I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan, to the point where, in my younger days, I made a point of collecting as much Star Wars memorabilia as my nerdy teenage hands could get ahold of. I was hyped when I first saw the trailer for Battlefront, but became increasingly unhyped as more details were revealed. Smaller battles with no NPC combatants involved, no space battles, no campaign mode, and no Galactic Conquest mode. Where was the game I played nearly a decade ago? Why weren’t they bringing that back!?
It’s because quite a bit has changed in ten years. This isn’t your mom’s Battlefront. This is 2015. Compared to before, Battlefront is nothing short of gorgeous – visually that is. Blasters make their signature “pew-pew” sound while kicking up dirt, dust, snow, and general landscape prettiness. There’s a ton of TIE fighters and X-wings flitting about the sky in the background and crashing to the landscape while massive AT-ATs slowly make their way across the earth towards you, emptying turbolasers into you from half a map away. Graphically, this is eye candy for the modern geek.
But when you tear your eyes away from all the beauty of the background and focus on what’s in front of you, it quickly becomes noticeable that this is simply DICE taking Battlefield and giving it a Star Wars paint job. The multiplayer modes I was presented with remind me nothing of the original. The skirmishes are quick, very quickly turning into hair-trigger dueling. Two or three hits with even the starting blaster will end you or most of your opponents.
The respawning garners quite a bit of frustration as you can either respawn on an ally without realizing he’s in direct line-of-sight of an AT-AT or you randomly spawn elsewhere and spend a few minutes trudging back across the rugged (yet amazingly gorgeous) terrain for another half-minute skirmish. After that it’s all lather, rinse, repeat until one side prevails. Half of the strategy from the old Battlefront games involved picking the correct respawn position, or capturing an enemy base so that you and your allies could spawn there and press forward into war. And 20v20 humans is the biggest it gets. Without bots, it really limits the feeling of depth that was present in the originals. And if you end up with players who ragequit or drop out of the game after a couple of minutes, you might as well log off yourself as it takes forever for anyone to join a lobby and I’m not even sure they allow you to join mid-game.
You might be thinking something like, “But it’s NOT the originals. It’s new. It’s edgy. It’s DICE.” While it’s true that this is a revival of the series for a new enervation of gamers, is it really necessary to make the game feel more like a game? It was supposed to be immersive and, while it still is, there are plenty of things to take away from said immersion. Unlock tokens, for example, allow equal opportunity for both allies and enemies to pick up a vehicle or turret or jetpack by standing on a pretty blue circle for a few seconds. Gone are the days when you spawned in and raced to the nearest vehicle to speed across the skies with, leaving your ally to trudge across the landscape as previously mentioned.
Then there’s the tokens that let you play as a Jedi – in the beta’s case, Luke or Vader. It’s fun to leap across the battle slashing your way through the area, but if you’re like me and haven’t memorized where the tokens spawn, then you’ll be lucky to see anything beyond a sniper rifle or the occasional mobile turret. When they’re defeated in the Beta, they also just kneel down wherever they’re at and pop out of existence. While it makes sense canonically that they can’t simply be defeated, it’d make more sense if they ran away or Force-jumped off into the distance. Even a teleport might make more sense despite the rarity of the tech in the universe. As it stands, them simply kneeling and then popping out of existence makes for some confusing, if not interesting, father/son moments.
The two maps aren’t the greatest either. They’re considerably flat with only a couple of hills you can get up on, and almost no verticality. They’re eye candy for sure, but most of the time you’re either snaking through tiny passageways (while being mowed down) or trying to cross huge open spaces (while being mowed down). The weapons that were available were all laser pistol/rifle variants with slightly different rates of fire and cooldown. While there was an unlock able sniper rifle, I saw no sign of a shotgun, no rocket launcher, and no grenade thrower. While these will likely be in the final product, not showcasing them seems to me like oversight.
The game is brilliant and, for all my critiquing, I enjoyed the beta. I highly recommend trying it out if you can in order to make a more informed decision. (The Beta has been extended until Tuesday, October 13.) For someone who is blessed to have played the originals, it will feel like a very different game, but different doesn’t mean have to mean bad. For those familiar with DICE and the Battlefield franchise, you might get just as much enjoyment from the game even if you aren’t a fan of Star Wars.
Star Wars Battlefront releases on November 17, 2015 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.