It’s December, the sun is beating down on us, the days have come and gone and 2015 is almost finished. Once it’s over and done, it’d surprise me if this year is remembered for anything as much as Star Wars. Ten years after George Lucas’ last instalment–not much time, really–Disney have pulled off what feels like the biggest marketing campaign of all time with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, ensuring that every single person on the planet is a Star Wars geek, at least for the last six months. What better time to release a new Star Wars video game, then? Star Wars Battlefront is maybe not quite as good as it could have been, leaving me perpetually wanting a quality Star Wars campaign to follow the KOTOR series, but it’s still unadulterated, shooty, explosion-y fun drenched head-to-toe in love for the classic space opera.
There’s been much loved and much maligned games alike to release bearing the Star Wars name on their boxes. Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier, for example–an absolute classic RPG simulation that has the player make epic decisions in order to save the Gungan population of Ohma-D’un. Star Wars: Battlefront II was, for a long time, the premier non-KOTOR Star Wars game, allowing you to partake in epic multiplayer battles in various locations around the Star Wars universe. It released around the same time as Revenge of the Sith, and despite not really reaching critical heights, remained a cult favourite, with constantly populated servers and that unmatchable feeling of the massive scale of Star Wars battles. And then, last year, Battlefront II was shut down for good.
Anyway. I’ve said the words “Star Wars” now about 10000 times already, and the game I’m actually reviewing here shares its name with both the first game in its series and the series itself. I’m so confused. Star Wars: Battlefront (2015), herein referred to simply as Battlefront, is technically Star Wars: Battlefront III, but AAA publishers don’t like having numbers after their game titles, and this one was a reboot of the franchise to tie in with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which really should be Episode VII). As I said earlier (sweet Jesus), Battlefront is just a shooty, round-based multiplayer game set in the Star Wars universe. If you think Battlefield, but swap the “field” for “front” (swap the army for blaster rifles), you’re probably not thinking far off. There’s about 10 game modes, three of which allow up to 40 players in the game, 20 on each team. They’re also the best game modes, by far. Walker Assault is a 20v20 battle on a massive map, with Imperial forces pushing their AT-ATs to the end of the map, and Rebel forces calling in Y-wing bombers and support from uplink stations. There’s something about running along with your other Stormtroopers, blasters going off everywhere, grenades flying, AT-ATs stomping above your head–it’s so very Star Wars, and so, so much fun.
My favourite game mode is also a 20v20 called Turning Point, which was introduced with the free DLC pack Battle of Jakku. It’s attack/defend on a massive map with four stages, each stage having a different number of control points. After any control point is captured by Rebels on a stage, time is added and an aerial strike is called down and the Imperial troops are forced back to defend their next set of control points. This battle culminates in one final control point on the last stage, usually ending in a nail-biting finish where the Rebels throw their bodies at the last point in an attempt to capture it before the time runs out. It’s frantic, epic, fast-paced, and just pure fun. My only qualm with Turning Point is that there’s only one map–I’m sure there’ll be more, but for now, it’s a bit disappointing. That said, I do just keep playing it.
There are maps on smaller scales–Drop Zone is sort of King of the Hill, Cargo is sort of CTF, Blast is standard Team Deathmatch–as well as some more unique modes such as Hero Hunt, which reminds me of Megalodon mode in Depth, if you ever played it. In some of the modes, Heroes can spawn, who are major characters from the Star Wars franchise and can single-handedly turn the tide of a battle. I think there are six heroes at the moment, including Luke, Darth Vader, and Han Solo, with more sure to be added. I’m not sure how I feel about the heroes–I mean, sure, they’re super cool, but they’re also bullshit. There’s little in Battlefront that provokes as much dread (aka: me saying “absolute bullshit” to my computer) as seeing Vader slowly walk towards you, lightsaber in hand.
All of the maps in Battlefront are absolutely impeccable. Truly perfect. They’re not just attractive–I mean, the whole game is gorgeous–but they’ve been crafted with such love and attention to detail that it can genuinely feel like you’re in the movies. From the Forest Moon of Endor, to the rocky landscape of the Jundland Wastes of Tatooine and the isolated, frozen Outpost Beta on the planet Hoth, each map is beautifully put together. My only wish is that there were a few more.
Talking about things being beautiful–my god, this game is incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever played a more attractive looking game in my life. Everything about the aesthetic design in-game comes together so well that it feels like you’re actually part of the battles. The sound also goes a long way towards this. When you’ve put on your Stormtrooper helmet and are ready to walk into battle, nothing’s going to pump you up more than the classic Star Wars soundtrack.
I have a few qualms, as usual. There’s a bit of a shoe-horned in single player mode, but it’s not all that interesting or rewarding, same goes with the co-op. There’s no “story” in this game unlike the other Battlefront games, and each map presents an important battle in the Star Wars universe–this would be great, but there’s only about 10 of them in the game. 40 players feels epic due to the ships shooting shit and grenades being lobbed around, but I would love 60, even 80 player maps, which doesn’t sound too impossible, but I’m no programmer. Speaking of grenades, Battlefront is an absolute shit-show. Grenades (and all other special weaponry) recharges after a cooldown period, meaning that grenades are just constantly lobbed all over the map. It adds to the hectic nature of the game, but can get a little bit silly. There also needs to be a couple of tweaks with balancing, but that’s something that inherently comes with multiplayer games.
As you play more games, you’ll gain experience and credits, levelling up and earning unlocks (which then must be actually unlocked with credits), in the standard method of multiplayer FPS games first introduced by COD4 (I think). It is a little bit of a grind, albeit an enjoyable one. At least there’s no method of artificially boosting your XP rate with $$. One major downside I’ve heard is that the DL-44, allegedly the best blaster in the game, isn’t available until rank 30 or soemthing–unless you purchased the Digital Deluxe edition, in which case it’s available from the get go. Usually I’d be a bit miffed by this (even though I reviewed the Deluxe edition), but I have to disagree with the opinion that it’s the best gun. I unlocked the E-11 at a relatively low rank, and have used it more than the DL-44, as I prefer its high rate of fire. It all comes down to personal preference. You can also unlock “star cards” as you rank up, giving you access to different types of gadgets, grenades, and upgrades. There are some that are a bit stupidly strong–Barrage (nade launcher), Jump Pack (boost jet pack) and maybe Homing Shot (like a lock-on rocket launcher)–but a neat feature of Battlefront is that, in each battle, you’re given a random partner on your team. If you die and your partner is alive, you can spawn onto them, and you can also use your partner’s card hand. Does your partner have a sweet Jump Pack? Use it! It’s a great, intuitive way of ensuring that new players are not left out because they don’t have the same gear, while still making it worthwhile to unlock the cards you want yourself as you don’t know what your partner’s going to have.
When you hit every 10 ranks (I think) you get an additional “hand” slot, in which you can equip 3 cards for on-the-fly switching between spawns in a battle. I remember, when I unlocked my first extra hand, thinking “I hope I can rename this, because I’d like to have one hand for infantry and one hand for vehicular combat.” Lo and behold, you can rename the hands. It’s this sort of forward thinking design that makes me really respect Battlefront.
Maybe Battlefront isn’t a game for gamers. I could agree with that sentiment. It’s a bit repetitive and doesn’t really bring all that much new to the table. But I don’t think Battlefront ever wanted to be the next genre-defining game a la COD4. Battlefront is a game for Star Wars fans, and in that it could not have been more successful. It’s a true love letter to the original trilogy. God I hope that the servers stay populated. I might have my qualms, but I enjoyed the vast majority of the time I’ve spent so far, and I guarantee I’ll be playing Battlefront for a long time coming.
SSM was provided with a review copy of Star Wars Battlefront by EA Games.
Note: There’s no server browser and not many people playing in OCE, due to the nature of the server. I’ve struggled to find a game on occasion. It’s a shame, and I’m genuinely worried about the future of this game in Australia. This review is written based on the assumption that the servers remain populated.