Available on Xbox One (version tested), PS4, PC
I was one of those who wholeheartedly embraced 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront. Yes, it’s a bit shallow. Yes, there’s not much variety. No, I don’t care. But Battlefront didn’t actually have the ‘stars’ bit of Star Wars, which is kind of a big deal. It’s a key component of the package, alongside lightsabers, droids and lasers that go ‘pew’.
The Death Star DLC addresses that omission, if you pay for the privilege. You get it as part of the Battlefront season pass, or you can pay £12 to download it on its own. Is it worth it? I reckon so. It still sucks that the base game didn’t include a bunch of the DLC stuff in the first place, but what you get here makes for a more complete Battlefront. A fully operational one, even.
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As with the last two expansions (Outer Rim and Bespin) Death Star is a reworking of Battlefront's existing ingredients. If you’re familiar with that, you’ll be right at home with the the core gunplay and dogfight mechanics – even after the subtle patches and balances that DICE has been adding every month.
There are three modes: Blast and Fighter Squadron, plus the all-new Battle Station scenario. Blast is the team deathmatch mode from the core game, only now you’re running around the Death Star’s interior.
This is an absolute treat. The level design is massive, detailed and very polished. Narrow corridors open out into spacious halls, which makes for varied gameplay. The tighter spaces turn into utter meat grinders if you’re armed with a heavy blaster or thermal imploder. Then there are precarious platforms: I don’t know what the Empire has against fences in general, but it means falling to your doom is another thing to worry about.
Best of all, the Death Star plays to one of DICE’s greatest strengths: fan service. There are key nods to scenes from Episode IV: the boardroom, the cell blocks and the trash compactor, plus big hangars and massive blast doors. It’s an authentic experience, more so than any other level.
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Fighter Squadron, as in the core game, has you flying an X-Wing or A-Wing if you’re a Rebel, and a TIE Fighter or TIE Interceptor if you’re an Imperial. The Death Star and a nearby planet (it looks like Yavin IV to me) make for lovely backdrops, while floating asteroids and debris help to make flying a little more perilous.
The best bit is flying around a Star Destroyer. It just feels right; there’s something immensely satisfying about weaving over and under it to chase/escape your opponents. DICE has also decided to shake things up a bit by letting you call in some help. There are rare power-ups scattered around that let you call in B-Wing/TIE Defender reinforcement. If you’re a fan of the original flying sections, you’ll be happy here.
The new Battle Station is essentially a souped-up combination of Blast and Fighter Squadron. It is a three-chapter mode, and the closest that Battlefront ever gets to a storyline. The first phase has Rebels trying to get to the Death Star. There is a Star Destroyer in the way, and you have to attack or protect it.
In phase two, Rebels have made it into the Death Star with the goal of rescuing R2-D2. A Rebel can control the droid and move towards the extraction point. R2 doesn’t have deadly weapons, but it can send out pulse scans to detect enemies, release a smoke screen, and use electricity to stun enemies. Imperials, meanwhile, can damage the droid and stop it in its tracks. This is really tense and a lot more fun than the standard Blast mode.
If R2 reaches the extraction point, phase 3 is triggered. You’re now back in your starship. Rebels must do the trench run to blow up the Death Star, and Imperials must stop them. Hero pick ups are available, and you can choose to fly Luke’s Red Five X-Wing or Vader’s TIE Advanced fighter. If you’re a bit bored by the standard Fighter Squadron fare, flying in the trenches and innards of the Death Star is a good remedy.
The problem with Battle Station is that you must play the three phases in sequence. If you want to rescue R2-D2, you must fly around before and after. That’s not great for people who have no interest in flying.
Adding to this nuisance is DICE’s insistence that the DLC modes must be part of a playlist. Sure, you’re able to single out Blast mode, but as soon as that round is over, the game will automatically move you over to Fighter Squadron or Battle Station.
That’s incredibly annoying if you get into the game mode you want, only to find there’s 30 seconds left on the clock. A quick skim of the Battlefront forums shows that I’m not alone in finding this infuriating: some users have resorted to choosing a mode they don’t want in the hope that the game will bounce them where they wanted to be in the first place.
The regimented approach to game modes is simply obtuse, and it undermines any joy and thrill this expansion otherwise offers. If this can be fixed, Death Star DLC provides a compelling reason to stick with Battlefront.
Death Star makes Star Wars: Battlefront a more complete offering, but that game mode system needs to be fixed.