Also On: Xbox One, PC
Players: 1 – 40
Star Wars Battlefront is a technical marvel for first-person (or if you prefer, third-person) shooters. It’s absolutely gorgeous, with massive recreations of environments from the original Star Wars trilogy that you know and love. The sound design is equally impressive, with tons of recognizable sound effects set against the backdrop of the familiar themes from composer John Williams. And it runs so smooth, seemingly regardless of platform, with little to no hiccups or technical issues to be found. It’s easily one of the best looking, and best sounding, games released this year. And hey, it’s also a whole lot of fun for this Star Wars fan.
As we inch ever closer to the theatrical release of The Force Awakens, Star Wars Battlefront hits store shelves at a point where the Star Wars fandom fervor is in full swing. But even if this was some sort of “off year” for Star Wars, I think Battlefront would still stand out nicely. It does lack some modern bells and whistles found in other first person shooters, but it makes up for that with easy to pick up and play controls, a hefty number of modes, and some really satisfying, large scale battles featuring heroes, vehicles, and villains that we’re all familiar with.
There’s little that I”ve played this year that can compare to setting off on Hoth, with Snowspeeders and TIE Interceptors whizzing by overhead, while two large AT-AT’s lumber forward in the far distance. All around you there’s laser fire, explosions, smoke, and combatants running from one trench to the next, setting up turrets, manning turbolasers, and capturing objectives. There’s so much spectacle, that just when you think you can’t find anything more stunning, you hop on a speeder bike on the forest moon of Endor, and you’re wowed all over again. I came across a number of jaw dropping moments while playing Battlefront, and I’m sure you will too, as they’re certainly hard to miss.
That said, Star Wars Battlefront does have a couple areas that could have used a bit more refinement. Unfortunately, progression is one of those areas. Completing matches, wrapping up randomly assigned objectives, killing enemies, and winning rounds will net you experience, which in turn levels you up and grants access to new weapons and Star cards. The latter of which can be slotted into a “hand” that you bring into battle, with each card mapped to your top left, top right, and Y/Triangle buttons on the controller. Gaining experience can feel a bit slow, even after spending a fair amount of time with the game over the past week, I’m in the mid-teens level wise, which means I’ve got a long way to go before I reach the cap of 50.
But, outside of my general enjoyment for the gameplay, there’s not enough to keep me interested in increasing my level. The weapon unlocks are lackluster, featuring weapons you’ll likely recognize from the original trilogy, but most feel very much the same compared to one another. There’s long-range and short-range blasters, but it’s hard to really get a feel for any major differences, outside of rate of fire or damage. They’re certainly bland to look at, and once you get access to the E-11 or the DL-44, there’s not much incentive to change, even if you’re unlocking weapons later down the road (which ideally would be better or more effective).
To go along with that, the character customization, most of which is also tied to leveling, don’t add much in the way of noteworthy modifications to your character. A lot of the early options for both Rebels and Imperials consist of bald heads, beards, or a combination of both. Hardly anything to get excited for, and certainly nothing that seems like it’d be worth spending in-game money on. I do wonder if DICE was a little hamstrung in how creative they could get with things, but the ability to change uniform color, or add some additional flair or markings to Stormtrooper armor, would certainly be nice. Also, alternate outfits for some of the hero characters would be cool, along with some customization for the X-Wings, A-Wings, AT-ST’s and so on. It’s amazing how detailed and incredibly good looking the locations can be, while the actual characters you control are remarkably drab and uninteresting.
Still, despite my lack of care for the progression and customization options, I’m having a hard time tearing myself away from the game just yet. Playing modes like Supremacy and Walker Assault has yet to get old for me, and even engaging in the smaller, more focused activities like Hero Hunt, Fighter Squadron, and Heroes vs. Villains, has some merit here. Is Star Wars Battlefront the first-person shooter that’ll carry me into the early parts of 2016? Probably not. But I’m definitely enjoying the time I’ve spent with it so far, and I’ll be curious to see what the inevitable DLC brings outside of the upcoming Battle for Jakku map. Provided DICE can make that carrot on the stick a bit more enticing, Battlefront could move up from just great, to amazing, somewhere down the road.