There’s Something About Battlefront

SABattlefront1I approached Star Wars Battlefront with a sense of impending doom. I’d preordered the Star Wars PS4, which meant that I was stuck with Battlefront no matter what, so I studiously avoided any and all information about it. When the beta came out, I ignored it. When videos released, teasing and tantalising with the possibilities, I let them pass me by. If I was going to do this, I was going to go in blind.

You see, I’d fallen out of love with shooters over the years. In the halcyon days of my PS2 they made up a large portion of my library – most notably the TimeSplitters trilogy, which were, collectively and quite probably individually, my most played games on the system. With the new generation, however, came new tastes and so many new things to explore. Instead of gunning down hundreds of faceless enemies I flung myself into adventures in Renaissance Italy and tried my hand at half a dozen arcade-style fighters. I had brief flirtations with Gears of War and Call of Duty, and a rather longer fling with Bulletstorm – which remains my favourite shooter of that generation – but, for the most part, I was left cold by the genre I once so loved.


Yet again a generation has risen and fallen, though, and now we find ourselves taking our first tentative steps into the future. So why not take a chance on a series that I once loved, brought back to life by a developer that I remain mostly sceptical about. Surely the chance of falling back in love was worth the risk of being burned? The Star Wars name did a lot to reassure me – as a dedicated fan boy, even the most lemony titles in the rather extensive LucasArts library have given me warm and fuzzies enough to remember them with fondness. Surely, even if it wasn’t the greatest thing I’d ever played, Battlefront would manage that much?

Everyone has a moment where they realise that the next generation is here, now. In the days of the Xbox 360 and PS3, that moment was the opening scenes of Mirror’s Edge, where I ran freely through the future and realised that it was here already. Now, almost two years into the Xbox One and PS4, Battlefront has been that catalyst of realisation. From the moment I popped the disc into the tray and was thrust into the cavernous boots of Darth Vader himself, I knew that although I was fighting a conflict from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away, we were closer to it than we had ever been.

SABattlefront3The visuals are the first thing that hits you, and it’s probably those that will stick with me long after I grow bored of the gameplay. It looks right, as though DICE have somehow reached into the films wholesale and transplanted them into my hands. I feel like a Stormtrooper as I gun down the rebels. The guns whine and shriek as they fire off blasts of energy, and the thermal imploder may be one of the greatest sound effects in recent memory. Endor is an ocean of glorious green where buildings stand out and Stormtroopers stick out even further. There, the empire fights a losing battle against rebels whose neutral colours blend into the land itself as they repel an invading force. On the frozen wastelands of Hoth however, the rebels struggle against Imperial Forces that appear seemingly out of nowhere and fade away just as easily.

The fact that these maps are inherently an advantage to a certain faction would normally be enough to send me into a frothing rage, but in the context it doesn’t feel like it should. Of course the Empire has an easier time of things on Hoth. It’s a battle that we know they held the advantage in, just as we know that on Endor they were pushed back, and their struggles there don’t feel at all out of place. There are other maps that feel more balanced, but for me the essence of the source material is strongest there, on the sites of two battles that we know so well from the source material.


More importantly, though, Battefront actually feels amazing to play. Far from the slow, deliberate cover-seeking snore fests that I have grown used to in the hosts that were influenced by Gears of War, you’re thrown into a frantic, chaotic battleground where the tides of battle ebb and flow. At first, it’s terrifying. There’s just too much going on, firefights as far as the eye can see and Imperials and Rebels alike sprinting through the carnage trying to force whatever advantage they can. It’s all too easy to fall to an enemy you didn’t quite spot in time, or reacted to a little late and it is initially frustrating. Soon, however, as you’re gunning down a Stormtrooper who threatened to turn the tide of battle, or bringing down an AT-ST with a lucky grenade toss or flying in an X-Wing, those irritations subside and, suddenly, it’s fun. It’s a riot, with everything happening all at once and war being waged on a dozen sides, but it’s brilliant. It’s fast and twitchy, but that just makes every kill a little more satisfying. You earned it not by wearing him down as you each poked your head over a wall and took potshots at each other, but in the boiling cauldron of battle where that one kill could be the difference between victory and defeat.

SABattlefront5Then there’s the sheer joy of stepping into the shoes of one of the heroes of your cause. The Rebellion has champions in Luke, Leia and Han Solo, while the Empire fields the Legendary Figures of Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Emperor Palpatine himself. Each are unique and distinct, bringing their own powers to the field. Fett, for example, has a jetpack that lets him traverse the battlefield with ease and the sort of weaponry that wouldn’t be out of place on a small starship. Leia on the other hand, has the ability to spawn an honor guard to protect her and can create a bubble of shielding that repels energy based projectiles. They all have their own quirks and styles, but they share with each other an inability to regenerate their health, and so are doomed to suffer a death by papercuts as the enemy forces throw themselves at them.

It should be pretty clear now that I could continue like this for hours yet. There are so many things I love about Battlefront that it wouldn’t even be much of a challenge to do so. In fact, I sat down with the intention of writing this as a review, in which I could structure my thoughts so they wouldn’t get out of hand, and where I would have to keep my fanboy inclinations in check. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, however. Not because I couldn’t manage it, but because reviewing Star Wars Battlefront would be, I don’t know, wrong somehow.

Because here’s the thing. It’s only half a game.


Maybe calling it a tech demo would be more accurate. Sure, there are a bunch of modes to get stuck into: the monstrous Skirmish, where massive teams face off in an all out war with infantry, vehicles and heroes taking the field; Blast, a straight up race to 100 kills; or something smaller, like Droid Run – a sort of mobile capture the flag, where teams of six have to capture and hold three roaming droids. No matter which you pick, it’s all going to be slight variations on the same theme, though – crush the Rebels/Empire! (delete as appropriate). It’s desperately crying out for a single player side to really get stuck into the world. At the moment it feels more like a generic shooter with a Star Wars salad dressing. It’s fun, but there’s no real depth to it. I’m not even asking for gameplay depth, all I want is more than a Star Wars garnish on my shooter soup. I want a Star Wars soup.

SABattlefront7This is typified in the aerial combat which, after the rush of being in an X-Wing (an X-Wing damnit!) or Tie Fighter, quickly stagnates into a slow, dull round of spray and pray until your ship goes down. There’s no space to maneuver in tiny arenas, there’s no sense of speed or exhilaration. Just firing every time a ship swoops into your line of sight and hoping against hope that you might just kill something. It’s disappointing even if they nailed those first few glorious moments, where you could almost feel the air whistling around you as you brought the spacecraft you used to fondly dream of flying up to speed.

Most heinous of all though, is the online pass. EA have pulled an EA and carved the game up into chunks to force-feed the masses, making them swallow the full-priced game before reminding them that they’d best ante up again if they want all the content. It’s a lot of content too, with heroes (as many as there are in the base game!), maps and match modes being dangled tantalisingly out of reach. They’ve had a little practice at this now, and they’re trying to sooth the blow with free maps and modes on top, but it’s all too clear that before long there’ll be no point in trying to play without the DLC – you’ll be left running around ghost towns while the hardcore – and the suckers – frolic in their stomach-churningly expensive gated playgrounds. [NOTE: Since the time of writing, EA have announced more free content, but also a Star Wars Battlefront Season Pass, granting access to some meaty expansion content to be released throughout the year. However, the season pass costs the same as the base game, so if you want a (semi) complete experience you'll essentially have to pay twice.] In asking you to pay as much again as you paid for the game, Battlefront is spitting in the faces of those it should have welcomed with open arms.

That’s the rub really. In the same way that I would never even dream of reviewing a game in Steam’s Early Access library – y’know, because it’s not finished – I can’t even begin to comprehend that this game is considered finished. I hate that they thought they could get away with it, and I loathe that it seems to be the case.


D’know what I dislike most of all though? How much I love it. Battlefront is wonderfully fun. I have so much fun running through planets that I’ve spent so much time in, using weapons that are recognisable and at the same time so real. I adore stalking up to someone, deflecting their desperate attempts to gun me down and choking them to death with the force. I relish every moment in the shoes of Han Solo, dashing around the battlefield and laying waste to those around me with nothing more than my dashing good looks. Oh, and a blaster too, I guess. I could race around the forests of Endor all day, especially on the speeders that put every other vehicle to shame. I want to capture droids, defend drop pods and tangle the legs of an approaching AT-AT until it’s the morning again and holy shit what happened to the night?

In short, Star Wars Battlefront is brilliant. Truly and utterly wonderful. I love it to pieces. I can also never recommend it to anyone, and that, like what EA have done to it, sucks.

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One Comment

  1. Mark R Mark R says:

    This is exactly how I feel about Battlefront. Both Pete and I started playing it a couple of days after release and, even though we both really enjoyed playing that ONE mission in the beta, we got a little bored with the full game pretty quickly. Strictly speaking, it’s not even a game… it’s a collection of mini-games. It’s like the stuff that Rockstar chucks into GTAV to let you pass the time if you can’t be arsed shooting folk, except EA have turned it into a general release.

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