It’s time for me to lock my journalist foils into review position.
Star Wars: Battlefront brings the beloved franchise into the modern era of gaming, and it looks gorgeous. However, it wouldn’t be the modern era of gaming without a few caveats. Publisher Electronic Arts didn’t include a campaign mode, and Battlefront’s current selection of maps feels sparse (of course, more will become available … for a price).
However, Battlefront’s multiplayer feels and looks so good that I can forgive many of its Wookie-sized faults.
Check out our Reviews Vault for past game reviews.
Note that I played the Xbox One version (it also comes out for PlayStation 4 and PC)
What you’ll like (so far)
It feels like Star Wars
I’ve played a lot of Star Wars games. Some, like Knights of the Old Republic, were great for taking me to a new era of previously undiscovered lore and crafting a memorable story. Some, like Pod Racer, were great for creating a refined game based off of a single concept from the films.
Battlefront, however, is great simply at being Star Wars. In fact, forget about the Battlefront subtitle — EA could have just called this game Star Wars. No, it doesn’t retell the events of the game via CliffsNotes-style cutscenes. Instead, the game’s aesthetics, sounds, music, and more envelop you in a memorable experience. When you’re running next to a giant AT-AT while dodging laser fire all while the Star Wars main theme plays, you end up grinning like an idiot.
Yes, we’ve had two Battlefront games before (back in the PlayStation 2 era), and while you can argue they had more content, they never felt as authentic as this. Ground-based vehicles feel like they have real weight, you can see ships battling overhead at all times, and enemies and friends scream at each other across the battlefield.
Battlefront has a lot game modes, some of which are pretty standard (variations on team deathmatch, capture-the-flag-, etc.). The best is Walker Assault. This is the one you played if you were in the recent beta test. The Imperials defend giant AT-ATs as they march toward the Alliance base, while the Rebels try to destroy them. Not only is it unique among shooters, but it’s perfect for Star Wars. It’s just like the movies; the Rebels have to work together to beat a better-equipped and looming Empire.
Walker Assault also feels great because it’s one of the modes that lets you play as Hero characters (like Luke and Vader), ground vehicles, and ships. Battlefront really works best when all of these elements play together.
Now, some modes are fun even with more restrictions. Fighter Squadron keeps battles in the air, and it even lets lucky players control Boba Fett’s Slave 1 or the Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. I love how ships control. One stick moves them, but the other acts like a throttle. Each ship has a couple of abilities, like homing missiles or a speed burst, and you can pull of some evasive maneuvers with the D-pad. Most important, you can hold down a trigger button to try to lock onto an enemy ship. All of this adds up to some fun and frantic dogfights.
Heroes vs. Villains is a simple mode that’s a fun alternative to the complexity of Walker Assault or other larger game types. Here, small teams, each with three Hero or Villain characters on their side, have to fight each other until one side loses all of its special characters. It’s great if you want some practice with the special characters. Besides, it’s always fun to shoot Force Lighting at people as the Emperor.
Battlefront doesn’t have a traditional campaign, but you can play against computer-controlled enemies in a survival mode. You (preferably you and a friend) have to survive against waves of Imperials, occasionally claiming drop-pods full of useful equipment (like energy shields and rocket launchers). It’s not the deepest experience, but it’s fun if you’re playing with a friend.
Also, a hologram of Admiral Ackbar talks to you the whole time, so it has that going for it.
You can also play the game’s training missions with a friend. They aren’t deep, but they’re more elaborate than you might expect. One has you racing through the forest of Endor on a speeder bike, just like Luke in Return of the Jedi. Another has you crushing your way through a Rebel base as Vader and the Emperor.
Like pretty much every multiplayer shooter ever these days, you level up and unlock new weapons and abilities as you play. While most games will make you earn killstreaks to use certain items or only give you a couple of grenades to use per spawn, most of Battlefront’s equipment work on cooldowns. So, you throw a thermal detonator, and then you just wait a minute or so and you can lob another one. I like this, since it means you can’t just spam grenades, but you also don’t have to worry about running out of them.
Other cooldown items offer more unique benefits, like a jetpack that gives you a vertical boost, or a pistol that can fire one deadly shot at close range. All of these items can create a large variety of character-types, almost like you’re making your own classes. You can make a soldier that specializes in long-distance kills or one that can easily jump around the map and surprise enemies from behind.
It’s running well
These days, you don’t know how well an online-dependent game will work at launch. Dice itself actually had this issue with the rocky release of Battlefield 4. It’s why we waited well after the embargo to post a score. Well, at least on the Xbox One version I’m playing, Battlefront is running smoothly. I haven’t experienced notable lag, and it’s easy to find matches. I did have the game freeze on me once, which was annoying, but so far it seems like an isolated incident.
What you won’t like
Not enough planets
Battlefront’s modes take place on maps based on four planets: the sandy Tatooine, the icy Hoth, the forest-filled Endor, and the volcanic Sullust. For the big modes, like Walker Assault, each of these translates to just one map. They’re big maps, but it means that you’ll see every map in the game after just an hour or so of playing.
In the smaller modes, each planet contributes multiple maps. This helps the variety problem a bit, but really only for those modes. And, besides, you’re going to want to spend more time on the larger ones anyway.
DLC will help this problem. Jakku will be free for everyone in early December. But if you want more, you’ll have to pay for it. After that, new planets will come out slowly via expansions throughout the year. Considering how few planets we’re starting with, I think more free content is called for (especially with Jakku being another sandy planet, like Tatooine).
The party system
The party system is the only thing I hate in Battlefront.
In most multiplayer shooters, you and your friends go into a separate lobby, and then a party leader takes you into multiplayer matches. This ensures that everyone easily sticks together. In Battlefront, it simply sends a small notification to your party when one member enters a game. You then have to push a button to join.
This has caused a lot of headaches. It’s easy to miss that notification, and it seems like it just sometimes never appears. It also requires a lot of extra coordination. You have to pick one person who tries to join a match, then wait for him to get in one, then everyone else has to jump in before the game becomes full. If you don’t communicate, two people in your party can enter two different matches at the same time. The whole thing is just confusing and bizarre, especially when series like Halo and Call of Duty have mastered this process years ago.
Star Wars: Battlefront is fun. It’s a great Star Wars game. What I can’t tell you right now, however, is if it has any longevity. Right now, the lack of map variety could mean that you get sick of the game faster than you would otherwise, and EA dividing the community in the future with paid DLC planets may not help the problem.
Still, no other game has made me feel more like an actual participant in a legitimate Star Wars battle. I don’t know if I’ll ever get sick of that feeling I get when I take down a TIE Fighter, and I doubt that chill I get when I hear the main theme play as I run across a crowded battlefield will ever go away.
Star Wars: Battlefront is out on November 17 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. GamesBeat played this during its debut on EA Access, and EA provided GamesBeat with an Xbox One version for the purposes of our review.