Editor’s note: The standalone version of Star Wars: Battlefront scored a 7/10.
Available on Xbox One, PS4 (tested) and PC
Awesome Star Wars look and feel
Battles cram in great cinematic moments
Excellent Walker Assault and Droid Run modes
Easy to pick up and play
No serious solo content (barring Han)
Not all modes play to the game’s strengths
Concerns over long-term appeal
Written by Stuart Andrews
Battle of Jakku DLC Update
As Woody Allen in his prime might have said, Star Wars: Battlefront is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it’s one of the best. The more critical portions of my brain keep telling me that it’s a mediocre, derivative online FPS, seemingly devised by a team that’s been living underground, unaware that Titanfall, Destiny and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare have even happened. Mobility is limited to the most basic sprinting and jumping moves, bar a quick blast of the jump pack when you’ve unlocked the card to activate it. Yet there’s some other part – some Star Wars-crazy inner ten-year-old – that keeps on blowing raspberries and shouting ‘I don’t care’.
‘You should’ say the more grown-up critical elements. Can’t my inner ten-year-old see that the modes are mostly variations of long-established themes, and that even with the addition of the free Battle of Jakku DLC, there still aren’t really enough maps. There are balance issues all over the place, ranging from questions over the power of certain heroes (Boba Fett comes up a lot here) to the relative efficacy of different weapons; a problem that’s becoming only more pronounced as more people unlock the better guns. On so many levels, this isn’t up there with DICE’s best work.
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Sadly, every time I play Star Wars: Battlefront, these older, wiser portions of my brain keep getting tuned out, leaving my Star Wars-crazy inner ten-year-old in charge. He’s there with his fellow stormtroopers, beating the rebel scum back from another control point. He’s taking down a scout walker with Ion Grenades, Ion Torpedoes and the Ion Shot Charged star card – that Imperial varmint will pick on somebody his own size next time. He’s grabbing the Snowspeeder power-up and softening up the Imperial defences around a control point so that my rebel buddies can steam in.
Most of all, he’s having fun.
At times Battlefront seems to have been designed to infuriate Battlefield veterans, but maybe that’s the price of its accessibility. It’s easy to pick up and play, there’s less scope (if you’ll excuse me) for snipers to dominate the map, and in a way the lack of movement options levels the playing field; you’re not constantly surprised by experts with their sneaky slide-in or ground-pound melee attacks. And while in terms of raw gameplay Battlefront sits comfortably behind Halo 5, Rainbow Six: Siege and Black Ops 3, it still delivers a great Star Wars experience, just because every model, every surface, every map and every sound rings with authenticity.
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Needless to say, with so much attention focused on the new movie, the chance to run around one of its key settings wlll be irresistible for many Star Wars fans. Well, the new Battle of Jakku DLC allows you to do just that, This is the desert planet with the crashed Star Destroyer you might have seen in the Force Awakens trailer, though anyone expecting to take part in the actual battle might want to curb their enthusiasm.
Despite EA’s promise that you ‘will experience the events that created the massive, battle-scarred landscape of Jakku’, you’ll actually experience what it’s like to fight amidst the post-battle wreckage. This comes as part of an all-new game mode, Turning Point.
Okay, even calling Turning Point all-new is pushing it slightly. It’s more a focused version of the existing Supremacy mode, tasking 20 rebels with taking one of three imperial control points, and 20 imperials with stopping them. There’s a time limit in play, but every time the rebels taking a control point the imperials are pushed back, new control points open and minutes are added to the clock. Eventually one of two things happen: the imperials hold the rebels back until the timer hits zero, or the rebels reach and take a final, single objective.
Turning point is a fine game mode. It does a great job of focusing every player’s attention on specific control points and ensuring an action-packed match, growing more and more frantic as time goes on. Together with the map – Graveyard of Giants – it puts the emphasis on mid-range combat with some long-range sniping opportunities, so you need to pack weaponry and cards to match.
Battle of Jakku also brings a second map, Goazan Badlands, for use in the smaller-scale game modes. It’s a canyon map with a central, wreckage-strewn channel and various interlinking caves and side-channels, and good in that it allows for a range of different play styles. There’s enough cover and enough flanking routes to discourage cheap camping, but there’s still room for a little long-range combat. And if you’d rather play more aggressively, move fast or pack a jump pack and you can easily do that too.
Does this first batch of DLC fix our main concern about Star Wars: Battlefront: that there isn’t enough content or depth to keep players happy in the long-term? Not really. DICE has added a little extra content, but not really added anything that feels fundamentally new, let alone inspired.
Most of all, it still doesn’t quite hit the scale of, say, the Battle for Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. There’s only so much you can do with forty players. And while Battle for Jakku is a fun freebie for the fans, it’ll take more to justify the price of the upcoming DLC packs or the controversial season pass. A new map and some extra blasters just won’t cut it.
That leaves Battlefront pretty much where we left it last time: a slightly average game which you’ll love for all its faults, just because it does that all-important Star Wars stuff so well.
Original Review – November 19, 2015
Star Wars: Battlefront gives us something of a paradox.
On one level it’s a slight disappointment; a facile take on the multiplayer shooter that’s fairly derivative and has no meaningful single-player content. It’s spectacular, cinematic and great fun to play, but it’s really only the license that makes it a contender against Halo 5 or Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.
On the other hand, what a license, what material and what fantastic use DICE has made of it in this game. If you love Star Wars you’re going to love Star Wars: Battlefront. You might not love it for months on end, but you’ll find the idea of going without it unimaginable.
We all know that Lucasfilm gave DICE unprecedented access to Star Wars props and costumes and that DICE has bent over backwards to replicate the production design and locations of the original trilogy of films. All the same, knowing it is different from seeing it in action. The thrill of taking part in a battle against Imperial Snowtroopers and AT-ATs on the surface of Hoth takes a long time to get old, and the same goes for skirmishing through what appear to be abandoned Ewok villages in the forests of Endor.
There’s nothing new in the large-scale battle modes that we haven’t already experienced in Battlefield 4, but try telling yourself that as you run headlong with a wave of rebels across the volcanic terrain of Sullust, firing your blaster at Stormtroopers on the horizon as an AT-ST enters view and Tie Fighters and X-Wings scream overhead.
DICE’s always impressive graphics technology really sells this stuff, using advanced lighting and material-based rendering techniques to bring the worlds of Star Wars to life in a way that no game has before.
Every time a grenade goes off and throws a Stormtrooper or rebel flailing into the air; every time an A-Wing crashes into the ground metres from my position; every time The Emperor or Boba Fett takes to the battlefield to wipe out the rebel scum; the part of me that’s eternally a ten-year-old Star Wars fan wants to jump up and cheer.
When we mention Battlefield, it’s not to imply that Star Wars: Battlefront is Battlefield 4 with a Star Wars reskin. Everything from movement to shooting to the whole system of classes and load-outs has been tweaked or transformed, usually with the aim of making Star Wars: Battlefront a more accessible, casual-friendly title. If that makes you seethe with fear and anger, like Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, live with it or leave well alone. This might not be the DICE game for you.
Movement is pretty basic, with no sliding or mantling manoeuvres. Instead of classes and load-outs you assign your avatar a blaster plus a hand of virtual cards which can be used to trigger a one-shot sniper rifle, high-powered pistol or heavy weapon or grenade.
There’s even a specific class of tactical card to buff existing weaponry for added electrical damage or accuracy at range.
Vehicles aren’t grabbed at base but by picking up specific collectible tokens. Activate one by squeezing the left and right bumpers, and you’ll find yourself piloting an AT-ST or flying in an X-Wing, Tie-Fighter or Snowspeeder, high above the battleground. In fact, the same tokens cover a wide range of power-ups, from automated anti-infantry and anti-vehicle turrets to proximity mines and companion droids.
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If success in Battlefield is partly about understanding your role and the objective, playing Star Wars: Battlefront is much more about focusing on the objective and using your skills and capabilities to further it. Of course, what that objective is differs from mode to mode.
Star Wars: Battlefront’s Supremacy mode is the closest the game comes to Battlefield, with teams of 20 rebels and imperials fighting for control of five key points on large-scale maps.
Walker Assault is the other biggie, pitting 20 rebels against 20 Imperials as the latter escort AT-AT walkers on their way to destroy the rebel base. The only way to halt the walkers is to activate and defend two uplink stations, which then summon Y-Wing bombers to wipe out the Walker’s shielding. With the walkers defenceless, the rebels can cane them with missile launchers, ion bolts and any artillery at their disposal. All the Imperials have to do is stop them.
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It’s not all about epic warfare, though. Blast is pretty straight 10 vs 10 deathmatch, while Cargo is effectively Capture the Flag. Drop Zone, meanwhile, is an 8 vs 8 fight for a series of supply pods. Perhaps the most fun of the small scale modes is Droid Run, where six rebels and six imperials have to activate and hold three slowly-wandering power droids. It’s a bit like the objective or hardpoint modes you’ll find in Titanfall or Call of Duty, only the hardpoints don’t sit still. The maps, all ice caves, desert stations and twisting canyons, only add to the fun.
Beyond these modes, Star Wars: Battlefront throws in three that really play up to the Star Wars fanbase. Part of the appeal of playing Supremacy and Walker Assault is that good play can be rewarded with the chance to fight as an iconic Star Wars villain or hero, with Boba Fett, Darth Vader and the Emperor on one side, and Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia on the other.
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Each hero or villain can take a substantial amount of damage, while having three specific, super-charged powers, limited only by a cool-down timer. The Hero Hunt and Heroes vs. Villains modes make the stars the focus of the action, the first pitting seven imperials or rebels against a hero from the opposing team, the second squaring heroes and villains off against each other with support from ordinary troops. The first team to eliminate all opposing heroes/villains wins the round.
Finally, Fighter Squadron mode is as close as Star Wars: Battlefront gets to pure dogfighting. Here squadrons of X-Wings and A-Wings and Tie Fighters and Tie Advanced battle in the skies to destroy each other, plus any troop ships and shuttles trying to escape.
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Not all these modes are equal. Blast, Drop Zone and Cargo don’t really play to the strengths of Star Wars: Battlefront, either as an online shooter or a Star Wars game. Hero Hunt and Heroes vs. Villains are enjoyable, but a little repetitive, and after a while it gets annoying that mighty Jedi and Sith Lords seem so feeble while their powers are in a cool-down state. Meanwhile, the aerial combat in Fighter Squadron lacks the depth and feel you’d expect from a stand-alone aerial combat game. It’s fun, but very superficial stuff.
No. Droid Run is great, but it’s clear that the real meat of Star Wars: Battlefront is in the Supremacy and Walker Assault mode. This is where you really get to grips with the epic scale of Star Wars battles, and where the cinematic moments keep on coming. Sure, you’ll endure a lot of running towards an objective, falling foul to a sniper or a hail of laser fire, then respawning, but you’ll also have your fair share of triumphant assaults on enemy positions, narrow escapes, heroic defences and aerial raids. At its best, Star Wars: Battlefront is brilliant.
It is, however, a game with some real problems. The first is staying power. Not all the modes have much of it, and even Supremacy and Walker Assault grow a little repetitive with time. The game has a character progression system, with levels, weapon unlocks and custom appearances for more experienced players, but the weapons aren’t really different enough or powerful enough to make getting the next one an obsession, and we’ve generally found that some of the earliest weapons are the most effective, while some of the later shotgun and carbine-style blasters just don’t work in the game’s modes or maps.
Talking of maps, there aren’t really enough of them, with just four landscapes for Supremacy and Walker Assault, which you’ll keep coming back to over and over again. These are added to by a handful of smaller locations for the smaller-scale modes, but even these become a little too familiar once you’re through the first dozen hours.
I’m not suggesting that Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t addictive or more-ish – I wouldn’t have been playing it last night at 3am if it was tedious or dull – but I’m not sure it has the legs of a Battlefield 4 or a Titanfall.
It’s also a little galling that, while we know more content is on the way, we also know that it’s being held back for DLC and the Season Pass. There’s a risk that players might end up feeling that they’re being charged extra for content that could and should have been part of the original game.
There’s more evidence of a lack of generosity elsewhere. We’re getting used to blockbuster games that combine excellent online co-op and competitive modes with a strong single-player campaign. Look at Halo 4, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, or even DICE’s own Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4. On this count Star Wars: Battlefront is a real let-down.
You can play tutorial missions or battle against CPU-controlled opponents, and both will be very useful for an audience of Star Wars-loving noobs, potentially buying next-gen consoles just to play this game. However, the closest it gets to a campaign is its four wave-based Survival missions, which see one or two rebels fighting off wave after wave of imperials, pausing only to capture supply pods and grab power-ups and lives.
The Survival missions are OK, particularly when Tie-Fighter squadrons or Imperial Shadow Troopers are thrown at you, but they’re the kind of thing that you can play through once and happily forget, only coming back to them for the occasional co-op blast. After a while the waves become so predictable that you actually begin to feel bored unless you whack up the difficulty level, at which point there’s more challenge, though not imagination. Either way, they’re no substitute for even a half-decent single-player campaign. DICE’s hard work on the visuals and environments practically begs for one. Wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the team had obliged?
Were this a normal shooter, I’d say that Star Wars: Battlefront’s lack of long-term appeal and single-player interest count against it, but it’s too entertaining, too polished and too damn Star Wars to be so easily dismissed. Every time I feel myself about to condemn it as just another online shooter, I grab a speeder-bike or blast a power droid or hear a familiar sound effect whistling past my head, and I remember that this is Star Wars, and that no previous Star Wars: Battlefront has bought us so close to the magic of the films.
Sure, it could have been better and, sure, there are some major disappointments, but when a Star Wars shooter gets all the Star Wars stuff so right, it’s almost impossible to ignore.
If you’re looking for a deep, skill-based, tactically-demanding shooter on the scale of Battlefield, Star Wars: Battlefront isn’t it.
Instead, it’s a slick, polished and accessible online blaster that makes the most of the Star Wars license and material. Some of its modes are forgettable and we have concerns about its long-term appeal, but if you want to blast imperial Stormtroopers or slaughter the rebel scum, there hasn’t been a better way to do it since the glory days of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight.