Most every gamer would agree, it has been too damn long since a Star Wars Battlefront game has graced our consoles. After a rocky development cycle for the cancelled Battlefront 3, the planets finally aligned long enough for Electronic Arts to nab up the rights to create a new entry in the venerable series. We’ve put the game through its paces, and have our final say in review form ready for you.
It’s Full of Stars
Battlefront is the best looking Star Wars game ever made. I can say that confidently, because the footage speaks for itself. While you’ve seen a few locations in the beta, other areas like Tatooine and the forest moon of Endor are all impeccably recreated. Whereas previous Battlefront games took iconic areas straight from the movie set, here we have re-imaginings of not only the areas seen in the movies, but everything else around it. DICE has multiplayer battlefield mapping chops, put front and center with intricate, open maps that ensure no two playthroughs are the same.
Audio is also expertly crafted in Battlefront. In larger maps that include vehicular combat, one close pass of a TIE fighter or interceptor is enough to remind you that you are truly playing in the Star Wars universe. Combine the excellent graphics and intense audio, and Star Wars comes to life in your living room. Iconic sounds from the movies permeate every second of the game, from the title screen on through lulls in the battle. In fact, if you find yourself on a nearly-empty server, taking in the game’s environment and ambiance is a treat in itself. On that forest moon of Endor, for instance, you can hear countless wildlife, and of course the cute Ewoks make their occasional shrieks when you scare them with merely your presence. Each planet feels alive (or desolate, in Hoth’s case) whether you’re currently engaged in combat or not.
You may not have much time to take in the sights, however, in many of Battlefront‘s main game modes. The largest modes, Supremacy and Walker Assault, support up to 40 players, and the game’s matchmaking system attempts to put you in as full of a game as possible. Most of the time this is a quick and painless affair, but occasionally the game cannot find any matches and places you in an empty, or nearly empty, server. With so many people having already picked up the game, don’t expect any server to stay empty for long. Once the minimum amount of players for your chosen mode have been found, you can join the game or wait until the timer reaches zero. There are no options to create a game for yourself, however you can create a party and ensure that you’re in a match with your friends.
A Multiplayer Force
Now, it’s true that there is no campaign mode. There are some tutorials and missions, which can be played by yourself, or in the case of the missions, in co-op mode either online or in local splitscreen. I know I am personally thankful for any splitscreen options in games these days, though it was a bit disappointing to learn that I couldn’t take split screen into online matches. There are also Survival challenges, which task you and your optional companion with surviving 15 waves of ever-more difficult enemies, as well as securing drop pods for added help. In all of these single-player/co-op missions, Normal difficulty is usually too easy, and presents little challenging. Yet Hard difficulty is so much more difficult, it makes you weep at the thought of attempting to clear any mission on the even more challenging Master setting.
Straight-up combat is where things can be hit-or-miss, and it all depends on your loadout. Weapons are varied, though not by a whole lot. There’s pistols, shotguns and rifles in blaster form — none of these are true projectile firearms, that it to say they are all lasers. So you never have to worry about ammunition, just overheating. If your weapon overheats, you’ll have a brief window of cooling, which you can interrupt with a successfully timed press of the square button. Unfortunately, as of this writing a few weapons feel overpowered. The DL-44 pistol, for example, has an incredible damage rate. It has been paired with a fast overheat rate, however you can fire off enough rounds before that happens that you’re likely to hit your opponent at least once, which is usually enough to kill them. You know a weapon is a bit too powerful when during our review event, when all items were unlocked, almost every player chose that weapon in their loadout. No doubt we’ll see some balancing patches in the weeks immediately following Battlefront‘s release.
Multiplayer being the crux of any Battlefront title these days, EA chose the right team in putting DICE at the helm of coding this game. Some people call this a re-skin of Battlefield. I think that’s unfair. They have similarities, but only in the fact that they’re both team-based shooters that have excellent graphics and audio design. Battlefront differs in numerous ways. Heroes can drastically alter the course of the battle, because in the hands of a skilled player they can seem nearly unstoppable, especially with some heroes/villains such as Princess Leia and Emperor Palpatine, who can both summon health pickups at will. Speaking of pickups, they serve as the only way to get certain items, such as rocket launchers, air strikes, and the epic-sounding implosion grenade. The pickups are strewn randomly about the battlefield — there are no killstreak perks other than earning points. Certain, slightly different-shaped pickups grant you access to a vehicle that’s available on the current map, including TIE fighters and interceptors, A- and X-Wings, and AT-ST and the epic AT-AT Walkers. Vehicles take some serious time to become a threat in, as each has their own sets of advantages and caveats. Once you’re competent in those vehicles, though, you can survive the majority of a game of Supremacy or Walker Assault in a vehicle, while a massive battle takes place on the ground as you defend the skies.
Outside of Supremacy and Walker Assault, each of which are modes that make you feel like you are truly living through a battle in the Star Wars universe, some of the rest feels kind of like filler material. Blast is a typical team deathmatch. Cargo is capture the flag, while Droid Run involves capturing droids, which serve as slowly-moving control points. Drop Zone involves static control points instead. The two final modes, Heroes v. Villains and Hero Hunt, are good for getting used to the wildly different controls that apply whenever you’re playing as an iconic character. Heroes v. Villains is a 3+ vs. 3+ game mode, since not every player is chosen to play as a hero. Hero Hunt pits a single hero against up to seven other players. Kill the hero, and become a random one to be hunted next. Get the most kills when the timer runs out, and you win! These last two modes are a breath of fresh air compared to the simple interpretations of established modes elsewhere in the game.
Progression takes the form of weapon, star/trait cards, and character unlocks in Battlefront. Just unlocking the useful jetpack takes 13 levels, however you can level very quickly by playing in the larger modes. To top it off, there are no micro-transactions to tempt you into simply buying your way to the top. Unlocking new weapons for “purchase” with in-game credits earned by playing games, including a companion strategy game on iOS, Android, and PC is much better than that alternative. All of this unlocking business culminates in receiving in-game character models in a diorama, which features a piece of the game’s action, frozen in time for your viewing and zooming pleasure at any time. You unlock various characters placed throughout the scene by obtaining a certain character level, performing a specific amount of kills with a given weapon, and more.
Star Wars Battlefront is a casual fan’s dream come true. That’s not a bad thing, because what’s here is fun, but it’s something you have to consider if you’re looking for a more fulfilling title. There’s light strategy to be had here, mostly in ensuring that your teammates are looking out for one another and staying together when things get dicey. There’s no doubt that Battlefront will sell millions of copies, much like the movie will sell millions of tickets. At this point, the hype for both is so unbelievably high, that everyone at LucasArts is expecting it to be a very merry Christmas indeed.
So should you drop $60 for the base game? If you ever dreamed of recreating some classic battles or sequences from the Star Wars movies, and are okay with the lack of any sort of campaign, then there is a fair amount of content to keep you occupied. Especially if you are a completionist, expect to sink at least 100 hours to unlock everything in that diorama. You can tell DICE has a bunch of Star Wars fans on staff, and Star Wars Battlefront feels like a loving “welcome back” from a developer who has missed the franchise as much as us gamers have.
Review copy for Star Wars Battlefront provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.