Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)
Genre: First Person Shooter
Battlefront is back!
After the failed attempt by LucasArts and Pandemic to make a sequel to the ever popular Star Wars: Battlefront l and ll, new developer DICE, of Battlefield fame, and publisher EA have created a fantastic reboot that manages to simulate what it might actually feel like to take part in those classic Star Wars battles. Featuring epic, free form 40 player war zones and tight but demanding vehicle controls, Star Wars: Battlefront brings George Lucas’ masterpiece to life in a way that has never been experienced before.
I sense a great disturbance in the force. As I selected Han Solo and sat down to begin playing the Missions mode in Battlefront I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of boredom. This boredom only exacerbated the growing sense of tedium and monotony that plagues only the worst single player campaigns and was made much worse due to the distinct lack of any semblance of a plot or story in any of the missions available for solo players. Perhaps one of the largest faults with Star Wars: Battlefront is its distinct lack of a single player campaign. While this is certainly a trend in modern gaming and other recent titles have chosen to forego a single player mode altogether, Battlefront developer DICE courted much controversy after the initial revelation that the game would not include a story mode. In its place are simple, one-off wave based survival modes that offer little context or plot to the overall events of the Star Wars canon.
However, despite the glaring lack of story or any other substantial content for players who hate playing against others online, Battlefront does at least offers something for those who prefer couch co-op or split screen play and this comes in the form of Missions. Missions in Star Wars: Battlefront come in one of three varieties:
-Training, which familiarizes players with the controls and gameplay mechanics
-Battle, which allows players to compete head to head with a friend via split screen multiplayer. Each player controls a hero and fights through waves of Rebel or Empire soldiers while hunting each other down.
-Survival, which allows players to choose from one of six of the available Hero/Villain characters and face down hordes of Rebel or Empire soldiers in wave-based combat
All of these modes can be enjoyed with a friend via split screen or online multiplayer. Though, most of these missions feel like filler or tutorials for the larger scale online battles.
While there is no overall story to any of these modes players can imagine their favorite moments from the original Star Wars movie trilogy as they gun down Darth Vader’s Storm troopers or annihilate the Rebel scum. While die hard fans will already know most of these characters, battles, locales and stories by heart, Battlefront will undoubtedly be the first time that many will get to experience the wonder and majesty that typically comes from anything to do with Star Wars. Simply put, players who are new to the franchise and have never seen a single Star Wars film or played any previous games set in the Star Wars universe will not find a whole lot that Battlefront can offer them unless they really want to play Battlefield in space. Perhaps the most harsh critique I can make against Battlefront is that newcomers to the Star Wars franchise will not have the luxury of recreating famous Star Wars scenes as there is so little in these Missions to draw them into the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars: Battlefront has very little questionable content as it is only rated T for Teen. While there are burn marks and many fiery explosions, little to no blood or gore is ever shown and the worst wound possible is a severe burn from laser fire, force lightning, or the blade of a light saber. However, as is the disclaimer with most online-only games, the game experience can change during online play. If you do not want your children to hear swearing, slurs, or otherwise crude or hateful speech while playing, it is recommended to monitor their online play. Luckily, developer DICE has implemented a chat system in Battlefront that requires players to be in the same Xbox Live party in order to chat with one another in game. This helps to prevent children from hearing questionable speech and hinders them from using it against complete strangers online.
The bread and butter of Star Wars: Battlefront’s lasting appeal lies within the gameplay itself. With a plethora of modes, gear, characters, and vehicles no other game gives off quite the same feeling of being right in the middle of a classic Star Wars battle. In Battlefront players will feel as though they are actually fighting the Empire or crushing the rebellion. This is thanks in part to the game’s excellent controls which will feel right at home to any fan of the First-Person Shooter genre.
While a third-person, over-the-shoulder camera is still available, I found myself favoring the first-person view point in infantry battles as this was the most immersive viewpoint from which to engage the enemy. However, when piloting the X-Wing or Tie Fighters in the dogfight-only Fighter Squadron mode, third-person perspective is the way to go as the flight controls in Battlefront have a steep learning curve. Instead of steering the ship left, right, up, or down with the left thumb stick, maneuvering is handled via the right thumb stick and one of three directions (left, up, or right) on the D-Pad for more advanced evasive maneuvers. The throttle is controlled with the left thumb stick and when used in combination a skilled pilot can literally fly circles around the enemy and corner them for a quick, fiery take-down. This led to many a fiery death and I grew quite frustrated each time my Rebel or Empire pilot crashed and burned again and again as I fought against the flight controls while the greater war raged on down below the atmosphere.
Another unfortunate flaw of Battlefront is that despite its robust modes, there is little in the way of actual content. With a sparse allowance of credits earned for each match played it takes forever to unlock new rifles and blasters and these weapons often don’t feel distinct enough to make them worth earning. For example, I didn’t notice much difference in the damage I dealt to other players with the starting blaster pistol versus the first rifle I managed to unlock as both weapons took multiple shots to the head to down an enemy. There are also collectibles to be found and challenges to be completed in both missions and multiplayer that will unlock figures for the Diorama mode that allows players to display their collectibles in scenes and poses reminiscent of the Star Wars films.
Players will battle across four planets: Hoth, Endor, Sullust, and Tattooine. While this seems like it would allow for a lot of map diversity, it really does not. There are only about three variations of the same map for each planet and each map is tailored for specific modes. The epic, grandiose 40 player battles play out across the entirety of each map in the Walker Assault and Supremacy multiplayer modes. However, the larger sections of these maps are sealed off for the modes with a smaller player count, like Blast, a standard team deathmatch or Cargo, a variation on Capture The Flag.
As exhilarating as it is to see 40 players online battling across Hoth at the same time, some flying by in Snowspeeders overhead as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader duel in front of you, it is easy to get lost in the empty expanses of these huge maps as the modes that compliment a map best often speed players along from one section of the map to the next. An example of this is in Walker Assault where players are tasked with either taking out the enemie’s AT-ATs as the Rebels or using the AT-ATs to overpower the Rebels as they lay waste to all that oppose them. As each AT-AT is destroyed or each Rebel base is captured by the Empire the game pushes players along to smaller zones of the map so that where you spawned one minute might not be where you spawn five minutes into the match. While this is excellent for keeping players from having to run all the way back from their original spawn to the heat of battle, it takes away from the spectacle of a grand, all encompassing war that the Battlefront series is best known for.
A clever and unique aspect of Battlefront’s multiplayer is the Partner system. At the start of each match, or in the main menu, players can select a Partner from their friend’s list, or for those playing solo, one will be selected at the start of each match. Perhaps the best implementation of this mechanic is in the larger, multi-faceted battles of Supremacy and Walker Assault as players can spawn next to their Partner’s location on the battlefield. If a player’s chosen Partner has unlocked a powerful weapon, side arm, or gadget then that player will be able to select their partner’s load out upon each respawn and at the start of each round. This allows more seasoned players to coach newer players by allowing them to try out more powerful weapons and gear or encouraging them to spawn on their location and follow their lead.
Overall there are 9 total modes in Battlefront multiplayer including Blast, Cargo, Drop Zone, which features two teams fighting for control of three moving droids, the dogfight-only Fighter Squadron mode, and two Hero or Villain-centric modes. Hero Hunt pits one Hero/Villain against seven Rebel or Empire soldiers while Heroes vs. Villains features two teams of six players with half of each team comprised of three Heroes or Villains. Despite these robust offerings many modes just feel like filler for the more popular 40 player war zones.
Walker Assault and Supremacy are easily the two most popular modes as they offer thrilling, 40 player battles with vehicles and Hero/Villain characters. Unlike in previous Battlefront titles, vehicles, including the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave One, and Hero/Villain characters can only be accessed by picking up special tokens on each map. There are also many different stationary guns, turrets, bombs, grenades and other gadgets that are only available via these power ups. While this means that you may never get to play as a Hero or Villain until you learn where these tokens spawn on each map, it does ensure that each player has a fair shot at becoming the all powerful Jedi Master or Sith Lord that they so desire to be regardless of their kill count or skill level.
Despite the sheer scale of the battles players can take part in and the vast number of players in each match, Battlefront never ceases to amaze in both graphical prowess and sound design. Explosions let out a resounding boom that shakes the battlefield and will ring in player’s ears long after they have crashed their X-Wing in to the nearest mountain range. Squaring off against Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker will surely result in a quick, untimely death for the standard soldier but it also allows players to admire the detail and time the developers took to make each Hero/Villains costume and facial features look exactly like their movie counterparts. There are no knock offs or cheap imitations here. Snowspeeders and Landspeeders sound exactly like they do in the films, laser blasts have that familiar red or green hue, and the ever-present hum of a lightsaber will linger in your mind as you try your best to kill or avoid Darth Vader as he slaughters the nearest squadron of Rebel soldiers.
It truly is impressive how DICE has managed to compile the authenticity and spirit of the Star Wars films into one game. Thanks to an excellent and familiar musical score and rich, detailed environments and character models, players will find themselves lost in the grand spectacle and the epic scale of Star Wars: Battlefront.
When DICE announced that they were removing the prequel trilogy characters, vehicles, and environments from their version of Battlefront fans were rightfully worried and upset. Though Battlefront now confines vehicles to the planet’s atmosphere and dogfights can no longer carry on into the vast reaches of space above each planet’s surface, DICE and EA have crafted a truly authentic, and exhilarating Star Wars experience that no fan of the franchise can afford to miss out on. However, those just jumping on board with Star Wars should look elsewhere for an entry point into the franchise fandom as Battlefront seems most geared towards the already die hard Star Wars fans.
Regardless of your feelings about DICE and their work on the Battlefield games and despite the ever growing hate for EA among the gaming community, Star Wars fans owe it to themselves to pick up Star Wars: Battlefront as no Star Wars game before it has captured the look, feel, and awe inspiring spectacle that the original trilogy of films can elicit. The force is certainly strong this one.
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The Bottom Line