Video Game Review: Star Wars: Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront is a multiplayer focused game with some of the best graphics in Star Wars gaming history, but can it live up to expectations of carrying the fan-favorite moniker, Battlefront? The answer isn’t a solid yes, as it’s an experience that both seems, and eventually is, thin, but there’s no denying no matter how long you play it there’s fun to be had.

This review took a while because there was a little Star Wars movie that came out, the SW comics and Rebels TV show are out on a weekly basis, I just bought my first home and have been dealing with all the unpacking that comes with that, and most importantly there are just tons of other fantastic video games out which demand and hold my attention more so than Battlefront. I easily could’ve taken some time out to play Battlefront here and there, but I always found something that interested me more, mainly because I’m not a big multiplayer gamer. I only mention this all because ultimately the decision for buying Battlefront comes down to similar factors to us all, no matter how fun it can be from time to time, as it being multiplayer-focused and slightly limited in content at launch* might prevent most gamers from checking Battlefront out. Most of my review might back up the decision to skip this game, but it’s definitely a mechanically solid shooter, provides many moments of fun and nostalgia, and is easily the best looking Star Wars game to date, so there are reasons to play it at some point. Its different but often too similar multiplayer modes, and skimpy offerings overall are what keep it from becoming something great.

Walker Assault IndeedThe sense of nostalgia you’ll get upon first booting up Battlefront is nearly overwhelming, thanks in a large part to the development team at DICE and their commitment to providing movie authentic graphics and sounds, and I’ll never forget taking down my first TIE fighter in an X-wing…or the 100th TIE fighter. The attention to detail on everything from the wear and tear on the blasters, stormtrooper suits and rebellion fatigues looking worn and dirty, realistic looking maps on familiar planets like Hoth, Endor, Tatooine, as well as new ones like Sullust, really sell the game’s Star Wars feel. You’d be excused for walking by the screen while someone plays and thinking they were watching one of the films because it just looks that good making it hard to argue a lot love and care went into making the game look so damn fantastic. And you don’t have to take my word for it, check out this peaceful video’s beautiful look at highlights from the gorgeous maps/graphics. This is arguably Battlefront‘s greatest strength and the biggest reason I’d suggest Star Wars fans to pick this game up at some point, because you’ll be hard pressed to find a Star Wars game that really looks and feels like it’s part of the universe like Battlefront does…even when Emperor Palpatine comes hurdling towards you on Hoth, something that certainly doesn’t happen in the films.

As one should expect in a multiplayer game, weapons, power-ups/extra abilities, and customization options are locked behind leveling restrictions and cost in-game credits. The main weapons available for players, not including power ups known as Star Cards (more on them in a bit), aren’t much to write home about. There’s some decent enough variety in long, short, and medium range, as well as heavy and light blasters, but there are a few which aren’t always easy to distinguish between for more casual gamers. Those who are playing Battlefront more religiously will know the difference between the T-21 and T-21B and which is best for a certain game types/maps. At least since the Beta, there has been a rise in weapon variety and any gamer should find a blaster comfortable to them that’ll get the job done (as long as they get a chance to fire it at the enemy, of course). The customization options are terribly basic, including generic heads with simple hair swaps, and while being a Twi’lek is for higher players only, there’s no coloring option. Thankfully, the emotes are funny and include quite the entertaining amount of variety (see video), though you might not find yourself using them often in the thick of combat.

Tatooine BattleBasic Star Cards include such items like Jet Packs, Pulse Canon (think sniper), and Thermal Detonators, which can be used continuously throughout a match, though are on a refresh timer. There are also Charged Star Cards, like Personal Shield and Scan Pulse, which grant you limited abilities and can only be used a limited amount of times. And lastly there are Trait cards, like Bodyguard which decreases explosive damage you take, that can be upgraded during the match (though reset upon death/matches). Cards can be assigned to ‘Hands’ you can select in-game to switch between, with two Basic Cards and one Charged, so you can have a varied skillset at your disposal depending on how the match is going. If you’re not going to be playing the game as often and as well as some of the more dedicated players out there, the matchmaking doesn’t always do a good job of keeping you with near-leveled players and suddenly you’re learning the hard way how good later Star Cards could be. One plus side is the ability to have a teammate, randomly selected by the game if you’re not playing with friends in your party, and you’ll be able to use their Hand of Star Cards regardless if you’ve unlocked items yourself. There are a decent amount of cards, but questionable levels of usability, as I found myself sticking to a set Hand often and not varying up the Cards because the others simply didn’t appeal to me or they didn’t fit my play-style well. Upon the game’s initial release, outside of random challenges and daily community challenges, there wasn’t much besides grinding through the game to get the required experience/credits to finally get higher level Star Cards. It’s a unique system, eschewing the popular class and/or loadout features you find in most multiplayer games, but once you start sticking to one or two set-ups it doesn’t feel that much different.

Outside of playing as your basic soldier, some of the game modes include Hero and Villain pick-ups, enabling you to take control of the battlefield as the likes of Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Emperor Palpatine, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo (before the DLC released new ones, like Nien Numb and Greedo). Vader and Luke have similar saber abilities and ranged Force attacks, though the former’s Force Choke is the most satisfying move from any of the characters in the game. Boba Fett and Han Solo also compare in their blaster capabilities, but Boba’s jetpack comes at quite the advantage. Palpatine and Leia offer support roles, dolling out supplies to their team and include the ability for honor guards to spawn on them with higher-powered weapons. If you can get a hang of them, playing as a Hero or Villain can be an empowering and gleeful experience, but sometimes they can come to crushing halt (literally, as Luke Skywalker finds out the hard way). The Villains lack the overall ranged capabilities and powers as the Heroes have, sometimes making their specific game mode one sided if players know how best to utilize skills and map layouts to their advantage.

There are quite a few different game modes, from your basic deathmatch “Blast,” a capture-the-flag variant in “Cargo,” control-point takeover in, “Supremacy,” “Heroes vs Villains” pitting it’s playable characters like Darth Vader and Han Solo against each other, to the giant battles of “Walker Assault” where the Empire is trying to destroy a target using AT-ATs and the Rebels do their best to destroy the lumbering machines before they can. Occasional balancing issues and killing corridors for experienced/long-time players to take advantage of can mar several of the experiences, but largely each mode can be fun for awhile and provide a good variety of big moments you’ll want to use the current generation of console’s gameplay capturing capabilities to record for bragging rights. But for every exuberant moment and triumph, there’s just as many bouts of frustration and annoyance when facing more organized, skilled enemies or being stuck on an untalented team that make any game mode a chore to play through to the end, but such is the risk of playing a multiplayer focused game.

Fighter SquadronWhile some of the modes above offer vehicle gameplay, like AT-ATs, AT-STs, and starfighters, none of the modes implement the starfighters as well as “Fighter Squadron.” It’s a 10 v 10 mode where you’re thrown into a raging in-atmosphere battle, with an additional 10 AI controlled fighters on either side to give each battle a chaotic feel, with the simple goal of taking each other out (and some enemy transport ships as well). Fighter responsiveness and maneuverability might be more arcade-ish in nature than say the Rogue Squadron‘s series controls, but it’s easy enough to pick up (which I was afraid it wouldn’t be in my Beta impressions) that you’ll be acing your way through the skies like Poe Dameron in no-time. While there’s only the Millennium Falcon and Slave I to control as Hero pickups, they feel appropriately powered while flying them, but can feel unfair at times when facing them (they soak up blaster fire like a high-level raid boss in an RPG title). It’s a shame there aren’t more modes utilizing starfighters exclusively, as they’re a true highlight from the game and shows potential for expansion in Battlefront DLC (though none of the DLC hints at more starfighter focused modes) or a follow-up game. Ground vehicles receive a your mileage may vary vote, as the AT-ST is decently powered and can certainly turn the tide in battle if used correctly (or not blown off the map by the enemies quickly), you can only control the AT-AT’s weapons therefore making it feel like an on-rails shooter for several moments, and the speeder bike is only really nice to use in the training mode level.

There are a few options for single-player only experiences, but they mainly function as training courses. There’s at least a mostly challenging wave-based mode, especially on higher difficulties playing alone, but there is a co-op option to help with that. Thankfully co-op isn’t just online, as most of these non-multiplayer modes can be played with local co-op, a feature which hasn’t been as prominent as one would hope these days. Overall, not only are the single-player modes bare-bones, they are largely forgettable but hint at what could’ve been had the developers included a single-player campaign mode. Playing them just makes you wish they had (you’re not alone in wishing: so too did John Boyega, Finn from The Force Awakens!)

Scorched Endor Forests*Battlefront has DLC just like any other game these days, but picking it all up adds another $40 to purchase price of the game in the form of a season pass. There has been free DLC released, including new maps and modes (like the “Battle of Jakku” pack), and even though they’re free the developers obviously haven’t skimped on the experiences. I felt like I should have to pay to get to play on the new scorched Endor map or night time Hoth as they are just as detailed and gorgeous as what was released on the disc. Another new addition are Hutt Contracts, which vary up end-game content by making new Star Cards something players obtain through using other Cards x amount of times or getting killstreaks with certain weapons instead of just XP points and credits. The contracts have forced me to change up my Star Card Hands, adding a bit of refreshing play to the game as it gets players to adjust to using Cards they aren’t used to or have ignored in the past. But if there’s all these great things being added for free, is it really worth an extra $40 for the season pass? That question is best answered by your pocketbook and level of dedication to playing the game, but if you don’t buy in you’ll be missing out on even more maps, new heroes, and Star Cards (here’s a detailed list of what’s to come in the Season Pass). I’ve personally not bought any DLC for the game, but check out this review at Forbes to see if the content has been worth it or not so far starting with the ‘Outer Rim’ pack.

Here are a few other things:

Jakku Graveyard

It’s likely before Star Wars Battlefront released November 17, 2015, especially knowing it was multiplayer only, you and many others already made a decision on whether to buy it or not. For some, buying it was a no-brainer because they simply wanted the next Star Wars video game even if they weren’t going to play it a lot (like me). For others, seeing it was a multiplayer-focused game they wanted to dominate it either alone or with friends. And many were a combination of all the above and some I’ve not listed. In the end, it doesn’t matter your reasoning because anyone who’s bought the game will find something they enjoy which will keep them coming back to play it from time to time. Overall though, as I’ve said about other aspects of the game, your mileage will certainly vary.

+ Gorgeous graphics

+ Fighter Squadron mode

+ Enjoyably fun experience…

 …though not enough to keep you coming back day in and day out

 Multiplayer modes frequently feel the same

 Skimpy customization options

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

STAR WARS VIDEO GAME REVIEWS:
Bounty Hunter
Republic Commando
X-Wing
Knights of the Old Republic Series:
Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Knights of the Old Republic
Dark Forces/Jedi Knight Series:
Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II 
Dark Forces
Rogue Squadron:
Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike
Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
The Force Unleashed:
The Force Unleashed 2
The Force Unleashed

OTHER VIDEO GAME REVIEWS:
Telltale’s Game of Thrones:
Season One: Ep. 1 “Iron from Ice” | Ep. 2: “The Lost Lords” | Ep. 3: “The Sword in the Darkness” | Ep. 4: “Sons of Winter” | Ep. 5: “A Nest of Vipers”