When Electronic Arts bought the license to make Star Wars games, the immediate nervousness of a licensing move like that was squashed when the connections formed that it possibly meant a new Battlefront game. Now 10 years removed, I know I’m not the only person to still talk about Battlefront 2 on the PS2. Now, on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, Star Wars Battlefront wants to bring back that old nostalgia while simultaneously capitalizing on the not-to-distant release of Star Wars Episode VII.
Let’s start out with an important point regarding Star Wars Battlefront: there may be difference what you wanted and what EA and Dice’s goal for the game was.
After putting many hours into the game, I feel confident in writing that EA’s target demographic was Star Wars fans, period. It was not “Star Wars fans who play video games.” It was not “Hardcore Shooter fans who like Star Wars.” It was certainly not “Replacement for Battlefield.” They were clearly targeting a wide audience. That is why they focused on the question every Star Wars fan would ask, “Does this feel like I am in the Star Wars universe?” Unequivocally, that answer is yes.
Everything from the visuals to the audio was made to feel like the player was in the Star Wars universe. The detail on the X-wings to the sound blasters make to the environments to having John Williams’s compositions accompany you, you are rolling deep in the universe. During E3 last year, EA showed a video about how the team was allowed in the vaults to put their hands on the props to get the details. It is ridiculous how much they took it to heart. Flying an X-wing from first person mode, everything looks like you saw in A New Hope. The sounds of a TIE fighter overhead or an AT-AT walking nearby take the game to a galaxy far, far away.
There are plenty of multiplayer modes to choose from: blast (deathmatch), supremacy (control points), fighter squadron (aerial dogfighting), cargo (capture the flag), droid run (moving control points), hero hunt (1 hero vs 7 soldiers), heroes versus villains (6v6 with hero characters running amok), drop zone (king of the hill style) and walker assault (attack and defend mode). While there are many modes to choose from and the level design is solid, none of them feel particularly fleshed out. On top of that, only having 16 maps spread across 4 planets does not leave much in variety category. This is where Star Wars Battlefront begins to show chinks in the armor. The lack in map variety will apparently be fixed with DLC, but that’s more money on top of the base game that leaves a poor taste in your mouth. The modes themselves feel like they came up with and started a bunch of different modes and then didn’t finish them or left them purposefully hamstrung. This is most evident in the fighter squadron mode where the right stick is for roll, pitch and yaw and the left stick is for acceleration. Yes, just acceleration. DICE does excellent vehicle – especially air combat – but decided not to bring that to Battlefront.
There also isn’t a whole lot to do as an individual who wishes to opt-out of multiplayer. There are some training missions and a horde-mode-like scenario you can play by yourself or with a co-op friend (either local or online), but that will get tired quickly. Battlefront is not historically a single-player heavy game, so I’m not overly upset at this, but it would have been nice. Having couch co-op is pretty great though.
Lastly is the leveling-up/credit system. At the end of each match, you receive a score based on you and your team’s performance. That score is added towards your personal rank in the game. The score is then divided by 10 (rounding down) and you are given that many credits to use for unlocks. Unlocks include blasters, hand cards and appearance. There are many different types of blasters to choose from including Han Solo’s hip pistol and Boba Fett’s personal weapon. The “hand cards” are your utility tools and skills. Tools include ion rockets, thermal grenades and scout pistols. Skills give you short-burst perks you can use like personal shields and ion blasts that help against walkers. The appearance stuff is all useless to me until like rank 40 when you can change to a scout trooper or a Sullust rebel. All this extra stuff feels like…extra stuff that has little to no impact on the game.
Lastly, some modes allow you to play as a hero character. Currently, there are 3 heroes for the Rebels and 3 for the Imperials. You can play as Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett, respectively. EA and DICE did a great job on making you feel awesome as a hero. Force choking someone as Vader or inflicting force lightning on someone as Palpatine just feels so authentic. You have extra health and defense as a hero and even though you’re not, you feel invincible. They nailed this.
Overall, Star Wars Battlefront is not the preeminent shooter that will replace Call of Duty, Battlefield or Halo. Battlefront is a great “Star Wars shooter” that appeals to a larger audience. This game was built for Star Wars fans by Star Wars fans. It can certainly lack depth in certain areas and certain modes that will not sustain the hardcore shooter person, but I believe you will see a small, vibrant community form that I look forward to get to meeting.