EA have been getting a lot of hate from Battlefront fans, and perhaps rightly so seeing as it really bears resemblance in name only to the beloved Battlefront franchise. Once it became clear that EA’s Sith Lord marketing strategy would be in full swing for this title, with minimal content on release and a pricey season pass to boot, the Internet mourned the Battlefront name. Despite all this though, there’s no denying that it’s a superficially fun game that beautifully shows off the sights and sounds of the wonderful world of Star Wars. While hardcore Battlefront fans will lament the lack of depth and missing modes like Galactic Conquest, you get the idea that this game is perhaps not for the hardcore fans but aims more at satiating the casual crowd, and really it does this quite well.
Bring it on!!
The first thing that ought to be mentioned is just how stunning this game looks and sounds. Be you a Star Wars fan or nay, this is a veritable visual feast and probably one of the most beautiful video games I have played. There is a real sense that you are taking part in a perfectly recreated slice of the Star Wars universe. Environments like the icy planes of Hoth and forests of Endor are simply spectacular. The sounds are also ripped straight from the films with a stunning symphony orchestral score and of course the soothing sounds of endless laser fire (pew pew pew!). If nothing else, DICE should be applauded for creating possibly the most faithful representation of the Star Wars universe in video games to date. It is a crying shame that this beauty is limited to only four different planets and a meagre handful of maps. Different modes will take place in different parts of the maps but in essence, there is only four different environments to enjoy, which is borderline criminal.
The gameplay mechanics in Battlefront are fairly standard for a modern shooter, but instead of bullets and reloading its lasers (pew pew pew) and overheating. You can select either first or third-person view and they both look and feel natural. The main unique mechanic that spices up the standard gunplay is the card system. For most modes you generally get three power cards to use in combat including things like grenades, special rifles and jet packs (essential for the larger maps as the default jump is pitifully weak), which can be assigned to R1 and R2. One card slot is reserved for a perk like a shield, increased damage from primary weapons or the ability to keep firing whilst not overheating the gun. On top of these three is a trait card, which are kind of like killstreaks or rewards for getting kills without dying, I like the Survivalist trait as it regenerates your health quicker and once you build it up you’ll be able to gain some health after each kill. There are other helpful traits like reducing explosive damage and sprinting being invisible on the minimap
All the cards be upgraded once the required level and points have been achieved for that card, but they have a cool down period to balance things out and ensure a fair fight.
Battlefront has an impressive roster of nine modes, but really some of these end up being a bit pointless. There is no story mode to speak of in Battlefront which will be deeply disappointing for the Star wars fans out there who were hoping to relive some of those classic Star Wars moments. In fact, in terms of single-player there are only two modes available: Survival and Hero Battle. These can be completed solo or with a friend via split-screen or online, however there is no matchmaking. Survival consists of surviving 14 waves of enemies and will be quite familiar to anyone who has played modes such as Horde in Gears of War or Firefight in Halo. Each wave introduces increasingly more difficult enemies including the bipedal mechs known as AT-STs. Supply pods that need to be captured land periodically during the game and each holds three special weapons which are essential to take down the AT-STs quickly before they kill you. Hero Battle sees you taking control of one of the heroes of either the Rebels or Imperials featuring Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia. Similar to Survival you’ll face waves of enemies but you also have to collect the coins they drop until you reach 100. While initially entertaining, these single-player modes are quite basic and unlikely to hold your attention for too long. I definitely recommend finding/making/kidnapping a friend to play this one with as it’s far more exciting that way.
Really it’s no surprise that the online modes are the focus here, and thankfully there is a Tutorial mode which eases you in before you take on actual human beings. The mode shows you the basic controls of the game from running and shooting, to flying, being a hero, operating an AT-ST and also the classic hover bikes (however these are painfully underutilised in the game proper, appearing in only one mode). While the game and its controls aren’t overly complicated, many are likely to appreciate and benefit from this mode before braving the lions’ den of online adversarial play.
The closest this reboot comes to the grand battles of the Battlefronts of yore is in Supremacy and Walker Assault. Both feature sprawling maps that hold forty players at a time but with different objectives. In Supremacy your team needs to capture all the control points or hold the most amount of control points when the time runs out (similar to Battlefield’s Rush mode). In Walker Assault the Imperial team have to keep the AT-ATs (massive quadrupedal mechanical beasts) alive until they reach the Rebels’ base by stopping the Rebels from activating uplink stations. Rebels need to secure uplink stations to lock in Y-Wings bombers to nail the AT-ATs, rendering them vulnerable for a short time so they can be damaged. In a cool twist you can also use special vehicles to tie a cable around their legs and trip them over, straight out of that classic scene in the Battle of Hoth. There’s pickups strewn throughout the level which give players access to the aforementioned heroes as well as land and air vehicles. Jumping on the guns of an AT-AT or whipping out Darth Vader’s lightsaber gives the player a fun opportunity to raise some hell, however the most powerful vehicles invariably belong to the Imperials and these can feel a little imbalanced. While certainly chaotic fun, the scale of these battles makes it hard to sense the impact you’re having on the tide of battle and it can be quite difficult to coordinate strategies. It’s hard not to feel like you’re more a ragtag pack of lone wolves than a cohesive unit and as such these modes can become a little tiresome.
Fighter Squadron is a mode that showcases the aerial dogfights where you jump in various ships like the X-Wing or Tie Fighter and compete in hectic 10 vs 10 matches. Throw some AI enemies on top of this and it’s a little difficult to keep a track of at times; at first it looks like a swarm of weaponised flies going around in circles but you quickly get the gist of it. Vehicle repairs and quick cooldowns for missiles are available throughout the map as pickups, as well as the awesome hero ships. The Rebels will be able to take control of the Millennium Falcon whereas the Imperials have Boba Fett’s beasty Slave 1. Only one of these will be in play at a time, and the pickups won’t respawn unless it gets destroyed. This is a rarity though because of how powerful they both are. An enemy and ally transport vehicle spawn at different times in the match, and your team can get that extra nudge towards victory by shooting the big sucker down. It’s also a great distraction if you are getting bummed by the enemy and need some air time rather than crashy and explody time.
The Cavalry has arrived
Cargo, Blast mode, Drop zone and Droid run are all very similar in the way that they are played on smaller maps with fairly familiar objectives. These game modes are executed competently, but they lack much in the way of spark or originality, and they end up feeling more like a pointless distraction and a content filler rather than a well thought out experience. The unique mode Hero Hunt fares far better in terms of originality but fall down a little in execution. This is a 7 vs 1, everyone versus the hero scenario, with the aim of killing as many people as the hero as you can. To be the hero you need to land the killing shot on the reigning hero, and there’s a good hunter/hunted vibe created here. The concept is unique, but when everyone on your team wants that final killing blow for themselves, it becomes a simple race to the hero and a gamble of bullets which determines who will take the kill, which makes the game mode somewhat less skilful or fun.
The Good Guys
The Bad Guys
The 6 vs 6 Heroes vs Villians is definitely a standout of the smaller map modes. Three people on each team take on the role of three heroes and the other three are just ordinary infantry. The heroes rotate between everyone in the team at random so everyone gets a turn to be the hero. The mode is scored as rounds; the team that successfully kills all the enemies’ heroes wins that round and the first team to win five rounds wins the game. If you are killed as a hero you become a trooper to help protect your remaining heroes, however be prepared to be annihilated when playing as infantry against the likes of Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine. It’s fast paced, exciting and lots of fun, easily my favourite game mode of the entire game.
Whether I was winning or losing, I found myself still having fun which is a rare thing in multiplayer games. Compare this to the likes of Call of Duty where losing can result in many loud screaming matches with the TV and listening to whinging twelve-year olds. Oddly you are not even given the option to listen to whinging twelve-year olds as there is no team chat whatsoever. Understandably for the larger game modes you don’t want twenty people all talking at the same time, but for the smaller game modes there should be a chat option and its absence is a bit ridiculous. The game screams teamwork and without communication it’s obviously hard to develop a strategy. While friends will simply jump into party chat, people playing alone might be turned off by the deafening silence from your squad.
Another missed opportunity is the character customisation, which is extremely poor. You have access to limited pre-set faces and emotes (actions your character can do such as waving, calling team mates over, telling everyone they suck or how awesome you are), but given the stunted range of options it’s unlikely you’ll feel that the character you create is unique and you’ll be seeing doppelgangers aplenty.
It is no secret that there has been an uproar in the gaming community regarding the lack of content for a full-price game. This is a title that many were excited for, but the wind was definitely taken out of a few sails when it was revealed that expensive pre-planned DLC seemed to be required to gain the full experience. I agree with the fact that there isn’t a lot of meaningful content to be experienced in the game at release, and it feels like the marketing was targeted to suck people in with the Star Wars branding and then charge people more to play what should have been in the original release. All this being said, I don’t think it takes too much away from what the game is: a fun and easy to play family-friendly game which represents a spectacularly faithful representation of the Star Wars universe in terms of spectacle and sound. While the hardcore players might not find the depth and variety they crave, the game caters nicely to those that want to simply pick up a controller and pew pew some random enemies online. It’s a crying shame (although not entirely unsurprising) that EA chose to go the way of the cash cow on this one, because if this game was bolstered by a little more content it could be something truly special.
Reviewed on PS4