Come for the tight Multiplayer action- or not at all.
The new Battlefront is, without a doubt, a fantastic Star Wars game.
Battlefront plays very differently from the other shooters on the market, due entirely to its source material. The blasters have comparably no recoil, the bullet speed is generally slower, and the sound effects are, appreciably, completely different. These are the “pew pews” of the movies, not the “bang bangs” of other shooters.
DICE has long been a master of sound design, and their finesse is on full display in Battlefront. The classic music fits perfectly beside the blaster shots, explosions, and the audible weight of passing AT-ATs. The ship lasers even differ from those of the ground units, matching their movie counter-parts. Radio chatter when in the sky calls out necessary information but sounds good while doing it, sometimes even letting you know when your fellow Starfighters have met an explosive end. And of course the movie heroes deliver their fitting lines in the voices we all cherish.
Those of you who adhere strictly to Single-player games need not apply: the options on offering here are, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. A couple training missions, some wave-survival, and battles against the AI are all you have to peruse, and even those are better accompanied with a friend.
For the record, you’re not facing the AI in the Multiplayer modes, so no bot-hunting in Supremacy or Fighter Squadron.
No, if you’re here for the meat of Star Wars Battlefront, you’re here for the online-play.
There are nine multiplayer modes in the package, and they range from fantastic (the 40-player Walker Assault) to the relatively simple (TDM-like Blast). The highlights are the ones that can’t be done (or aren’t) in other shooters: the like of Hero Hunt or Hero Battle, and the aforementioned Walker Assault. It’s when the heroes, the vehicles, and the large variety of pickups all come into play to create a tug-of-war of several power struggles that Battlefront truly comes into its own. There’s nothing quite like watching Boba Fett leap over attacking Rebels as Tie Fighters and A-Wings fight over head. Meanwhile, Han Solo could be pumping Storm Troopers or Imperial Walkers full of bullets lasers, or hurrying to dodge an Orbital Strike, all while delivering lines like, “The things I do for that princess.”
Unfortunately, only the two 40-player modes feature these intense combat scenarios. Smaller matches, like Cargo (a tug-of-war take on Capture the Flag) and Droid Run (a Conquest-style mode where the control points walk around, and victory only comes if you can control all three for twenty seconds), may feature familiar (and beautiful) locales, and the same excellent audio backdrop, but they lack the spice and excitement that make those larger battles such a joy. Even just Hero drops would have gone a long way towards giving a mode like Blast some added identity.
While only Supremacy and Walker Assault have everything, some of the modes do add a couple of Battlefront’s core mechanics: Fighter Squadron pits twenty players in vehicle-only death matches in the skies (featuring unique hero Starfighters like the Millennium Falcon), and Hero Hunt makes seven players team-up to kill one of the game’s heroes, until the hero is killed and the killer becomes the hero. Heroes vs. Villains is a joy as well, setting three heroes against three villains (plus three lackeys per team) in tense shoot-outs and lightsaber duels. It’s rare to have Boba Fett watch Darth Vader’s back, and is as fun to play as it is to imagine.
This fantasy unfortunately refrains from turning enemies into allies. Even in Heroes vs. Villains you won’t see Luke Skywalker fight alongside his father, nor try to bring down an AT-ST as Emperor Palpatine.
It’s a shame that vehicles and heroes didn’t make their way into more of the modes. Many of the features seem split into separate corners of the game, rather than permeate throughout the package. Even the forty-player matches don’t have access to the Slave-1 or Millennium Falcon. This also holds true for the maps themselves. The 40-player modes feature the same set of four maps, and while they are each varied (ground-only Endor features dense forests and rewards guerrilla tactics, while the wide open Sorosuub Centroplex gives long-range weapons their due), it’s too bad we won’t get to fight over the desert dunes of Tatooine unless we cut the total player count in half. Even Survival Mode is limited to only four maps.
These aren’t the only odd decisions: players will have to go through hoops to partner up. The game requires players to create a party via the system software before they can buddy up, and even then players don’t follow each other through lobbies automatically. It’s one more headache than necessary, especially since DICE’s previous games have had no such trivialities.
All that said, Battlefront is an enormously fun game. Jumping into an X-Wing or grabbing a Hero Pickup (and the opportunity to destroy legions of Storm Troopers with your Lightsaber) is a rush every time, and the card system (where side weapons and equipment are put on a cool-down) allows players to lob grenades and take risky sniper shots without worry- ensuring the focus is on having fun and creating mayhem, not saving your tools for the right moment. And you don’t know true tension until you’re bringing down the last AT-AT with the Snow Speeder’s tow cable moments before an excruciating loss- or an unbelievable victory.
It’s not so much that Battlefront lacks content, so much as it does a cohesion of content. How much mileage you’ll get out of the game depends on the manner in which you play online multiplayer. If you stick to one mode, that mode may grow drab relatively quickly. If you tend to peruse the suite of offerings, then you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. For me, I’ll be queueing hundreds of matches of Walker Assault for the next few months and getting as much possible distance out of four maps as I can.
Regardless, the moment-to-moment gunplay is sublime, and the large-scale battles are a treat, encased in the visual and audible spectacle DICE is well-known for. Battlefront is a multiplayer shooter with a focus on fun, and it shows.