It’s a gorgeous day on Hoth. The snow is glistening, Lord_MuffinPitz69 has just kamikazied into yet another X-Wing and Darth Vader is busy choking the life out of Rebel scum while Stormtroopers blitz into battle. And right there, my childhood is re-awakened. I’m remembering Luke getting a proper smackdown from an enraged Yeti on steroids, how Lando Calrissian was the smoothest rebel around and how Darth Sidious should have renamed himself Darth Scrotum after he spent a little too much of that Force Lightning on his face.
It’s a fantastic time to be a fan of Star Wars. I’ve got a shelf full of Disney Infinity Star Wars characters, I’ve booked my IMAX ticket for December 18 and I’ve applied enough poison ivy to my face in various patterns to make a pretty convincing Darth Maul costume. And along comes Star Wars Battlefront. It’s everything that you knew and loved about the old trilogy, minus the Ewoks or C3P0 being a chrome-plated complaining f***er whenever he was on the screen.
It’s the most authentic Star Wars game you’ll ever see. Something which is both good and bad, when you really sit down with Battlefront you’ll notice that the high production values do little to hide a creaking and aging behemoth once you’ve invested a couple of hours into it.
Look, Star Wars Battlefront is gorgeous. Absolutely fantastic to behold and sexier than a Tattooine twin sunset. What DICE has managed to do on current generation platforms deserves the highest of fives. It’s especially pretty when you look at the magnificent landscapes of Sullust, Endor, Hoth and Tattooine. Even something as simple as a rock oozes enough detail to create an imbalance in your on-board Midichlorian count.
And when you see it in action, Battlefront runs like a dream. There’s a consistently smooth frame-rate at play here, while explosions set off the kind of low-budget sparks that were a signature special effect of the original film. TIE Fighters roar through canyons and sound exactly like they were meant to, as a combination between an elephant mating call and a car driving on wet tarmac.
Thermal grenades give off a satisfying boom, Han Solo’s blaster has the scuff marks on it from the end of Return of the Jedi, Star Destroyer turbo-lasers fire on Rebel Alliance blockade runners as you try to outrun a photon torpedo lock. I could go on and on, talking about details such as the Sandtrooper captain having the right shade of orange on his pauldron, but you get the idea.
In every single way possible, DICE has managed to replicate the definitive Star Wars visual experience into this latest version of Star Wars Battlefront. It’s pure fan service, and on that level, it’s delightful. And that’s the downfall of Battlefront here.
Because the game is a little too much like the Star Wars films. Bear with me here, I know this sounds weird. I adore Star Wars, but I’m also brutally honest about the franchise and the two trilogies of movies that it spawned: They’re beautiful flights of fancy, but they’ve also got the depth of a children’s pool.
And that’s a sensation that permeates Star Wars Battlefront. Guns may look the part, but they’ve got zero connection to actually feeling like you’re wielding a piece of Star Wars history. There’s no heft to these weapons, and they all feel like the exact same blaster with various firing rates and scopes added to the mix in a vain attempt to make some sort of difference.
And much like DICE’s Battlefield series (Or 99% of any other shooter these days), progression is locked behind tight-fisted experience gates. I’ve long had a problem with this idea of players having to win to earn decent gear, but that results in the usual maniacs who play these games religiously having the best gear within a day and then running riot on lesser-skilled and underpowered players who are hopping in for a quick match during lunch.
That results in an even slower sense of progression, where a quick deathmatch feels like a Mustafar slaughter when the opposition comes a-knockin’ on my door with their fancy jet-packs and over-powered star cards. Now granted, Battlefront does scatter power-ups all over the field, but the catch-22 of this progression system doesn’t do it any favours. You shouldn’t need to grind away for hours on the kind of equipment that would keep the action interesting from the start.
And it’s also just a brutally simple game. DICE already had an uphill battle on their hands when they announced the Battlefront reboot, with many a gamer who had played the original incarnations of this series deciding to dust off their copies that were locked away and angrily shake their fists in unison at this apparent assault on their nostalgia.
Its this attempt to pander to those cherished memories, that also makes Battlefront a brutally simplistic game with basic gameplay where victory is guaranteed by your loadout. You look at how games such as recent Call of Duties, Titanfall or even the Overwatch beta manage to combine environments, tactics, gear and teamwork into a cohesive whole, and you see just how far behind Battlefront falls with its antiquated ideas.
Playing as a hero or a villain does add some charm to the game however, as you can Force-choke your way through Rebel soldiers as Darth Vader or look for a lucky shot as Han Solo. And sometimes, it is indeed fun to trip into a proper power fantasy. It’s also surprisingly rubbish at times, as Vader’s asthmatic melee mechanical massacre feels uninspiringly clunky, while Han Solo runs around the map looking like he’s in desperate need of a toilet.
As for offline players, they get the same taste of the basic structure with horde-mode encounters and living out a fantasy as the most badass bounty hunter alive who can pick off the idiotic AI easily enough and ringing up a mad bill for replacement Stormtroopers. Adding friends to the mix does liven things up, but that’s how any game works these days.
And as breath-taking as the maps of Battlefront are, the miserly approach to only doling out a mere handful of them stings quite a bit. But at least there’ll be more in the season pass, something that Battlefront is only to happy to remind you about in the main menu, waiting to gobble up your cash. Where Star Wars Battlefront does succeed however, is when it focuses on large-scale events.
Walker Assault is a mad dash to avoid being trampled flatter than a Mylock when the Empire sets its AT-ATs loose on the Rebels, while Fighter Squadron is a sheer joy to experience as you take to the skies in a TIE Fighter or X-Wing and duke it out against dozens of other players. It’s easily my favourite mode out of the entire game, and one that I hope will be seen in an eventual Rogue Squadron reboot.
Star Wars Battlefront isn’t a total train-smash. Far from it in fact. There is a very solid game here waiting to be played, but one that is far from being fully armed and operational. It’s far more effective to see it in action than to actually play it, as it relies a little too heavily on nostalgic necromancy to power a product that feels like a very small slice of the Star Wars universe. And an expensive slice at that.
None of this matters of course, because Star Wars Battlefront will probably sell like Force-infused cupcakes. Star Wars Episode VII already has $50 million in ticket sales, and the film isn’t even out yet. People are hungry for Star Wars, people can’t wait to get their hands on it. And that’s what Battlefront does, as it serves up a quick dish of safe gameplay with a rousing score that is meant to pluck at your memories.
Last Updated: November 27, 2015