When Star Wars: Battlefront was released in September 2004, it launched a series of games across multiple platforms. With its fast-paced action, open-ended gameplay, and rich reverence of the Star Wars universe, Battlefront gave gamers a way to enjoy their favourite battles from the saga in a way they never really had before: as one of many soldiers on the front line.
While plenty of games before had revolved around characters from the films (such as the Super Star Wars series), or new ones altogether (Knights of the Old Republic), this game starred ‘ordinary’ men and women of the Empire and Rebel Alliance, with icons such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader tearing through the surrounding battles as non-playable characters.
The game was a huge success, and led to a sequel just over one year later. Star Wars: Battlefront II featured more tactical gameplay, with gamers able to play as major characters (alongside the same stormtroopers and rebels as before), and also introduced space-based battles, to compensate for the fairly limited vehicular-action of the first game.
This too was a hit, and over the next four years, spin-offs graced the PSP and DS consoles, as well as mobile phones – but fans were left waiting for a third major-console entry in the series. While this was revealed to be under development, it was eventually cancelled, with leaked footage showing the same smooth land-to-air flying action seen in the PSP’s Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron.
With Star Wars: The Force Awakens set to hit the big screen in December, Star Wars: Battlefront will be released in November, across PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Developed by EA, this looks set to give fans the game they’ve wanted for so many years (the series had no entry on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, after all), with stunning photorealistic graphics, online and offline gameplay, and the familiar ground-and-air combat established in previous entries.
No Match for a Good Blaster
With around 10 years between Star Wars: Battlefront II and the new game, fans unable to play the handheld instalments are hungry for a fresh chance to take part in the franchise’s key battles on their shiny new consoles and high-end PCs. As a reboot (rather than a sequel), Star Wars: Battlefront is based entirely on the original trilogy, with much of the promotional material providing incredible glimpses of such iconic worlds as Hoth and Endor (with the little-seen Sullust also a playable map); the first DLC package will feature a new world, Jakku, set to play a major role in The Force Awakens – this will be free to all who own the game before the DLC’s release on December 8th.
All the weaponry and vehicles fans expect will be present, including blasters, lightsabres, snowspeeders, speederbikes, and AT-ATs, all with authentic sounds and designs. As before, players will be able to dive into online battles with others from around the world, in local split-screen multiplayer (sure to please fans of the original two games), or in single-player modes. One mode – titled Walker Assault, featured in the recent trailer – will include 40 players; others will feature varying numbers of on-screen characters.
Though beloved vehicles like the Millennium Falcon, X-Wings, and TIE Fighters all return, aerial combat is once again scaled back to in-world atmospheres, rather than space. While this has disappointed a number of fans, it may create a tighter, smoother gameplay experience by keeping the action in one location, and prevent the space-based sections from feeling tacked on. While it would be awesome to see land-to-air transitions executed with the mind-bending graphics of top-grade PCs, DICE may well incorporate this into potential sequels.
What About Solo?
EA has placed great emphasis on the multiplayer potential of Star Wars: Battlefront, but what about single-player modes? While Battlefront and Battlefront II featured online play, there was also plenty of content for solo gamers to enjoy – expansive campaigns, the much-beloved tactical fun of Galactic Conquest, and Instant Action, which allowed players to choose a map & a faction before diving into stand-alone battles.
However, the new game will feature no campaign or Galactic Conquest mode – instead, EA has created Battlefront Missions, which can be played alone or with friends, online or offline. These stages will apparently be based around key battles from the films, with players required to accomplish set goals. In essence, this sounds like the standard campaign mode, but without a narrative linking them together.
Players will be able to customise their characters, which, again, sounds close to the options presented in the final two PSP instalments: gear, weaponry, and species all appear to be changeable, giving fans the opportunity to fight their way. As JJ Abrams has committed himself to using as many practical props, sets, and effects as possible (to closer resemble the original trilogy, and avoid the much-maligned CGI-overload of the prequels), DICE have also put great effort into replicating the world of Star Wars with as much authenticity as possible: developers received generous access to the LucasFilm archives, photographing costumes and props, giving them highly-detailed reference materials to work from.
For hardcore Star Wars fans and lovers of action games alike, Star Wars: Battlefront is sure to be a welcome entry in the series. With the popular Battlefield series behind them, DICE has its work cut out, with high expectations – but everything we’ve seen so far suggests the team will not only meet these, but exceed them.