Published Nov 26, 2015Battlefront is not quite the Star Wars game I'm looking for, however much its cinema-quality graphical fidelity and Episodes IV through VI source material Jedi mind-tricked me.
Much like the same-named mid-2000s series it's rebooting, Battlefront is a multiplayer shooter. Except now, "multi" means up to 40 rebel and imperial soldiers firing off blasters at each other on ever-frozen Hoth, flying X-Wings and Tie Fighters above the Tatooine desert or racing land speeders through Endor's rainforests.
Available in both first- and third-person perspectives, which should really always be the case, the game is essentially a stripped-down version of DICE's own Battlefield series. But it does an amazing job of audio-visually recreating original trilogy set-pieces from Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that are so permanently embedded in our pop cultural cortex.
This is particularly true of the Battle of Hoth-based "Walker Assault," the best mode by far, where 40 players either try to take down or defend an AT-AT Walker stomping inexorably towards a rebel base. The deathmatch mode Supremacy is also 20v20, and plays out on sprawling maps that include ground and air vehicles.
Other modes are more intimate: "Fighter Squadron" offers up 10v10 all-aerial dogfights featuring your favourite Star Wars spaceships, including the Millennium Falcon; "Blast" is 10v10 team deathmatch; "Cargo" is capture-the-flag; the 8v8 "Drop Zone" has you securing escape pods; and the 6v6 "Droid Run" has you doing the same but while cracking "these are the droids we're looking for" jokes.
Then there's 6v6 "Heroes vs. Villains," where players take turns playing as Luke, Han and Leia or Darth, Palpatine and Boba Fett while the rest are Imperial or rebel redshirts, and the 7v1 asymmetrical "Hero Hunt" where one player is a powerful hero or villain while everyone else tries to kill them.
So there's some diversity on hand, though some modes are much better than others and thus far only a handful of maps — Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and Sullust with free DLC Jakku arriving in December — to play. But that's only in multiplayer, and the simplified gameplay intended to help appeal to the broader Star Wars audience may not be enough for hardcore shooter fans.
As for single-player fans? Well, they're pretty much out of luck. There are some single-player/co-op battles and survival runs — basically multiplayer but against AI bots — but they're missions rather than a campaign.
There's an argument to be made that many multiplayer shooters don't benefit much from single-player campaigns, but those are usually given scant attention, and besides, they don't have access to the Lucas mythology. If the main story is too well trodden, then this would have been a perfect opportunity to spin Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-type background tales that unravel across those familiar film story beats.
Battlefront may be perfectly timed to feed our inner nostalgic nerds during this peak Star Wars moment, but bolstered by an actual story, it could've been more powerful than you could possible imagine. (EA DICE/Electronic Arts)