Chances are that if you grew up with the original Star Wars Trilogy then you may have dreamt of being a character in a galaxy far, far away… playing Star Wars Battlefront is the closest you will get to that feeling and it’s the most cinematic experience to be had on console.
DICE have lovingly recreated the universe of Star Wars. From cargo crates and power couplings to X-Wings and Lightsabres – nothing has been left to chance or imitation – everything has been modeled from the original props and it makes for a wonderful experience and looks absolutely stunning.
Rushing across the snowy plains of Hoth, or charging through the dense foliage of the forest moon of Endor is exhilarating, especially with laser fire going off all around you while the iconic Star Wars score rings in your ears. It’s easy then to get caught up in the moment and be swept away by the sheer joy of a Star Wars game that makes full use of its license.
Gunplay is a casual experience, and although each weapon has a unique set of attributes, each one handles similarly with many players favouring the same blaster. Laser fire looks great and maps light up with firefights. Like Halo’s Spartan Laser, you have to lead your shots making the gunplay tricky to get used to at first and a little haphazard as to whether your shots hit their target. In true Battlefield style, newcomers aren’t welcomed and will be victim to higher ranked players who have access to the better weapons and buff cards, making the initial experience a hard one to love.
Running or shooting highlights you on the mini-map, which points out the rough direction of enemies rather than pinpointing them. Air combat is simple too. Piloting an X-Wing isn’t nearly as difficult as taking to the skies in a FA-18 Hornet. In fact flying is quite the highlight. There’s nothing greater than outmaneuvering a Tie Fighter to hear it crash behind you as you make an evasive turn through a canyon.
Instead of vehicles lined up waiting to take off or stomp across the landscape, icons appear across each map and must be collected then called in, which makes for a frantic race to collect them first. Once collected, you must find a safe spot to call a vehicle in – get shot while doing so and you won’t appear in the cockpit of a Tie Interceptor or behind the guns of an AT-AT.
Of course the highlight of any Star Wars game should be playing as one of the main characters and on each map there are hero power ups that allow you to step into the boots of Luke, Leia, Han, Boba Fett, Vader or the Emperor. Each hero is an absolute joy to play as, pitched at close, mid or long-range. When a hero appears on the battlefield it can be a huge boost to your team, but heroes can easily be knocked down by a well-organised attack. If you do run into them individually you best turn and run. It’s quite amusing when playing as a hero and seeing an enemy turn tail and run – Luke and Vader in particular are the toughest to go up against as a lowly trooper.
Battlefront is pure and simple pick-up-and-play fun, but because DICE are behind the wheel, I must admit to expecting a bit more from Battlefront, although I love the simplified air combat, gunplay is just too simple and there are no character classes to liven up the team based gameplay. Instead, Star Cards buff your loadouts with unique weapons and explosives – all of which are unlocked as you level up – by spending credits you can add them for selection.
At launch there aren’t enough environments either. There are four planets; each has multiple maps depending on the mode you’re playing. The vast map of Hoth’s Walker Assault is quite different to the same map played during Hero Hunt and while each location is expertly crafted with some great level design, there just isn’t enough variety to the environments. At times this makes the game feel like you’re playing the same map over and over again.
While there are plenty of modes to choose from, Walker Assault is my standout favourite and it has seen quite the overhaul since the beta. AT-ATs are now easier to take down and there’s a rush protection to stop the Empire from charging ahead. The mode is almost perfect, but I feel that when playing on the Forest moon of Endor it’s balanced against the Empire and almost impossible for the Rebels not to take out the lone AT-AT.
Walker Assault may be a mode that has been plucked straight out of the films, but other modes lack this link and therefore feel like filler to pad the game out. Rather than recreate other film scenarios, like the excellent Speeder Bike training sequence, each mode plays like many other multiplayer modes we’ve all come to love (and hate). A competitive Death Star trench run would have made for some epic multiplayer combat, with a battle raging overhead as one-by-one squadrons are called in to take on the iconic race down the Death Star’s trench.
Battlefront might be a first person shooter, but I preferred to play it in third person – both on foot and in the air. I seemed to connect my shots better and by playing in third person I got to experience the excellent character animation, which reacts accurately to what’s going on – from looking around the environment to flinching when shot – it’s a wonderful addition that adds to the immersion of making your character seem a part of the world.
Outside of competitive multiplayer, there’s a single and co-op mode although with no matchmaking, you must rely on your friends list to play through the training, survival and battle missions. They are a good distraction and some of the training missions are particularly exhilarating but it seems like an afterthought, there to tick the single player box.
Battlefront is the new toy and it’s Star Wars branded. It will remain at the forefront of my online gaming, not least because I’ve played Halo, CoD and Battlefield over the last few years. Battlefront is superb fan service that just lacks in content for it’s multiplayer focus, but as a Star Wars fan I absolutely love it!
Thanks to Xbox and EA for their support
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