Review: Star Wars Battlefront Is A Brief Ode To The Classics
Star Wars Battlefront has incurred the wrath of some fans for its limited roster and steep season pass, but does DICE's shooter ship with enough to move past these criticisms?
- Worth The Time?Absolutely
- Things LovedBeautifully faithful rendition of the Star Wars universe. Simple and easily accessible game. Incredibly intuitive Star Card system. Incredibly compelling multiplayer dynamic between Rebels and Imperial forces. Walker Assault and Supremacy really showcase the game's strengths and variety.
- Things HatedUnforgivably small roster of maps. Lots of throwaway modes. Heroes are clunky to handle, and not at all graceful to fight with. Game is a little unforgiving on low level players.
- RecommendationIf you're a Star Wars fan, have the money and at least relatively interested in shooters, it's well worth the investment -- season pass included. Otherwise you may want to give it a skip until the inevitable complete edition releases.
- Name: Star Wars Battlefront
- Genre: DLC Simulator
- Players: 1-40
- Multiplayer: Online co-op, competitive
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
- Developer: DICE
- Publisher: EA
- Price: R899/ $60
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Star Wars Battlefront has been met with equal parts fanfare and cynicism; for a game that appeals to such a broad audience, the rebooted title’s content limitations and R500 season pass have left some fans quite disillusioned with what EA and DICE were cooking up.
These complaints aren’t unfounded either — for a AAA game to be shipping with just four large maps which are used in the game’s Walker Assault and Supremacy Modes, and eight smaller ones (which are mostly reduced versions of larger maps) used for smaller modes like Blast and Heroes vs. Villains is alarming.
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It was never in doubt that DICE had the pedigree to pull off a Star Wars shooter with the scale of Battlefront — their Battlefield series is amongst the most-loved shooters on the market today — and at a base level the game is a mechanically solid shooter, but its lacking a content pool and the periphery to make it truly excellent.
The game takes many of its cues from the PlayStation 2-era Battlefront games, most notably the optional first- and third-person perspectives and hero combat system. The mix of this adherence to series mainstays and DICE’s acute understanding of shooters means that Star Wars Battlefront is a very capable modern shooter which respects the traditions of what is a much-loved series.
In that Battlefront is an absolutely spectacular ode to the big battles of the old movies: from the destruction of the Rebel Base on Hoth, to the chaos that was the Battle of Endor. The maps, characters and effects are beautifully rendered, and the locations are so incredibly true to the series. John Williams’ soundtracks and the sound effects from the movies are used expertly to make Battlefront feel like a faithful trip into Star Wars lore. It’s clear this game was built by a team that were intent on making the best Star Wars game that they could, and it is a highly detailed and convincing rendition of an incredibly popular piece of popular culture.
There are a couple of inconsistencies which arise — Luke’s outfit and lightsaber on Hoth being from Episode VI, characters appearing on the wrong planets and so forth — but they don’t really constitute anything more than a very minor annoyance. My biggest confusion is why Sullust, though beautiful in its own right, is included in the game in place of somewhere like Yavin IV, from Episode IV, or Cloud City on Bespin from Episode V. Though it’s notably separate environmentally from Hoth, Endor and Tatooine, Yavin and Bespin would have been far more relevant to the universe, and far more recognisable for players.
The game does a few non-standard things which work very well. The Star Card system, which allows players to choose two equipment cards (so grenades and special weapons fall in here), one temporary buff ability (which allows players a temporary boost, such as explosive shots or focusing aim) and a class specialisation card (which ranks up to provide significant individual bonuses if you do well in-game), is a brilliantly simple and easy to understand system for class composition. It also allows for recharging bonuses like grenades and shields, instead of arbitrary ammunition limits.
The way that Star Cards and weapons unlock does mean that lower level players may be at the mercy of more specialised players until they’ve gained a few levels, but the two base blasters are capable enough weapons, and once players unlock the Thermal Detonator, they should be able to hold their own in most situations.
The power-up token system, which has become somewhat uncommon in modern games, is also used effectively to distribute weapons like the Thermal Imploder and automated infantry and vehicle-targetting turrets which, if used effectively, can massively shift matches. Separate, specially marked pickups are available for vehicles and heroes, but this feels somewhat less efficient.
In the case of aerial vehicles, the pickup system isn’t especially useful, as it places you in the open map when you spawn in them — which means that experienced and already airborne players have an easy target to pick off as the camera shifts from cinematic to gameplay. While the maps don’t exactly lend themselves to take offs as seen in the Battlefield series, it would have been nice to spawn a little off the main map, to at give players a chance to get their bearings and assess the battlefield before being mercilessly shot down.
The game throws players into four major battles in the Galactic Civil War, in either the shoes of the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance. The game feels intentionally imbalanced because of this: the Rebels have no direct counter to the Imperial AT-ST walkers, but they have an advantage in the air, with the T-47 airspeeders — seen in the films taking down the AT-AT on Hoth — reinforcing their aerial arsenal alongside the X-Wing and A-Wing.
It does feel as if the game favours either a bunkered-down, defensive Rebel team, or one that uses guerilla warfare effectively, especially on maps like Endor, which have large middle channels surrounded by plenty of foliage which the earthy Rebel uniforms blend into, or Hoth, which is covered in trenches and tactically advantageous vantage points which become heavily contested from afar, forming a deadly No Man’s Land between them. It’s an incredibly compelling dynamic, which is both a substantial change of pace from Battlefield and Call of Duty — both of which encourage constant movement — and incredibly fresh to play.
The Heroes can play a big part in shifting the tide in these combats: having Boba Fett pulling the attention of Rebels away to open space for a charge, or Luke Skywalker cutting through Stormtroopers to make an opening in the game can go a long way to winning a game. The same can be said of aerial units: a player that can lay down fire on key objectives on the ground, like gun placements or AT-ST walkers, can make their infantry’s job a lot easier and rack up a good few kills themselves.
The game has a variety of modes, but it shines on Walker Assault, Supremacy and Fighter Squadron, which channel the large-scale spectacle which has made the Star Wars series so famous, Heroes vs. Villains, which sees all the Empire and Rebel’s key characters face off, and Blast (Team Deathmatch), which allow players time to get to terms with game mechanics and test out new equipment in a less intense environment respectively. While there are a number of other modes, they don’t really really offer enough variety not seen in other modes to add anything substantial to the game, especially given the comparatively limited map roster.
It’s clear that Star Wars Battlefront isn’t a perfect shooter, and that DICE will get away with a lot of the game’s shortcomings because it’s Star Wars, but it does some things very well. It creates an unbelievably beautiful rendition of the classic Star Wars universe — both in looks and sounds — it creates a compelling shooter, which I can still see myself still putting plenty of hours into. Despite the controversies it’s stirred up, it’s an incredibly solid shooter, which only falls short because of a lack of content — which unfortunately may be its downfall.