This Ain’t Your Previous-Generation’s Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars Battlefront (2004) and its critically-acclaimed sequel, Star Wars Battlefront II (2005) are games which many players will remember fondly from their PlayStation 2 and early PC days. Developed by now-defunct Pandemic Studios, these games were easy to grasp, viciously competitive and accurately represented some of the biggest locations in Star Wars lore.
Unfortunately, after the PlayStation 2 era, the series underwent something of a hiatus, as Star Wars Battlefront III was rumoured to be in development and was — as it turns out — stuck in development hell. Since Disney’s takeover of the Star Wars properties from LucasArts, EA’s been given license to go ahead with producing games within the iconic sci-fi series, and one of their first efforts was to revive the long-defunct Battlefront series through veteran Battlefield developers DICE.
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Now that immediately raises some questions — are elements of Battlefield going to bleed into Battlefront? Does this resurgence mean we’re going to see more of the same action we last saw 10 years ago? How will the series carry through the cross-generational gap?
Name: Star Wars Battlefront
Genre: Battlefield: Advanced Warfare
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 17 November 2015
It’s probably a good time to remark that this isn’t the Battlefront that PlayStation 2 gamers will remember so fondly. Star Wars Battlefront is set to be a graphical behemoth running on DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine, but what it’s keeping from 2005’s Battlefront II seems to be minimal, and this may not be a bad thing.
Battlefield is one of the largest shooters in modern gaming, truly rivalled by only Counter-Strike and Call of Duty, which both fill their respective roles in the grander context of the greater competitive gaming culture. Neither of these rival Battlefield in terms of scale, which is something the upcoming Star Wars game can profit from.
From what we’ve seen, the planets that are present in the game (Endor, Hoth, Sullust and Tatooine — forest, ice, volcanic and desert planets respectively) and the 12 maps that will be based on them are going to make use of the massive scale that has seen Battlefield successfully implement maps over a kilometer large.
Previously it’s been stated that although scale would be a massive focus of the game, it would not be the only focus of the actual gameplay. Developers have stated that certain areas and maps will better suit tight, close-quarters gameplay, while others will thrive off large-scale pandemonium.
This is something DICE knows how to manage well, and is easily recognisable if you jump into a large Conquest game in any of the last 3 Battlefield titles. The maps are designed with choke points and hot zones in mind, and while staying true to the source material may more important in this case than others, DICE has a proven track record of making high quality large scale shooters, which will surely serve them well with Battlefront. In fact, a stronger focus on map balance may benefit the title, solidifying it as a balanced shooter and — more importantly — fun, as opposed to purely accurate to source material.
The limited map line-up and even more limited world line-up has left a little to be desired, especially when compared to Star Wars Battlefront II‘s simply massive roster. Compounding this, the Clone Wars era is completely absent from the game, which restricts it even further. Once again, I’m not entirely sure the smaller base content pool a bad thing as EA and DICE getting these planets and era done well will certainly silence criticisms of their narrower focus, but it is a little disappointing to one of the big eras in the Star Wars saga completely excluded.
Space battles are a much-loved feature which have gone missing in the interim between Star Wars Battlefront II and DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront reboot. The game still has dedicated modes from aerial battles, but excludes the capital ship fights which were so iconic from Pandemic’s previous game. This has both it’s good and bad: Yes, it’s not ideal that the game is missing such a loved feature, especially when the whole balance of play in the space battles often revolved more around the state of the capital ships than how many reinforcements had died, but the fact that we’re going to be seeing on-planet battles, both in the same matches as infantry and in isolated modes, sounds very exciting, purely for the differences it’ll bring to the matches.
Another big exclusion, perhaps more significantly so, is that of a skirmish mode, or a dedicated campaign mode. It was announced fairly early on that the multiplayer component would be kept solely to online, while missions — which take the role of short scenarios — would fill the co-op and singleplayer element of the game. This devalues the game as a complete package, effectively saying that if you’re not playing for the multiplayer, you’re not playing the game properly.
While the developer can focus their efforts wherever they choose, there’s a reason Call of Duty games still ship with a campaign, despite being very online focused. They cater to a different demographic than online multiplayer and co-op mission modes, and they allow the developer to properly engage with their subject matter.
It worries me a bit that the title may be too homogenised by Battlefield elements, and a lack of engagement with the worlds and the environments could cause the game to lack any true source of inspiration. That’s not to say that DICE haven’t tried to give it its own identity — this can clearly be shown in what seems to be more arcade-like shooting, the ability to transition between first- and third-person views, and a dedication to rendering the massive scale environments in excruciating detail — but it just seems as if it could get lost amongst the developer’s greatest legacy.
Suspected Selling Points
- It’s a Star Wars game releasing close to the release of the new film.
- The game looks like a well-paced and excellently balanced multiplayer shooter, as we’d expect from DICE.
- The game’s narrow field of focus may work in its favour, and at the very least, it seems determined to establish its own identity.
- The game may fall into too niche a group to satisfy core shooter fans, and may be too far from the original source material to truly interest fans of the earlier Battlefront games.
- I find the lack of singleplayer modes disturbing.
- The focus excludes large, important parts of Star Wars lore, and may alienate many fans of the Clone Wars era in the canon.
It’s plain as day to see that this isn’t the Star Wars Battlefront we remember; it’s been trimmed down, perhaps streamlined, but certainly changed. This could be a good or a bad thing: we could see a fantastic shooter which captures the essence of one of the most beloved pieces of culture from the late 20th century, or it could be an uninspired yet solid shooter, which just happens to pit Stormtroopers against Rebels.
It’s difficult to predict which it’s going to be right now, but if Battlefront is set to show something, it’s the true strength of the Star Wars series and its subsections, and how far the love of a famed piece of pop culture can take this game.