It goes without saying just how popular Star Wars is as a brand. For what is nearing the last forty years since the films first debuted in 1977, Star Wars quickly blew up into one of the most influential space operas, expanding into just about every marketable avenue. From books, to comics, toys, magazines, trading cards, board games, video games, and to one of the best Christmas Holiday Specials around, Star Wars is everywhere. Their video games entries have been up and down in terms of quality, offering some of gaming's best like the single player RPG Knights of the Old Republic series, the Super Star Wars trilogy, the Rogue Squadron series, Republic Commando, and X-Wing vs Tie Fighter. During the sixth generation, LucasArts and Pandemic teamed up to deliver a third person team-based multiplayer game known as Battlefront. Its sequel added the inclusion of space battles and the ability to play as heroes and villains of the Star Wars universe. Before Pandemic closed down in 2009, a video showcasing alpha footage of a possible third instalment to the Battlefront series, highlighting an ambitiously seamless ground-to-space transition for battles to take place. Sadly that was lost, and fans were left in the dark. This was until around May 2013, when EA obtained exclusive rights to develop Star Wars games, and announced a new Battlefront entry during 2013's E3. Battlefront was given to the multiplayer veterans over at DICE; the team responsible for the ever-popular Battlefield series. The aim was to take what Battlefield is known for "“ its large-scale maps for all-out warfare, and to incorporate it into the Star Wars universe. Star Wars Battlefront was designed to be almost exclusively online, with some local components for splitscreen play. One of the bigger concerns was that EA and DICE didn't want to incorporate a single player aspect like the previous two entries. While they weren't necessarily known for these modes, Galactic Conquest and Instant Action were still a great way to play if players didn't prefer going online. Let's see how strong Battlefront's online stands on its own for consumers.
At its core, Battlefront is a hybrid third and first person shooter, allowing players to switch between styles on the fly to suit their playstyles. It also incorporates vehicular combat thanks to Frostbite's larger, more open map designs. Battlefront is played online, and offline by completing challenges or playing local splitscreen missions. As mentioned before, there is a clear omission of classic single player modes like Instant Action and Galactic Conquest, which is a bit of a shame. I am fully aware that Battlefront, as a series, is traditional mulitplayer only, but having those were a nice way to involve players who'd just rather spend some time offline. The gameplay for Battlefront's online is broken down into nine different multiplayer modes: Supremacy, Cargo, Fighter Squadron, Droid Run, Walker Assault, Blast, Drop Zone, Heroes vs Villains, and Hero Hunt. All modes have a great feel to them, and range from closer matches of 6 players, to all-out warfare with 40. DICE are well known for emulating a genuine war with the mixture of ground and air vehicles along with foot soldiers; with that in mind, Battlefront is about the closest thing we can get to feeling like we're actually a part of these galactic wars. Rather than sticking to a more strategic class-based system, Battlefront changes its focus to having stock characters that can be independently customized and tailored. It is an unfortunate departure from a formula that worked quite spectacularly, but they have at least done a decent job at balancing the weapons so that newcomers don't feel totally underpowered once they start. Most of the end-game unlocks look to be cosmetic skins, and players may find that their go-to blasters are ones unlocked earlier on. There are player cards that can be personalized to have certain side-arms and skills like jump packs or personal shields. Rather than having killstreaks, there are powerups you can obtain during gameplay that operate under the same basis. Some power ups offer simple turrets, to shield bubbles, while others offer orbital missile strikes or thermal imploders. Another great thing I noticed is that the weapons have infinite ammo, in a sense. There is a natural cooldown meter, to compensate for this, but it is a nice touch considering the science fiction material they're inspired by.
One of the most highly anticipated features would be the ability to play as heroes and villains in the Star Wars universe. Currently there are six available: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Han Solo, Boba Fett, and Leia Organa. I expect more to drop as the game progresses, as they really offer a unique gameplay experience, and considering the lore, there is a seemingly endless supply at their disposal, especially considering the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Fans will quickly notice that Luke Skywalker is pretty overpowered, having the swift agility to move about the battlefield with ease, and with fast strikes that could body opposing villains like Darth Vader. My personal favourite heroes and villains to use were Boba Fett and Han Solo. Both maintain the blaster combat with advantages, like Han's special zoom, or Boba Fett's jet pack.
Flying in Battlefront is a real treat. Some were hesitant as to how the controls would actually work, and if DICE would try to change it to feel more like Battlefield. I'm happy to report that the controls are far closer to Rogue Squadron, in that they are designed with simplicity in mind, so that the greater bulk of your attention is focused on the chaotic sky battles. There is also an added cockpit mode to really emulate the feel of flying a TIE Interceptor or A-Wing. Similar to the hero and villain unlocks on the ground, players can also fly classic ships like the Millennium Falcon, or the Slave-I. Another fantastic feature is a mode on Endor that has players racing in speeder bikes, to mimic the epic race in Return of the Jedi. Fighter Squadron is the primary mode that solely focuses on aerial combat. One rather disappointing omission were the ever-popular interstellar battles from Battlefront 2. I hope these are included post-launch, as some of the finest aerial battles took to well beyond the skies in Star Wars.
One of my bigger gripes with Battlefront lies with what appears to be an industry standard nowadays: the season pass. I'm not wholly against the idea, and have seen season passes that are genuinely worth the extra cash; The Witcher 3 is the easiest example of that, as it offers a considerable amount of content for a fraction of normal season pass prices. Battlefront offers 4 expansion packs that one could assume are filled with maps and possibly weapons and characters, along with filler like emotes and victory stances and whatnot. But the price is a staggering $70. Now, this may be totally dependent on the country you're planning to purchase this in, but let's take Canada for example. A new game like Battlefront costs $90 after applicable. To complete the full game by buying the season's pass is another $70, bringing a full game price up to $160. Granted, Battlefront does come with about 12 maps right out of the box, along with the pre-ordered Battle for Jakku map that released not too long ago, and there's not too much information as to what's actually included in the season's pass to justify $70, but Battlefront is by and large one of the most expensive titles if you really want the "full" price of admission.
One of the most impressive aspects about Battlefront outside of its aesthetics, which I'll get to in just a bit, is its sound. DICE is known for some fantastic explosive sounds, gun sounds and the like in their Battlefield series, but they went above and beyond in Battlefront. They managed to go right to the source: the sound library at Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound to take all the authentic sounds for things like a TIE Fighter's piercing throttle, or the way a particular blaster sounds. On top of that they also tailored each sound to give the impression of what it ought to sound like in first person, as that is also a main camera angle, so that a gun sounds differently up close, from far away, or within a confined corridor like Hoth's many tunnelled areas. Another incredible feat is that they even went as far as going back to how the classic sounds were created back in 1977. For example, the original TIE Fighter screech was actually a recording of an elephant slowed down spliced with a car rolling down wet pavement; the masterful sound team at DICE went of their way to deliver the most authentic Star Wars sound effects. It's that kind of attention to detail that is commendable, as it shows dedication to the product they're creating and a sense of respect for the source material.
As mentioned before, Battlefront is built on DICE's championed Frostbite 3 engine, previous popular for their Battlefront series. However, Star Wars Battlefront seems to be a clear winner as a benchmark title with the Frostbite engine. Levels are detailed to an insane degree, with a great depth of field and density, characters have lots of attention to the clothing and overall movement. Textures are all nicely detailed, and the accuracy in recreating famous sets, locales and events that happened during the original Star Wars trilogy. The game runs smoothly at 1080p and 60fps, even during 40 player matches which is pretty impressive considering the scale and scope of each level. Levels themselves are very large to accommodate aerial combat. Some memorable levels are definitely on Endor and Hoth, to really get a sense of the fantastic colour use present. With the season's pass, I really do hope we can see some more sets from the new film, and perhaps from the Expanded Universe.
Overall, Star Wars Battlefront has been long overdue for fans, but it's safe to say that DICE's instalment was well worth the wait. Despite my concerns with regards to the pricing of the season's pass, the game comes with a lot of content out of the box, and loads of replay value, both online and off. With enormous levels, authentic sound effects, and the ability to play as classic heroes and villains amidst large or tight battles, Star Wars Battlefront is an excellent instalment in the franchise, and I am looking forward to what's in store post-launch.
|Large Levels that are full of detail for both ground and aerial combat.|
|Incredible sound design that aimed to mirror the same effects used in the original trilogy.|
|The game is a visual stunner; those with good PCs should feel blessed.|
|The seasonâ€™s pass comes with an extremely large price tag.|
|No inclusion of Galactic Conquest or Instant Action seem like mixed opportunities.|
|Having only 6 heroes and villains doesnâ€™t seem like very much out of the box.|