Is it reboot or a sequel? That’s the question that’s been on the lips of many since Star Wars: Battlefront was announced, and now that we’ve had hands on it’s still not entirely clear. Alongside that there’s been much made of the supposed lack of content, no singleplayer campaign and a pricey season pass; so it’s been facing an uphill struggle from the off. The real question should be: does it do the source material justice?
There have been a lot of Star Wars games and very few have lived up to fan expectations, with two of the notable exceptions being the original Battlefront and its sequel on PS2. Pitting two teams against each other, Rebels vs. Imperials, the aim of the game was a simple fight for control of objectives in a themed map and managed to make you feel like you were part of the universe George Lucas created nearly 40 years ago. We hungered for a promised third instalment on the PS3 that never materialised (though development footage surfaced), and so it skipped a generation. Now it’s finally here and it’s with mixed emotions that I’m reviewing it. See, I wanted the land and space battles that we got in Battlefront II, but with the power of the current generation there to realise the environments and scale that wasn’t available a decade ago. That isn’t here, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Let’s address the issue around content first. There are only 4 worlds (at the moment anyway), but each world accommodates a map that can be used in each of the 9 game modes on offer, and the layouts of the maps are suitably different to make best use of the mode being played. It doesn’t feel like there’s a primary mode you should be focussing on, though Walker Assault probably gets the most recognition due to its inclusion in beta. Challenged with taking down an AT-AT or two in the snowy terrain of Hoth produces arguably the most iconic moment from the movie universe, and for any Star Wars fan is probably the selling point of Battlefront. Who could resist being able to storm Echo base as part of the Imperial army, or take control of snowspeeder and skim the frozen landscape looking for targets? It’s also one of the modes that has up to 40 players at once taking part, really making you feel part of a huge fight for victory.
Focussing on the mechanics for the moment (we’ll get to the other modes shortly), things are kept deliberately simple. Choose 1st or 3rd person view, run at the enemy, fire, die, respawn, repeat. Despite Battlefront coming from the studio that’s brought us 4 incarnations of Battlefield where accuracy and skill are paramount to success, this is a different proposition. There’s more of an arcade style approach to the action so that anyone can enjoy the Star Wars experience – this is a mass market appeal game remember. You’ve no choice of character or class, which strips back any deliberation at the start of a round, and differentiation between players is through unlocking weapons and abilities as you level up. Blaster types are varied enough so that it’s easy to find something you like, and bonuses (called Star Cards here) come in all sorts of formats from grenades to jetpacks. Then there are power ups.
Power ups are your access to heavy weaponry, vehicles or Heroes/Villains during the battle, and because they’re semi-randomly placed and require no particular level to use, they’re a brilliant way of keeping your engagement. Picked up and used at the right time they can provide a much needed boost, or even change the tide of battle, especially with the Heroes/Villains. Find one of these tokens and you get to pick Luke, Han or Leia for the Rebels, and Vader, The Emperor or Boba Fett for the Empire, granting you appropriate powers and exceptional health until the other team manage to take you down. Because everyone can play as one of these characters, or blast an AT-ST with a rocket launcher, or take part in an X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter duel, there’s not that barrier to entry that can crop up with some of the games that need you to commit time to levelling up before letting you play with the cool toys. Battlefront is the cool toy and had to figure out a way to share itself with all the kids.
What if you can’t get hold of your favourite character from the original trilogy? There’s a mode for that. Hero Hunt randomly selects a player and faces them off against everyone else – kill the hero and you become one (a bit like Gladiator mode from Timesplitters 2). Then there’s Heroes vs. Villains where you’re guaranteed to be one of the key characters during a 5 round battle where the first to the score limit wins. These end up being fast paced forays into figuring out team dynamics and the best way to counter the powers of the other side. If you like that kind of pace there’s Blast, Droid Run, Dropzone and Cargo to get to grips with. If Walker Assault had your attention then you’ll probably like Supremacy too which is more like a traditional Battlefield-style conquest offering. Lastly there’s Fighter Squadron which has all the aerial fun that you’d want of swooping over land in Slave 1 taking apart the Alliance’s defences (it really is a huge fanboy thrill!).
Yes, there’s no solo campaign, and I can’t say that the game wouldn’t be better with one. It’s crying out for it at times. However, there are some singleplayer activities that act as tutorials and mini-games to get used to the controls, as well as AI battles and a survival mode that has 4 maps and 3 difficulty levels, so 12 to go at in total. These can also be played in online co-op and split-screen, a welcome addition as it’s something sadly lacking in many games now. It’s far from sparse, but could have been so much more, especially as the spiritual predecessors were all designed for an era that didn’t have widespread internet access and turned the large scale battles into challenges for the lone soldier.
Without doubt, Battlefront is the epitome of creating a game out of a movie experience, there’s so much care and attention gone into building every single little detail. The visuals are spot on, and the audio sucks you right into believing you’re taking part in the struggle for control of the galaxy. It’s pretty fairly balanced as well with neither side being over powered and having an advantage over the other. Sure, you have to work as a team to win – you can’t take down an AT-AT on your own – but it’s never unfair. Whatever the outcome of a game, the next round in sequence has you playing as the opposing side so you get anything beneficial or detrimental. With the loading being quick, the gameplay so smooth, and levelling up relatively swift, it’s hard not to recommend Star Wars: Battlefront. If you’re looking for something that won’t demand a lot of your time, that has that instant gratification feel, and makes you grin like an idiot the first time you pilot a speeder through the forest of Endor, then this is the game for you.
Star Wars: Battlefront is out now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One with free Battle of Jakku content coming on the 8th December, and planned episode drops over the next few months with the season pass.