In advance of one of the most long-awaited movies of all time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, comes one of the year’s most anticipated games, Star Wars Battlefront.
From veteran development studio, DICE- the same outfit that gave us the Battlefield series, comes the closest thing you can get to living a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Of all the reviews that I’ve ever done, trying to review Star Wars Battlefront subjectively is one of the hardest bits of writing that I’ve ever had to do.
Let’s put this in perspective. I’m 44 years-old. In 1977 I was seven. You can imagine the impact that Star Wars had on me. I’m one of a generation of Star Wars fans left with a bad taste in my mouth after the prequel trilogy. But, just as JJ Abrams seems to be doing with The Force Awakens, Star Wars Battlefront is all about fan service.
And as such, it’s very difficult for me to not gush all over it.
Not since Rogue Leader on the Gamecube have I played a game that has managed to properly capture the visual style of the original trilogy. Of course, the visuals in Star Wars Battlefront are light-years ahead of the 2001 Nintendo game.
Trying not to sound too sad, but Star Wars Battlefront is a game that I’ve waited my entire life to play. And I’m sure I not alone in thinking that. For the first time I felt like I really was piloting an X-wing over the desert wastes of Tattooine or running through the lush undergrowth of Endor.
Star Wars Battlefront is first and foremost a multiplayer game. There are elements that can be played solo or co-operatively (locally via split-screen on console, but oddly not on PC), but these are really nothing but extended tutorials. You are going to need a solid internet connection to get the most of the game.
The lack of a single player campaign is not altogether surprising, as the original Battlefront games were multiplayer only. Also, developers DICE always get a roasting over the campaigns in their Battlefield games, another series that traditionally was only multiplayer and better for it. Still, it would be nice to see some of the game’s amazing environments wrapped in a narrative adventure.
The game divides itself up into Multiplayer and Missions.
The missions section offers solo, two-player and training levels. The training scenarios allow players to pilot an X-Wing through Beggars Canyon, race speeder bike through the forest of Endor among other things, as well as step into the shiny black boots of Lord Vader, himself.
There’s also a series of bot matches pitting the player and a friend against AI enemies and a four horde-style levels that have players taking on increasingly powerful waves of enemies. All these modes offer solo play as well as two-player local split-screen or online play.
Whilst they don’t really make up for the lack of a story-based campaign mode, these off-line modes are very well polished and offer up a lot of fun, especially when playing with a friend. It’s worth noting that the PC version does not support local split-screen play.
The game ships with twelve multiplayer maps set across four locations: Tatooine, Hoth, Endor and Sullust. A fifth location, Jakku from The Force awakens, will unlock for players just in time for the new movie.
There are nine difference multiplayer match types pitting up to forty players against each other. Most of the matches are ground-based affairs with the opportunity to collect vehicles tokens as pilot a variety of ships and ground attack units. For most matches a player from each team can also become a hero or a villain after picking up a special token.
There’s a great selection of game modes some of which are really inspired, all of which ooze Star Wars. Of particular note is Fighter Squadron, which is almost an entirely separate game in itself. Fighter Squadron has two teams of players and a number of AI spacecraft fighting in aerial combat high in the skies above all the locations from the game. Rebels get to choice from X-Wings and A-Wings whilst Imperials have the choice of piloting a TIE Fighter or a TIE Interceptor. There are also opportunities to fly both the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave 1. The dogfights are fun and frantic.
Battlefront dispenses with the usual class-based character selection and instead uses an interesting collectable card-style system. These Star Cards, as well as blasters and custom character skins, are unlocked using credit earnt in battle (or using the Battlefield mobile companion app). This allows player to select their own peaks and weapons based on their play style. The Star Card progression system is inspired, is in no way better than the Battlefield or Call of Duty career systems, which feel more like you are achieving something.
Whilst it’s pretty clear that DICE have spent a phenomenal amount of time honing the gameplay and building the absolutely stunning levels, the game content seems a bit light. Shipping with really only a handful of map is a bit disappointing, especially as EA will, do doubt, be adding content via the game’s rather pricey season pass.
DICE has really outdone themselves with the visuals. I saw the way that they were pushing the lighting in their Frostbite engine with last year’s Dragon Age: Inquisition. I was expecting big-things; I wasn’t quite expecting the graphical fidelity of Battlefront.
I’m sure that I will look back and laugh at these words in a few short years, but for the first time, I’d say that the graphics in Star Wars Battlefront and photo-realistic. EA have finally cracked it. By the careful use of lighting, detailed texturing, some superb ambient occlusion effects and selecting dramatic times of day they have recreated the Star Wars universe inside my PS4. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were watching movie footage.
The sounds and music are sourced from the original trilogy with some new musical arrangements put together for the game. The new music echoes the original Williams score, but is noticeably different.
Star Wars Battlefront is a game that is not without its faults, but the whole experience is packaged up and polished so well, it’s easy to overlook these minor niggles. The game provides the most authentic Star Wars experience to date. If you are not a fan of the movies, you are going to wonder what all the fuss is about, but if you are, you are going to be in heaven.