The force has been awoken to thrust the Star Wars franchise back into the limelight with a brand new blockbuster film. Developers EA DICE, known mostly for their Battlefield titles, have done their part too by creating a Battlefront reboot based on the Star Wars films and called it Star Wars Battlefront. Original eh? Anyway, with their shoot-em-up credentials and such a huge franchise collaborating with them, this has the potential to be the best thing since a double ended lightsaber.
There’s no doubt my early gaming time with Star Wars Battlefront was one of pure wonderment, I was raving to a gaming pal about how awesome it was. Mainly due to the first area of the game that I approached – Missions. These are split into three separate sub-categories; Training, Battles & Survival.
The Training missions are amongst some of the best ways I’ve seen to learn the ropes in a game, with these having a focus on the vehicles and special character abilities. These range from a nostalgic chase after Rebels through the forest of Endor on the back of a speeder bike, to an all out domination by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader inside a Rebel base. Navigating the speeders is rather difficult but so much fun, whilst shocking enemies and choking a few of them feels empowering. Training will also guide you through piloting X-wings and T-47s, plus how to control a walker – the robotic AT-ST kind, not the brain devouring type – across the five missions on offer.
After playing them all in the space of around half an hour, there was an instant adoration for what I’d experienced and although I could’ve replayed them immediately to complete all the objectives, I thought it’d be best to see how the other missions pan out. Oh, what a bloody disappointment they were; it was like jumping from ‘A New Hope’ to ‘Attack of the Clones’. All of the Battles section missions were basically 1vs1 or 1vsCPU, with A.I. soldiers supporting, in a first to 100 points match across four different maps. It split each of the four maps into two missions apiece, one with Heroes and one without. The first mission dragged on so much that I was waving the white flag on Hoth to give in and move on; what didn’t help matters was the A.I. team which sometimes wouldn’t spawn any fresh victims until a single enemy in hiding was killed.
Last up in the solo or co-op mission types are of the Survival kind. These see you trapped on four different maps awaiting rescue by Admiral Ackbar, having to fend off the Imperial forces for ten waves. With enemies on foot or carrying jet packs and the occasional walker coming to hunt you down, it’s up to you to take them all down without losing all your lives. Power-ups can appear to aid in your survival but after about five waves and the bullet sponges that are walkers being a real drag to destroy, it all became a little boring.
Unfortunately, it’s more of a Jar Jar Binks type of novelty that wears off real quick.
Without a legitimate campaign mode, there’s a greater onus placed upon the online multiplayer side of proceedings to ensure Battlefront is a success. Looking at the game modes included, there’s a whole load of different objective and team based modes that have a Star Wars spin on them. Variety is very important for a game that will attract a wide range of gamers, but each mode needs to be good in its own right.
And there’s no better place to start than with its take on the ever present in shoot-em-ups, team deathmatch style mode, ‘Blast’. The idea is for one team to reach the score limit first and ultimately win by defeating the other team’s members, with a maximum of ten players per team. Anyone that has even the slightest bit of shooter experience can grasp the concept and will discover it’s the best mode for a quick blast of multiplayer action.
In stark contrast to battling from the ground, there’s ‘Fighter Squadron’ that focuses entirely on the airborne side of things. Dominating the skies will require a certain level of control over your starfighter, no matter which team you’re on. It’s just chaotic, high octane flying that sees missiles being let loose all over the place, ensuring that deaths frequently occur for both teams. Piloting a TIE fighter or X-wing is the stuff of dreams for many a Star Wars fan, however like many of the cool moments felt within Battlefront, the novelty can soon wear off.
The only other positive standout for multiplayer modes is the inclusion of Heroes and Villains, even if the modes in which they prominently feature aren’t really the best. ‘Heroes vs. Villains’ pits Luke, Leia and Han Solo up against Vader, Palpatine and Boba Fett in a last team standing mode. You’ll have a few human controlled bodyguards and the game will randomly decide who gets to be the main characters or supporting cast after each round. The problem comes when it’s the best of nine rounds, no one wants to stick it out on the same map for that length of time and oddly enough it very rarely ends much sooner. Villains have a huge advantage too, thanks mainly to the overpowered Boba whom can fly, fire rockets and do it all from a safe enough distance to be affected by any of the Jedi’s puny powers.
When I had a bash at ‘Cargo’, a capture the flag mode, for me it summed up how the rest of the multiplayer experience felt after the various novelties had ran their courses. It’s basically a tug of war using cargo and to win, one team needs to grab all of it from the other team, whilst preventing the other team from taking any pieces of cargo back; you’ll probably gather that it could go all the way to the time limit pretty often, unless teams are numerically one-sided.
There are five other modes, but neither of them could keep much of my attention for longer than a single match at a time. ‘Supremacy’ and ‘Walker Assault’ are the biggest of the whole lot, where teams of up to 20 players each can battle it out on the frontline or in the air to help capture areas in ‘Supremacy’, whilst escorting AT-ATs across the battlefield in a attack and defend type game sums up ‘Walker Assault’. Then there’s the other Hero based mode, ‘Hero Hunt’, with seven normal characters taking on one Hero or Villain and whoever kills this person becomes the next Hero/Villain.
‘Droid Run’ is what I’d call a domination mode and here the objective is to capture all three droids that are wandering around; it sounds a lot easier that it is, because in practice it’s hard to look after two droids whilst going for that third with only six players on a team. Last up, and for good reason, is another capture based mode in the form of ‘Drop Zone’; a capture and hold mode similar to the others but with more randomness as to where the pods will be that need to be held.
The massive modes just tend to be overly chaotic and strategy goes out the window almost immediately. Whereas some of the others tend to drag on, making time fly by really slowly because generally, no ground is being gained by either team. ‘Blast’ is the most straightforward offering, bringing about the most fun due to it ending organically and just the right number of players to get the perfect balance. On paper it looks jam packed with stuff to do, but in reality I just can’t see much enjoyment long term.
That could in part have something to do with the unlocks that become available alongside ranking up and purchasing with the in-game currency. After all if there’s nothing overly exciting to work towards, then what’s the point? Primary weapons come in just thirteen variations and of all the ones I’ve tried, they might do different damage or have further range, but ultimately they are nothing special to look at, nor use. So that leaves a great weight of expectation on the shoulders of the Star Cards.
Each player can take a hand of three Star Cards into a match; two general cards that cover grenades or special weapons, which once used needs time to recharge, and then one card that has limited recharges such as a shield or a scan of the nearby area for enemies. Knowing that you’ll never run out of grenades is handy and there are one or two pretty darn cool weapons to unlock at the higher ranks.
You can also unlock different appearances for your character, ranging from random humans and stormtroopers to species like Twi’lek and Zabrak. There is nothing here that comes close to enticing me to work towards the new appearances though – I’m just happy to stick with the starter skin!
When a shooter gets popular, people tend to look back in years to come and reflect on how good certain maps were that they enjoyed the most. Star Wars Battlefront takes you to Tatooine, Hoth, Endor and Sullust in multiple maps that vary in size, dependant on the mode. Although the authenticity is present within them all, the rest look bland in comparison to the wonderful Endor; I won’t forget it in a hurry. It probably helps that those cute and furry Ewoks are hanging around but nevertheless it is visually superb.
It looks like Star Wars, it feels like Star Wars, and just like how EA DICE love us to capture objectives online, they themselves have definitely captured the sounds of Star Wars. The authenticity can’t be knocked, and neither can the technical side because I only noticed one issue regarding hit markers which was a rare occurrence. The rest just screams short term success with a reliance on people to buy the Season Pass to prolong the experience. Not having a proper campaign is a missed trick and the multiplayer modes can’t carry it single-handedly.
My initial excitement with Star Wars Battlefront soon turned a little sour, with less fun being had the more I played it. What I can say is that it’s an incredibly easy game to pick up and play for fans of the franchise, no matter their age. If you’re on the fence, like I suspect you are then give it a go on EA Access; chances are you’ll get just enough enjoyment to get through the ten hour trial!