Better late then never is the best way to describe not only this review but also the content of Star Wars: Battlefront. Launched last year on November 17 it has been ripped apart by most publications, garnering a 73 meta-score. On the other hand it was seen as a greedy cash grab by EA abusing the Star Wars license. Helped by the release of the new Star Wars movie it still sold millions of copies regardless of the critics opinions. Overall it does a lot of things extremely well but a wise investment it is not.
The setting for the newest entry in the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise is right after the end of the return of the Jedi, with the Rebel Alliance fighting a galactic war against the remnants of the Empire. It makes for a gripping setting, an easy one to immerse yourself in. The biggest most unanimous turn off here is the lack of any sort of story mode. The closest you get are the short cinemas for the battle mode, tutorial and survival missions. It is a glimpse of what could have been. Instead you are given the tools and settings to craft your own narrative, not unlike when I played with my Star Wars figures many years ago. Those figures didn’t cost $60 though. The recent additions of Hutt contracts and daily goals do help somewhat but I feel that this is too little too late. Even though the lack of story hurts the game-play shines regardless.
DICE breathes the essence of Battlefield with a pinch of Call of Duty into the game. This balance robs the game of its identity as a Battlefront game. Gone are the giant space battles and the ability to command & spawn into classic vehicles easily. Instead they are treated as timed power ups that can be camped. The verticality and beauty of the levels is the trump card the game has in spades but the levels also lack the space needed for those vehicles. The 9 different modes seem like a lot but eventually you’ll realize only a few are worth your time. Similarly to Call of Duty teams consist of lone wolves that are slaughtered by the hundreds. This actually perfectly captures the player’s role as an extra in the movies. Hopefully not the ones that bop themselves on the bulkhead. There are also Starcards which are timed abilities that can be upgraded. You are also given a special ability as well. There are enough for you to be able to customize your character but even including weapons the variety seems lacking. For a game with no killstreaks only being able to equip 3 items/abilities feels empty. Even with your limited arsenal the action itself sets this game apart. The visceral combat of Battlefield in a smaller setting is a perfect fit, whether you’re jetpacking on Hoth while charging your bolt-caster or shooting down stormtroopers from the tree-homes on Endor. There is nothing quite like running over another player in speeder after dodging between the legs on an Imperial AT-AT. It perfectly captures the essence of Star Wars.
Aiding the combat of Battlefront is the sound quality. Battlefront games have always been known for their terrific sound design and DICE especially shines here. Not since Battlefield: Bad Company 2 have they done a better job. The sound of passing blaster bolts, the whine of the TIE fighter as it comes screeching past on an attack run, they all pull you deep into a galaxy far, far away. The soundtrack of John Williams helps in this regard, but the new tracks by DICE break the immersion somewhat. I would recommend turning the music off and listening to the levels and sound effects themselves. As you close your eyes and listen you will be transported (not teleported, this isn’t Star Trek) to another place, and as you open them you will be astounded by what you see.
The sight of your first AT-AT might feel you with dread, watching it slowly get closer and closer, but watching it crumble and fall will be an elated victory like no other. The beauty of the Star Wars universe is on full display here, no matter what system you play it on. DICE went above and beyond, using a technique know as photogrammetry, to capture the essence of Star Wars. By using the original props from the movies the game is as close to the original look and feel of Star Wars as you can get. The beauty is truly apparent on PC in 4K with several different graphics mods that take advantage of newer technologies. The sweeping sand of Tattooine are a sight to behold. The ice caves of Hoth are as inhospitable as they are beautiful. The tropical splendor of Endor, and it’s opposite the burning pits of Sulust show off the next generation of gaming like no other. While no one can argue against the graphics they are not all that comprise a great game.
The true flaw of Star Wars: Battlefront lies in it’s longevity. After several months of play you will have everything unlocked and leveled up. The maps and mods will get stale and the length of time it takes for DICE to release new (free) content is not sustainable. As a Star Wars fan I will still enjoy my brief forays into Battlefront but I will not devote myself to it while there are so many other choices. The amount of content that is hidden behind the $60 DLC pass is insulting. It’s almost as if EA knew that because Star Wars is such a great property they’d be able to sell you the game twice without batting an eye.
As a greedy casual shooter it lacks the strength to be more than the sum of it’s average parts. As a Star Wars: Battlefront game it misses the standards that set apart the earlier entries. Overall it excels at putting the player into the majestic world of Star Wars, however brief that visit may be. Even with its many flaws those visits are a welcome reprieve that make your heart race and your mind wander. They just might not be worth the admission price for some.
Graphics – 10
Sound – 9
Game-play – 9
Story – 6
Lifeline – 5
Overall – 7.8
For more tears on your wounds… play the video below of what could’ve been.