Star Wars Battlefront is the shooter with unbelievably high levels of expectations. The game was revealed a ways back and amazed many with its near-lifelike visuals, amazing scenery, and nostalgic sounds of the Star Wars universe. E3 came along this year and allowed video gaming journalists a chance to demo the shooter in anticipation for its release. With the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on December 18, the hype is at a fever pitch. Dedicated fans of the Star Wars brand and fans of the original and highly-acclaimed Battlefront series on the Playstation 2 were clamoring for more. And now that the game has been released, the final verdict will show that, unfortunately, Battlefront falls excruciatingly short of its expectations.
Battlefront is such an excruciatingly difficult game to like in its current condition. While it can provide good, clean fun, the lack of content at its current price point of $59.99 makes it almost painful to truly enjoy. Even worse is when the deluxe version of this game exists, at $69.99, and gives content that would be available to everyone for free after a period of time. Nothing truly exclusive, no custom weapons or decorations, at all. You will play The Battle of Jakku two weeks early, but that’s about it. Star Wars Battlefront feels like it is locked behind a pay wall. It is nothing more than a free-to-play title at best. To even begin looking at the game, the single player is rather mundane, with no offering of a campaign. It is sparse, and with only the four battlegrounds (Battle of Hoth, Battle of Endor, Battle of Tatooine, and Battle of Sullust) to participate in, Battlefront is quickly realized to be an online-only experience. Only, on the PS4 version, to play online, you need Playstation Plus. But even with access to online, the title still manages to fall short with limited progression options and memorable game modes, and instead shows its colors as a reboot trying too hard to fill a vastly large pair of shoes. Considering the legacy left behind by the previous release, Star Wars Battlefront II, this game feels like a forgettable and costly mistake rather than a revival.
I had some hopes for this title, too. The shooter ends up averaging itself out to be nothing more than a rather mediocre one with a Star Wars coat of paint. Most games place a player in the shoes or boots of an ordinary foot soldier. As the game plays out, you can hear the noises that are reminiscent of a traditional battlefield in the Star Wars universe: the loud gun shots, the static of a radio system of a commander relaying orders or the occasional compliment on your shooting, the hiss of a lightsaber snapping to life. Players can opt to choose one of a set of weapons that vary in their firing capabilities, and will spend time following the minimap radar on the bottom left hand corner to find enemies, which often feel sparsely spread out in the single player mode or with a friend on split screen. The maps themselves are rather unmemorable, too, despite the vastness of the Star Wars universe. It does not do EA any wonders knowing that the expanded universe and its weaponry was essentially retconned by the buyout from Walt Disney studios. As an avid reader of the expanded universe novels, some of the weaponry and lightsaber styles were truly fascinating, and the environments exquisite. As a player, I understand that the theme of the title was to take place in major Star Wars campaigns from the original trilogy where the Republic faced the Empire. Sadly, its lack of exotic locale kills its interest, instead opting for (in retrospect) rather dull environments that don’t do the universe justice. Imagine having a wild shoot out on the streets of the neon-lit smuggler haven of Nar Shaddaa, or a ship fight in the rush of the Coruscant skyline. What happened to the beautiful Felucia? Restricting the territories to the landscapes provided is a missed opportunity.
With gameplay, players can opt to pick up power ups located on the terrain to offer a few changes in weapons. These include extra grenade charges, infantry turrets, or the slightly more memorable orbital strike which calls down missiles from above. Sometimes, though, players can obtain Hero tokens that allow for a temporary switch to an iconic Star Wars character, from Luke Skywalker to Emperor Palpatine. Each hero has their own traits and abilities. Players and AI battle each other and collect tokens or fulfill objectives in both ground and aerial combat. Gameplay modes are also separated in different categories such as piloting and Hero battles, focusing on battle through ship warfare (Fighter Squadron rings a few bells) or with Star Wars icons. The other game modes felt rather mediocre, ranging from decent at best to fleeting and forgettable at worst. Aside from the split screen local multiplayer, training campaign, survival mode, and online play, Battlefront is a very tough $60 pill to swallow in its current state.
Let’s throw the negative Nancy behavior aside though, for a moment. Star Wars Battlefront does some things right. The visuals for the PS4 version are some of the best I’ve seen in any video game. The scenery is incredibly lifelike, with water having its characteristic reflection, or the swaying of the trees. The glistening white snow and the foot prints left behind as a trooper runs along the landscape of Hoth is remarkable. The forest of Endor looks like it came straight from the movies. The attention to detail provided in watching the sand blow on the deserts of Jakku or Tatooine looks like DICE took actual of sand blowing, and replicated it in the digital medium. My parents happened to walk by and thought it was straight out of a movie. The characters also have some great detailing too. The sheen of Boba Fett’s armor looks great in the Tatooine sunshine. Darth Vader brings iconic menace back to the character. The excellent visuals, combined with the John Williams-scored soundtrack, make this as close to the cinematic as can be. Gaming has never looked so realistic, and the team at DICE needs to be acknowledged for their feat, because Battlefront beats any game in visuals, hands down.
Unfortunately, though, all issues aside, Star Wars Battlefront is enormously overpriced. At $60, the content just does not justify its current price tag. Not to mention, to receive access to other stages, players are required to fork over another $50 for the Season Pass, which features more content than the disk provides. It irritates me to no end that the core experience was so truncated. The season pass features four new expansions set in the Star Wars galaxy, over 20 weapons, more heroes and villains, 16 new multiplayer maps, some new game modes, and early access to the new maps. This trove of content could have made the price tag that much more bearable. Now it feels cheap and more along the lines of DICE and EA not being ready to release, and instead opting to spend more time in development while hyping up the new Star Wars film. The core experience is incomplete in its current state and here’s to hoping that the game gets more added to it.
A bit of a side note, Star Wars Battlefront falls victim to terrible circumstances and is a great case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was foolish of EA to release this title when it did, when Fallout 4 was released just the previous week to insane sales. Battlefront faces that, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and other titles that players would be more willing to spend their dollar on. With the impending release of The Force Awakens, this game feels like nothing more than an appetizer, especially considering the mission, The Battle of Jakku, is being thrown in as additional DLC. This, with the lack of players online for a title of this scale, shows just how much EA and DICE underestimated the popularity of these other releases. Combining that with the price tag of $60, $10 for the Deluxe which features only early access to a bit of content, an additional $50 to receive a more fulfilling experience, and a Playstation Plus membership to play online, makes this a title that should definitely have gamers pondering a purchase, and not in a good way.
The bottom line here is that even with its fancy visuals and great soundtrack, the game itself is extremely shallow and lacks a lot of the punch that made the other Battlefront titles so highly desired. Players will be uninterested after a few hours and with memorization of the maps, things get dull, fast. It is a generic shooter that tries too hard to live up to a decade-old legacy, at a high price point of entry. I can’t recommend this title in good faith, unless it was placed at a significant discount or if the Season Pass was included in the package. We’d definitely recommend waiting this one out and seeing how the game does in the next few months, but right now with all of its present issues, it’s not a product that is ready for sale.