Star Wars Battlefront Review (PlayStation 4)
When it comes to Star Wars games, we all have some pretty high expectations of what they should include, such as those iconic blaster and lightsaber effects, a plethora of Stormtroopers and John Williams' epic soundtrack. Recreating these sights and sounds are often the larger goals when it comes to video games set in George Lucas and Disney's universe. We've seen it all over the years when it comes to Star Wars games, which have twisted and turned through the real-time strategy, role-playing, side-scrolling platformer and arcade shooters genres over the years. Heck, we've seen Star Wars games get the death sentence on 12 systems. All cliche and "force"-d references aside, the Battlefront series remains a favorite for most fans. Now the developers at DICE that have answered the call to rekindle the war between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance.
Battlefront is meant to be the Star Wars video game to get as the world awaits the theatrical release of The Force Awakens. While Battlefront doesn't particularly fall under the doomed movie-based video game curse, it certainly feels like one. As a few more months of development could've greatly helped players get more bang for their buck when it comes to this multiplayer frag-fest. Luckily, Star Wars Battlefront is meant to tap into both the success that the first-person shooter genre has gotten over the years with the likes of the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises and the overall boom in hype/merchandising leading into The Force Awakens. Battlefront certainly doesn't reinvent online multiplayer FPS gameplay or even have any lasting reasons to keep you coming back for more, but its presentation and nostalgic values are more than enough to keep casual gamers out there entertained.
The presentation of Star Wars Battlefront is phenomenal. The graphics left me thinking on many occasions that these were the greatest visuals I've seen on current-gen consoles so far. DICE made plenty of games with excellent production values before, and they certainly went all-out when it came to Battlefront. Every level, model, ship, gun, laser blast and effect I saw were rendered with the highest quality. Throughout my ventures, I didn't find any ugly assets that could've been improved, considering how polished everything else was, even down to the finer details. Even if I spawned far away from the action, just hearing the blasters going off and seeing the laser shots going back and forth in the distance just built more hype as I ran towards the action. At the same time, some of the areas in the bigger levels (particularly Tatooine and Hoth) are a bit bland. After a while, I got a little bored running through the empty hills of Hoth in order to return to the action, especially when there's nothing to use as cover in these open areas in the unlikely event that a fight breaks out far away from the kill zones.
The sounds of Star Wars Battlefront are just as optimal as its visuals. Of course, there are all your favorite Williams tracks in there, including many tracks original to the game that help enhance the awesome firefights you're engaged with. Those few dull moments where you have to trek back into the action are helped by the closing laser blasts you hear in the distance atop your favorite Empire Strikes Back themes. Just when I started to think to myself that I might have to do the impossible and mute the delicious music just to savor some more of the familiar and enjoyable sound effects, boom, the soundtrack cut out for a few minutes. There are just enough moments where the background music isn't on repeat to make you appreciate the other times there are songs playing and the times when they're not. In terms of its presentation and production values, Star Wars Battlefront is pretty much unrivaled when compared to most of its contemporaries.
As Star Wars Battlefront is filled with beautiful art for the eyes and ears, all of these things are only skin-deep. Underneath the surface, Battlefront is a shallow online shooter that is primarily comprised of your tried-and-true multiplayer modes that have been slightly tweaked for the Star Wars mythos. Droid Run is a King of the Hill-style game where your robotic objectives will move across the map and you have to hold those areas or steal them from the enemy. Cargo is Capture the Flag between the Rebels and Imperial forces. First-person shooter veterans will feel very content and accustomed to most of these modes. Luckily, Battlefront's unique modes, such as Heroes Vs. Villains and Walker Assault make up for an otherwise tried-and-true set of match types. The Fighter Squadron mode will have you taking the skies in A-Wings, X-Wings, TIE Fighters, the Millennium Falcon or Boba Fett's Slave I. After a short learning curve, these vehicles were alright to play, but didn't have the lasting quality or fun that Star Fox's Arwing or even Battlefront I and II's previous vehicles have (or the older Battlefield games for that matter). Team Deathmatch, which is called Blast in Battlefront, is pretty much what you'd expect.
The big attractions are the two heroes modes and Walker Assault. The latter of which features an all-out Empire invasion where the Stormtroopers must escort the massive and slow AT-ATs to their objectives as the Rebel Alliance scrambles to try and stop them from reaching their destination. This leads to some out of the box thinking where you'll see Stormtroopers trying to shoot Snowspeeders out of the sky in order to prevent them from tying up the walkers (of course, most people ignore mode/match objectives and just run out into the open and shoot each other, but that's expected). Unfortunately, controlling the AT-AT isn't as fun as you'd expect, as you're basically aiming the guns in its head for a minute or two as it pushes forward, aiming at whatever unlucky and unknowing Rebels are out in the open in front of your vehicle. Even if your walker isn't destroyed, you automatically lose control of it as presumably another player takes the reins.
Playing as an AT-ST is much more fun and contributed more to the overall fight than most other vehicles. Aerial vehicles simply move too fast through the skies in order to effectively try to kill soldiers on the ground. Hero Hunt is pretty fun, as everyone stalks down a player-controlled Hero or Villain character depending on the stage. Seven regular players of the opposing faction are basically chasing down this powerful Hero/Villain in some intense cat-and-mouse action. Palpatine and Leia have heal icons they can drop on the ground for themselves or other players on their side to use. Palpatine's Raiden-style dash is laughable, out of place (I know, it refers to the Episode III fight) and just stands out as something they should've replaced. Vader and Luke both have their sabers and force powers, which certainly make a difference on the field compared to your average soldier. Heroes Vs. Villains is where you start to realize how unbalanced some of these famous faces are, as Boba Fett is often the go-to choice for players due to his variety of tricks, including his jet pack (which makes him darn-near impossible to catch).
All of these different match types are all good and fun... in theory. The problem is that once you cut away the great presentation values and everyone's loving and gushing nostalgia/love for Star Wars, Battlefront is simply a mediocre game. That's especially true when compared to most conventional shooters and their more intricate mechanics. Most of the kills players get are made at a mid-to-short range — you'll see an enemy, hold down the fire button (most guns continuously fire as long as you hold down the trigger until they overheat) and just hope you take out your opponent before they do the same to you. Shootouts are more reaction-based in determining a winner as opposed to skill.
The actual customizations you can do to your character are minimal. Star Wars Battlefront caters to the casual gamer, and it doesn't offer any long-lasting appeal for those who have come to expect more from their first-person shooters. There are only 11 main guns in the game that you'll steadily unlock through the leveling system, and you can't customize anything or trick them out in any way. The biggest customization variants come in the form of the Star Cards, your selected character model and your main gun choice. There are about a dozen or so faces, with each male face having the same few haircut and beard combinations, the same goes for the female models just minus the facial hair. At the same time, why would you want to unmask your Stormtrooper? The Stormtrooper's end-game unlockables include Scout Trooper and Shadow Trooper outfits, and that's it. The Rebel Alliance has a few alien heads to unlock in the end, including a Rodian and Twi'lek, but you can only select them, you can't customize them. I was hoping for more variance in the Trooper and Rebel body designs. Star Cards keep things interesting, as you can basically equip what kind of grenades to throw, secondary blasters to fire and temporary turrets to set (most of them run on a timer), but even these are just minor things in an otherwise bland experience, especially when you compare it to the options of Titanfall, which was also an exclusively multiplayer experience.
Star Wars Battlefront is the greatest video rental I could ever recommend to a fan of the franchise. It's one of the most beautiful games I've ever played in my life, and my overall love for the franchise makes me appreciate it so much more. At the same time, it's also one of the most hollow AAA experiences I've ever played, especially when games like Titanfall, Battlefield, Call of Duty and Evolve offer so much more in terms of longer lasting gameplay and overall incentive to keep playing. The obvious lack of Chewbacca, Yoda and other classic Star Wars content makes it obvious that we'll see them in the game's inevitable expansions, but for $50, that's a hefty price to pay. The main menu constantly reminds you that you haven't purchased the Season Pass, but it also reminds me how shallow Battlefront is compared to modern FPS titles. Once the Jedi Mind Trick of nostalgia and Star Wars love wears off, you'll realize there are plenty of better multiplayer shooters out there that aren't as far, far away.
This review was completed using a purchased, retail copy of Star Wars Battlefront for PlayStation 4.