlefront for the first time was a truly special moment. Familiar logos adorn the screen, while John Williams’ timeless music begins to play, and it finally dawned on me that the day has come. It’s been a long wait to see the Star Wars franchise return to full form, and while the upcoming The Force Awakens is a few months out, Battlefront serves as an excellent distraction until the big day arrives. Granted, I’d be doing a disservice to Battlefront and developer DICE by dismissing their newest title as another cog in the giant marketing machine that is the Star Wars franchise. In fact, Star Wars Battlefront is one of the most thrilling shooters I’ve played in recent memory.
Without a doubt, Star Wars Battlefront is the most polished game that DICE has put out. Menus are cleanly laid out, there’s minimal loading times and hitches, and unlike previous games of this generation, Battlefront rocks a very solid 60 frames per second, with few drops throughout. What’s better is the attention to detail when it comes to treating the Star Wars franchise with care.
DICE has lovingly recreated many of the sights and sounds from the original trilogy, with a fantastic lighting system that really brings each world to life. Whether you’re running around on the forests of Endor or piloting an X-Wing above the snowy tundras of Hoth, it’s hard not to be thoroughly impressed with the level of detail and attention paid to the game as a whole. DICE’s stunning audio design might just be the be the most realized part, with blaster fire and explosions littering the battlefield. If you’ve played any of their entries in the Battlefield franchise, you know just what to expect.
However, if you’ve come into Battlefront expecting a Battlefield experience with some Star Wars window dressing, you’ll most likely walk away disappointed. Star Wars Battlefront takes a much more laid-back approach to the world of online shooters, though that doesn’t mean it’s a slouch by any means.
Battlefront eschews a class system for a simple loadouts, which consists of a lone weapon and a few powerups. While there are a few different types of gun types, from up close and personal ‘shotguns’ to long-range rifles, Battlefront puts a strong emphasis on mid-range gunplay, meaning assault style rifles and automatic pistols reign supreme most of the time.
Of course, there are no traditional guns here; all of the core weapons are laser blasters of some form. Rather than having to deal with ammo and reloads, you’ll have to manage your gun to prevent it from overheating. Shooting too frequently will necessitate a small cool-down period, which can be shortened by successfully completing an ‘active reload’ quick time event.
If anything, Battlefront puts less of an emphasis on varying gun types and styles, meaning newer players won’t have to grind to rank up and unlock more powerful weapons. If that’s your sort of thing, you might walk away a little disappointed, as the overall progression system is pretty slow, with less of a focus being placed on unlocking new gear and more on, you know, actually playing the game.
As someone who grew up on games like GoldenEye 007 and the original Halo: Combat Evolved, I for one am a fan of this gameplay-focused direction. Still, there are items to unlock, with most of my focus being directed to side gear and gadgets. You can equip up to three gadgets at once, ranging from deployable shields to different explosives, and there’s even a few powerful guns, with all of these being tied to either cooldowns or limited uses, which can be replenished by picking up special collectibles on the battlefield.
The different loadouts at your disposal allow for some degree of strategy, though things have been pared back from DICE’s other titles. Four man squads are gone, instead being replaced with a partner system. Rather than being able to spawn on a set location or on one of your squadmates, you now only have the option to spawn at a default location, or on your partner, if he/she is still alive and well. You can also choose to equip yourself with your partner’s loadout, which offers a great way of trying new weapons and gaining access to items you might not have yet unlocked.
Unfortunately, that marks the end of most of the tactical elements. Gone are the support roles; with regenerating health and vehicles not being able to be repaired, the medic and engineer roles have been left in the dust, and with unlimited weapon ammo and gadgets being tied to cooldown periods, there’s no need to seek out a support class for additional ammo. You can’t even spawn into vehicles, with that luxury now being relegated to finding the correct collectible strewn throughout the map. In-game voice chat is also mysteriously gone, though you can remedy this omission through your respective console’s party system.
At this point, you might be worried about Battlefront’s prospect. And honestly, I’d have to say that if my recount of how the game handles and plays sounds a little too shallow for you, that’s because it probably is. At its core, Battlefront has been designed with the masses in mind, though that doesn’t mean there’s no fun to be had. Battlefront shines when it allows you to relive the best moments from the film series, or better yet, when it lets loose and allows you to create your own.
Walker Assault stands as one of the game’s flagship modes, tasking the rebels with taking down oncoming AT-AT’s by holding down key points, and calling in air support at critical moments. This was my favorite mode to play in the game’s beta, and it’s just as much fun in the final retail release, with some important changes to balancing being included. While it can be disheartening to have some teammates run around all while ignoring key objectives, things really come together during the last moments of each round, when the tides can be turned in a single moment. To date, I’ve managed to take down a few AT-ATs with some well-placed tow cables, and pulling these off have been some of the most exciting moments in recent memory.
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If you’re interested in something more akin to Battlefield’s signature Conquest mode, Supremacy does an admirable job of recreating that experience, with a stronger emphasis on air vehicles compared to other modes. Hero Hunt and Heroes vs. Villains allow you to take control of one of six key characters from the films, and it’s thrilling to take control of Luke Skywalker or Boba Fett.
Hero Hunt is the less enjoyable of the two, as it constantly pits one hero against seven adversaries, who are all trying to land the final blow in order to become the next hero. It doesn’t hold up as well compared to Heroes vs. Villains, which rotates out players on a more consistent basis, giving everyone a chance to play as a hero or villain. Blast and Cargo modes are simple team deathmatch and capture the flag modes, while Drop Zone and Droid Run focus on controlling key points, not unlike King of the Hill and Domination modes from other series. Lastly, there’s Fighter Squadron, which lets you take to the skies and dog it out with the series’ more memorable ships, including the Millennium Falcon.
Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a more traditional single-player campaign, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Rather than a more structured narrative, Battlefront offers up a few standalone missions instead. A few tutorials introduce you to controlling a lightsaber and piloting a few vehicles, while ‘Battles’ pit you against an onslaught of AI-controlled enemies in an effort to rack up more points first. ‘Survival’ is Battlefront’s take on wave based survival, with more difficult enemies and a few vehicles thrown in for good measure. With the ability to play most of these modes with a friend (both locally and online), there’s definite fun to be had here, and I’d like to see new, more varied missions released over time.
There’s certainly more competent online multiplayer shooters on the market, and I won’t lie by saying that Battlefront offers more complexity and longevity than the other AAA shooters that dominate the market. Where Star Wars Battlefront does shine is when it drops you into the middle of a forest on Endor, or the sweltering deserts of Tatooine, with laser fire zipping around you and intimidating AT-ATs looming on the horizon. Sure, it may focus more on accessibility than depth and nuanced gameplay, but it’s hard to complain when a game captures the essence that is Star Wars this well.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Fans, rejoice! Star Wars Battlefront might not be the most in-depth shooter, but its certainly the best Star Wars game in years.