This review was published in The Student. Issue: Tue, 12 January, 2016.
A Force to be Reckoned With?
Star Wars Battlefront is a game which fans of the series have yearned after for the longest time, and playing it now is like welcoming back an old friend with the warmest embrace.
In recent years, it has been easy to forget just how wonderful Star Wars is, with the divisive prequel trilogy of films leaving a sour taste in the mouths of those who fell in love with the original films. Star Wars Battlefront, however, reminds me of why I love Star Wars. It drives me through iconic locations from the original films, taking me back to childhood and watching the trilogy with my dad in a single sitting, and living the life of someone in a galaxy far, far, away. It utilises those classic sound effects that are so iconic of the Star Wars franchise and a sweeping John Williams score which just happens to appear at precisely the right time, every time. It feels like I am playing the original Star Wars films, and that is something which demands praise.
"Leading you through iconic locations, Star Wars Battlefront is truly a beautiful looking games."
Battlefront leads me through iconic locations such as the snowy planet of Hoth, with its long-distance snow fields, rocky banks, and caves. It also takes me to the Ewok inhabited forests of Endor, complete with cheeky, scared, fleeing Ewoks as the battle between the Empire and the Resistance takes place below and around them. The rugged, volcanic rocks of Sullust and sands of Tatooine are also included, with all four of the locales standing out perfectly from each other. It all looks so good as well; this is a truly beautiful looking game. Maps are remade with incredible attention to detail, with each bit of foliage seemingly moving independently of each other, and made useful providing safe little hiding places from the enemy.
It’s these little details which make the game so wonderful. Travelling across the wooden bridges that connect the trees of Endor it’s hard not to be in awe as particular scenes are replayed from the film, except that I am playing them – I am living Star Wars, I am interacting with Star Wars, I am a part of the world. This is a feeling which consistently resounds throughout my playtime with the game. And it’s thanks to this, I suppose, that the game’s limited content is less of an issue than it might have been.
"Star Wars Battlefront is basically a Battlefield game in a Star Wars skin. But, oh my, is this a good skin!"
Out of the box, Star Wars Battlefront is a little thin on the ground. There are 13 maps across 4 locations: Endor, Hoth, Sullust, and Tatooine; with an additional two maps from Jakku, a new location from the upcoming seventh Star Wars film, coming free to players in early December. Granted, the included maps are large and detailed, and genuinely good fun, but for a game lacking in a single player campaign, these maps are everything, and this is all you get for your hefty outlay.
Thankfully, and honestly this is the least they could do given the short supply of maps, there are plenty of modes to try out, although they can be a little hit or miss. After getting fed up of constantly dying on the ground in a poor session of online play, it’s a nice change to switch to an air-based only mode instead, shooting down TIE Fighter’s or X-Wing’s alike, depending on which side you end up on.
Unfortunately, some of the modes can be a little dull, and even the most basic modes have been seen plenty of times before, such as “Blast” which is essentially a renamed version of Team Deathmatch. There are some brief single-player elements to the game in the shape of missions, which can also be completed cooperatively, but they feel more like very simple tutorials on how to play than full-on challenges in their own right. No, this game is all about the multiplayer; it’s about the feeling of being in Star Wars.
Although there are a fair share of different modes, most of them are not really all that interesting, and some of the more basic ones – the ones most likely to be played, in all honesty – are commonly seen in other shooters, which means that Star Wars Battlefront, after the initial awe, is basically a Battlefield game in a Star Wars skin. But, oh my, is this a good skin! It’s beautiful and wonderful; it feels good to be a part of, and it brings joy, and is this not what a game such as this is all about?
Whilst I spend most of my time playing as either a generic member of the Rebel Alliance or as a stormtrooper, I don’t seem to tire of either becoming Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, or any of the other heroes that can be controlled in small sections of the game, or simply playing alongside them. The feeling I get when I’m flying in my X-Wing defending the Millennium Falcon from enemies, or running through the snow fields of Hoth alongside Princess Leia or Han Solo is an incredible feeling, especially when it’s presented this well, with an authentic soundtrack and original Star Wars sound effects to boot.
Now I am by no means saying that charging full price for a game with limited content is okay, because I’m not. But it’s hard to stay angry with a game that is so polished, so clean, and so perfectly realised in what it does offer. This is a game which achieves precisely what it set out to do: to recreate the world of Star Wars for players to live in.
I suppose the issue, then, is just how long this limited world can keep the player entertained, and for me, after about 30+ hours of play, I am starting to feel like I want more. But would I have been happy paying full price for a 30-hour single player game? Yes, I would. So why shouldn’t I be happy with 30+ good hours of multiplayer fun for the same price? Honestly, I would also have liked more content, since I have been, after all, playing over the same limited maps for those 30-hours, without any form of narrative development which I would have received in a single player game.
If I want more, then I need the season pass, and the game constantly reminds me that it is available; that it costs almost as much as the base game, and that more content is indeed out there waiting to be played if only I part with some more money. An advert for the season pass is included in the box of the game, and shows up on the homepage every time the game is started up, and tells me that new maps are available whenever I play the game as though my initial outlay is already outdated, and if I want to keep up with other players I need to shell out a little more.
And I think this is where the problem begins, because the base game feels like it should have more, and that more was planned all along, but that it’s locked behind a paywall. Granted, this content was not available at launch, but because the base game is so limited it feels like it was released too early rather than being complete without this DLC. Instead of those extra maps appearing as a nice addition to a full game, they instead feel like they have been taken away from the player only for us to be charged for the privilege of having them back. This is only exemplified by the lack of a single player campaign, meaning that multiplayer maps are everything to Star Wars Battlefront.
So what we have, then, is an adept shooter set in a beautiful, detailed world that is rich in uniquely Star Wars details. What we also have is a very limited base game that feels somewhat incomplete without the extra DLC maps. I got about 30 hours of good playtime out of it, but the surprises ended at half of that time, and we need more than this in a full-priced game in 2015. What’s included is wonderfully accomplished, however, with little to no obvious problems with the game that have plagued previous DICE shooters. Simply living in the world of Star Wars that this game provides is an exhilarating experience, and essentially the game achieves with aplomb what it set out to do. It’s hard to stay angry at such a wonderfully polished Star Wars game such as this, because it makes me feel so happy to play, and it’s really hard to put a price on a feeling such as this.