Review: Star Wars: Battlefront (2015)

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? That awakening would be the revival of Star Wars video games beginning with DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront. Some of you may be already yelling “Hang on, shouldn’t this be Battlefront 3? We already have two Battlefront games.” Yes that is very true, however in light of Disney buying the whole Star Wars Franchise in 2012, all developers are essentially given a clean slate in terms of official Star Wars lore. This resulted from Disney announcing that only the six films, and the two TV shows (Clone Wars and Rebels) would be considered as official Lore, dismissing the hundreds of books written up until 2012. This new Battlefront should therefore be considered a reboot of the game series rather than a sequel to the 2004 and 2005 games.

Star Wars: Battlefront can be easily divided into two areas: Co-op modes and online multiplayer. The multiplayer is spread across a variety of modes with some being more played than other. All the modes are spread across a number of maps based on four planets: Hoth, Sullust, Tatooine and Endor. By far the most popular is Walker Assault which was previewed in the beta in October. This 40 player mode involves the Empire players escorting one or two AT-AT Walkers (those giant robot camels from The Empire Strikes Back) while the Rebels hold onto a series of uplink stations that call in Y-Wing bombers to weaken the walkers. As if those huge steel death machines weren’t bad enough, there are starfighters that players can acquire from pickup cards as well as three heroes on each side that can be played as by picking up a hero pickup. These heroes are only playable in a few modes (more on that later) and can easily turn the tide of a battle allowing players to rack up huge kill streaks.

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Jim! I found the robot camels!

Supremacy can be viewed as a tug of war version of Battlefield’s conquest mode. Like Walker Assault, it is a 40 player mode with heroes and vehicles  available to both teams as they fight to control a number of control points on each map. When a team captures a point they must divide their forces between attacking the next point and defending the previous one. There was one nice twist I did like in this mode and that was the Endor map, which was bright daylight in Walker Assault but in Supremacy it is a twilight woodland which is simply beautiful.

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Ignore the blaster fire and Endor is really beautiful.

These two modes with the large numbers of players coupled with large gorgeous maps are where the game really shines. The environments and the sound effects really add to the immersion and I genuinely felt like I was fighting in the movies. The whine of TIE Fighters and X-Wings overhead was awesome and the sparks flying from blaster fire filled with me adrenaline and nostalgia. There’s something thrilling in weaving your speeder bike through the thick forest of Endor or cowering in the frozen Rebel Base on Hoth as you hear the thudding, creaking footsteps of Imperial Walkers outside. There’s even several little easter eggs to be found ranging from Ewoks in the trees of Endor to the Tusken Raiders in the survival mode. These all add nicely to the overall feeling of each map.

The smaller modes Blast (Team Deathmatch), Cargo (Capture the Flag), Drop Zone (Search and Destroy) and Droid run (Domination) however seem to ruin that immersion, as these modes are too reminiscent of Call of Duty and you begin to remember that you’re playing a multiplayer first person shooter game where numbers and who can tap the fire button fastest define everything. Yes you can be on Endor at the crash site of a rebel ship or on Tatooine with a Sandcrawler nearby but at the end of the day you’re still going through cycles of run, kill, gain XP then dying. It’s far too small and just feels very forced and generic, almost as if these modes were an after thought by DICE. Hero Hunt and Hero Assault are fun for a short time, but in Hero Hunt its usually the same people managing to kill the Hero and then becoming them. Hero Assault just feels like something to play when you want a quick break from the larger modes and often it isn’t easy to find populated servers.

Fighter Squadron is two teams in starfighters battling each other and AI pilots to defend or attack transports. The flight controls on launch were horrible if you used a mouse and keyboard, so much so that you’d often see more mountainside suicides than kills. They were far to floaty so I’m grateful DICE has recently fixed them. However I feel the Imperial Fighters are underpowered when compared to the Rebels. The Imperial ships have to rely on a speed boost and scripted evasive maneuvers to dodge missiles compared to the Rebels being able to pop defensive shields. It just doesn’t seem fair, especially with quite a well documented complaint of A-Wing hitboxes being too small to effectively hit them resulting in some very unhappy Imperials. On the subject of balance there is a large imbalance on the larger maps with Imperials having AT-ST support, but the Rebels have no ground vehicles what so ever. It laughable watching Imperials running around with rocket launchers despite there being no enemy vehicles for them to destroy aside from the aircraft.

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Nothing like flying the Millennium Falcon into combat.

The way these vehicles and aircraft are acquired through power ups feels wrong and almost a little bit lazy. Yes it works, but there’s something immersion breaking about X-Wings and AT-STs just appearing out of no where. Its the same way with the heroes just deciding to kneel on the floor when they are defeated. I’m guessing DICE didn’t want players literally killing the main characters but they could have at least animated them running away. The Gun play is great and enjoyable but there are only 11 weapons to unlock which is almost nothing when you see the variety of weapons in Battlefield and Call of Duty. Most of them seem largely the same with only one or two weapons standing out as being different. There’s no ammunition in Battlefront so there is a reliance on a cool down between volleys. The Star Card system is a nice idea but again there isn’t a large amount of variety and some of the cards seem less useful than others. Out of 19 cards I keep seeing the same ones being used over and over and getting to some of the better ones requires a large amount of rank and credit grinding. The character customization is really disappointing with player only being able to change their characters heads which are largely human. Different species and stormtrooper armor is only available at Rank 40 and 50. The emote system is nice to have but really doesn’t add anything useful to the gameplay.

DICE did include some co-op in the form of missions which can be played alone or with a friend. Some of these teach players about elements in the multiplayer modes. The Battles portion is 2 players battling each other as either soldiers or heroes on each planet which is good for practicing using heroes but not really much else. The survival mode is the most promising which has you and a friend holding off 16 waves of Imperial ground troops varying from AT-STs to stealthy shadow troopers. While fun, these survival missions aside from the higher difficulty levels haven’t got much replay value.

Don’t get me wrong this game is fun, but feels awfully shallow with a very small amount of maps and content that doesn’t justify the £50/$80 price tag. The developers promise four expansions to this game with the  £40/$50 season pass. For that price I sincerely hope these contain large amounts of content and maps as this game just isn’t worth the price right now even if it is absolutely stunning.

Rating: 6/10

Sold at: Amazon, Origin, major retailers.

Price: $80/£50 (Standard Edition)

Minimum PC System Requirements

OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or later
Processor (Intel): Intel i3 6300T or equivalent
Memory: 8GB RAM
Hard Drive: At least 40 GB of free space
Graphics card (NVIDIA): nVidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
Graphics card (ATI): ATI Radeon HD 7850 2GB

Recommended PC System Requirements

OS: 64-bit Windows 10 or later
Processor (Intel): Intel i5 6600 or equivalent
Memory: 16GB RAM
Hard Drive: At least 40 GB of free space
Graphics card (NVIDIA): nVidia GeForce GTX 970 4GB
Graphics card (AMD): AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB

 

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