It’s fair to say that the months leading up to the official release of Star Wars Battlefront have been somewhat controversial.
It’s refreshing to see the stubbornness of the gaming community against the current trend of cynical micro-transactions, the release of unfinished content and the obligatory DLC that accompanies it. I must admit, I was as disgruntled as the next ardent Battlefront fan when some of the features of EA’s next-gen reboot were revealed. No space battles? No Galactic Conquest mode? No prequel trilogy content at all? We were all prepared to be as disappointed as Obi-Wan was when Anakin turned to the dark side and forgot how to act. However, to paraphrase a well-spoken acquaintance: “Once you start playing, you just don’t care.”
Now, this isn’t to say that Star Wars Battlefront isn’t lacking in some primary aspects. Sure, everyone would have loved to see some of the older modes rekindled and I’m not excusing that. That being said, I feel that it is only fair to critique a game at face value. Therefore, the fundamental proposition is the same as with all games: is it good? In this instance, the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
After lengthy persuasion on my brother’s part, I finally conceded and downloaded the 10 hour free trial of Battlefront via the EA Access Hub. With heavily tinted glasses of sincere cynicism, I loaded up the game, eager to discredit it at every opportunity. Before I could think, John Williams’ legendary score hit me like a careering tauntaun. I was whisked away to a simple tutorial mode on the planet Hoth, a straightforward affair which taught me to run, jump and shoot at targets. Never has a tutorial section been so thrilling. The deep blue of Hoth’s crisp horizon, the dazzling shimmer of sunlight reflecting off the well-trodden snow, the garbled robotic chatter of imperial probe droids, and just like that, the comforting familiarity of the Star Wars universe had enthralled me.
To say the graphics in this game are amazing would be an understatement. I am not typically the sort to obsess over such intricacies as the frame rate or the level of high definition that a game possesses, but DICE’s reinvention of the popular franchise insists upon your vision. As previously mentioned, the maps that encompass the snowy tundras of Hoth are a particular highlight. Locations familiar to fans of the original Star Wars film trilogy have clearly been crafted with care here, both in terms of aesthetic appeal and gameplay effectiveness. The rebel base on Hoth and its surrounding trenches are stunning to look at, in addition to contributing towards some breathtaking firefights in its dark interior catacombs and the vast exterior wasteland.
A common grievance cited by prospective players was the lack of map variety. I can reassure those most sceptical of you, while the number of planets may be scarce, the maps that actually comprise those planets are varied and excellent. The Ewok homeland of Endor flourishes in beautiful fauna, every last shadow and blade of grass easy on the eye. Much like Hoth, Endor also strikes a harmonic balance of wide-open battlefield combat and close-quarters corridor firefights. Across the spectrum of provided planets (Hoth, Endor, Tattooine, Sullust and Jakku) maps are hand-crafted for each of the game’s many game modes, and none of which have felt restrictive or uninspired thus far.
Speaking of game modes, one cannot look at this game without a prolonged glance at its multiplayer offerings. After all, it’s not as if there’s any single-player content to look at…
Fans of the previous games will not be disappointed with Supremacy mode, the command post-based deathmatch variant that we all know and love. The obvious starting point in regards to new modes is the appealing spectacle that is Walker Assault. The satisfying mix of micro-combat between opposing infantries and macro-combat between the imposing Imperial AT-AT walkers and the rebel snowspeeders make for a truly cinematic experience. Throughout the multiplayer gameplay, the game excels at truly creating a romantic impression of the Star Wars universe, and this is never more prevalent than with Walker Assault. Other modes include Heroes vs Villians, an allusion to Star Wars Battlefront II’s notoriously fun Mos Eiseley Hunt game-type. This mode sees Jedi and Sith battle it out in small contained maps. While superficially fun, the game type quickly highlights the marked lack of playable characters, with only 3 different heroes from both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. One would feel that the inclusion of the prequel trilogy may have remedied this deficiency of content.
Ultimately though, most sins can be forgiven if the gameplay is up to scratch. And thankfully, this is where Battlefront truly hits the spot. While purists may be slightly disappointed in the shift to a first person perspective, it is difficult to deny its effectiveness in making the game more accessible and more fun. With the added ability to ‘zoom in’ with your weapon Call of Duty-style, it’s easy to say that Battlefront’s gunplay has been refined to match the new generation of gaming. Firefights at both long and close range are a joy to behold, the trademark screeches and fluorescent flashes of blaster fire immerse you in the hectic theatres of battle, all of which is aided by the complete fluidity of the controls. Furthermore, the new ‘Partner’ mechanic is a fresh addition, allowing players to unite with a chosen friend to share weapons and equipment via the new card-based loadout system which is also a fun and welcome update.
While I could go on for days about what ISN’T in this game (some of which are legitimate issues, I grant you that) it’s important to appreciate what DICE has offered. The majority of the micro-elements that compose this game are first-class. Particular mention must go to the sheer beauty of the graphics, of which I am yet to see rivalled by a console game. But most importantly, Star Wars Battlefront succeeds in the most important area of all: fun. The online multiplayer content of this game is an absolute blast (no pun intended), thanks in no small part to the tight gun controls, excellent map construction, innovative and immersive game modes and overall excellent atmosphere. It’s a cliché, and I’m sure every Star Wars game review ever ends with this, but I’ve been wanting to say this for a while.
The force is strong with this one.