As a STAR WARS fan, many elements of STAR WARS Battlefront play like a childhood dream – charging across the brilliant white snow-covered battlefield of Hoth as the Empire assault the rebel base, running amongst the trees on Endor as laser blasts “poom-poom” in the ground around you, throwing up clods of dirt into the air as AT-ST walkers plod onwards, to jumping into an X-Wing and flying around the canyons of Tatooine blasting Tie Fighters out of the sky as your trusty R2 unit whirs and chirps above the sound of your engines. All are fantasies from my childhood that I have now played out countless times on-screen, and Battlefront is a game that still manages to catch me off guard and surprise me into grinning like a Cheshire Cat with some new detail or element that I hadn’t noticed before.
Battlefront has had the benefit of a tremendous amount of hype since it’s reveal, further boosted by an impressive and record-breaking beta test a couple of months ago, and in the last few weeks it has been hard to ignore the hype surrounding this game – and so to the question, is it worth it?
As a STAR WARS fan, the answer is a resounding yes. The game plays massive fan service, taking many famous battles and offering them up on-screen, allowing you to play from either sides of the Galactic conflict as a member of the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire. The main differences apart from the visual appearance of your current side are the vehicular power ups offered as you run around the battlefield – A-wings and X-wings to the Rebels, Walkers and Tie fighters to the Imperials, or the heroes that can be unlocked in a similar way – charging around as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, flinging lightsabers left and right does have a certain attraction, especially as their boosts allow things like the force push or saber throw (or in the case of the Emperor, blasting force lighting at whoever gets in your way). Other boosts include orbital strikes and thermal detonators, but these pale in comparison to watching as your current character takes a knee, calls in a fighter and you instantly transport to taking control as you fly the skies blasting at either the troops on the ground or the fighters in the sky. These are all power ups can be found as floating discs scattered around the battlefield, available as a free for all to the first player who grabs it during the heat of battle.
Alongside these specials, players have their own deck that they can edit by unlocking cards containing various boosts and pieces of equipment. These power up’s work in a slightly different way to other shooters. Battlefront offers players “cards” – power ups that are unlocked as you rank up via the levelling system. Each level unlocks a power up that can be used in battle, such as grenades or a jet pack, and then require a set amount of time to cool down before they can be used again. These cards form the basis of your deck, which you can edit as you unlock more power ups, changing and shaping the way you play. My current configuration has me charging into battle with a grenade, a powerful laser rifle and a special cooldown card that has a set amount of uses or “charges” which can be replenished with the power ups found on the battle field or by levelling up my character.
These power ups change in the vehicle based sections, such as the Fighter Squadron battles that are a particular favourite of mine – massive 10 v 10 player battles taking place in the sky as X-wings and Tie Fighters clash in epic dog fights, boosting and looping and performing evasive manoeuvres with the use of the d-pad. To be honest, I have played these sections more than the ground based assaults, preferring the battles in the sky to the battles in the ground, but they are limited by the fact that currently there are only two maps available, and this does run the risk of becoming a bit repetitive visually. Luckily the gameplay holds up – fighters are responsive, and battles are enjoyable, that these can be enjoyed regardless of the limited maps available (and lack of Death Star trench map that surely screams out for such a game!), The power ups available alter to account for the different play style, offering vehicle repair and cooldown, but the best by far is the special that unlocks either the Millennium Falcon or Boba Fett’s Slave One – flying around in these powered up ships has made me laugh out loud in childlike glee a number of times as I swoop through the sky taking out ships like Han Solo himself – something any STAR WARS fan has dreamed about since childhood.
These moments, the fan service offered by this game, are large in part to the nature of STAR WARS itself – would this game be as enjoyable if it weren’t a Star Wars property? That is a tricky question to answer. The gameplay is fun, and the game itself is beautiful to look at, but as someone who does get bored fairly quickly with multiplayer shooters, this is where I fear my attention will begin to wane. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good multiplayer shooter, but will take a game with a decent campaign first and foremost above any muliplayer based one any day, and this is where I feel Battlefront lets itself down. The few tutorial missions seem to work as if they are trying to plug this gap, but they are essentially short sections that introduce you to the various elements of shooting and flying and controlling a hero, and the other sections available for single play are the usual Survival modes that see you tasked with surviving wave after wave of AI controlled enemies.
Multiplayer is Battlefronts main focus and the game does offer a huge variety of recognisable modes, but with a STAR WARS twist. Alongside the afore-mentioned Fighter Squadron, other modes such as Droid Run, Cargo, and Walker Assault are all enjoyable capture the flag/deathmatch modes with a Star Wars sheen applied, and many will have months of fun levelling up their avatar and cashing in challenges to unlock more cards and figures for their diorama (think badges or ribbons that state your most impressive feats), but for me the longevity in a game like this is limited to weeks – I am lucky if I hit anywhere past level 20 in a multiplayer before my attention starts to wane and I begin looking forward to the next new release, but that’s just me. Co-op and team based play is available, but being of an age where playing computer games is something to be squeezed in around family and work commitments, it is hard to find the time to sit down and play with a friend who happens to be available at the same time. These are my own personal gripes, but I do think Battlefront did miss a trick by failing to add any more in the way of single player content to be enjoyed at your own pace and convenience.
Overall, is STAR WARS Battlefront worth your time and hard-earned cash in the run up to Christmas? As a STAR WARS fan, definitely. Battlefront is a game all about atmosphere and immersion, and developers DICE have done a fantastic job of recreating so many iconic moments that you can’t help but feel like a child again, from the iconic John Williams score kicking in as you assault an AT-AT, to the scream as a stormtrooper falls under a barrage of blaster fire. If multiplayer shooters aren’t your thing, then obviously you will be best to avoid it, or at least wait a few months for the price to drop if curiosity has you wondering. As for me, I still have a few weeks left of enjoyment in it yet, so if you will excuse me, I have an Empire to go defeat.
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