The last major console release in the Star Wars: Battlefront series came in 2005. In the ten years since, the franchise has reached new, exciting heights: the brand itself has changed hands, now owned by one of the world’s biggest entertainment companies; multiple Battlefront spin-offs have been released for the PSP and DS, offering stripped-back but fun experiences; and a new movie is just weeks away from screens.
Gaming has also evolved since 2005, with today’s consoles offering a much more immersive experience, able to power worlds that feel more organic than ever. To tie in with The Force Awakens, a shiny new Star Wars: Battlefront game has hit the market – but can it possibly live up to the brilliance of Star Wars: Battlefront II?
You May Fire When Ready
Developers DICE were granted exclusive access to the LucasArts archives, gathering reference material from props used in the movies, as well as visiting filming locations. Their goal was to capture the look and feel of the original trilogy in a way no other developer has before, exploiting the latest consoles’ power to drop gamers right into the universe they know and love so much.
Every single second of this process has paid off.
Battlefront is an absolute joy to behold. Blasters blast. Lightsabers hum. Lasers spark when they hit walls. This might not sound particularly groundbreaking, and it’s certainly nothing Battlefront II didn’t do on a smaller level. But trust us: the difference is astounding. Everything about this game screams faithfulness to the films.
As always, players can choose to wage war in first or third-person perspectives (though not as Jedi or Sith), and the visuals are stunning no matter which you prefer. Environments are obviously much more detailed than before, too: when fighting in Hoth’s Echo Base, racing through icy corridors and across snowy terrain, any fan of the franchise will feel right at home.
Ambient sounds are also amazing, creating the illusion of living, breathing worlds. Your character pants after sprinting, screams and cheers echo from nearby areas, and blasters make those sweet, sweet ‘pew-pew’ sounds so central to the films’ action scenes.
Gameplay is fast-paced and varied, with players able to fight as ground-level grunts, heroes and villains, as well as at the helm of numerous vehicles. Stomping through Endor or Tatooine in an AT-ST makes you feel as powerful as you can imagine. Whipping tow cables around an AT-AT’s legs from your snowspeeder brings it down as beautifully as you’d expect. Soaring in the Millennium Falcon is pure Star Wars goodness, and the ship’s weathered detail is stunningly authentic.
While the gameplay is structured slightly differently to before, DICE has managed to make Battlefront feel new and familiar at the same time. Troops can no longer hop right into ships: instead, tokens are collected, cueing a slick transition into a vehicle. Aerial combat is smooth, with intuitive handling – nothing quite beats the experience of guiding an iconic X-Wing or TIE-Fighter overhead while battles rage below.
Stay on Target
DICE have jettisoned a singleplayer campaign, but there are still plenty of modes to sink a wampa’s teeth into.
Walker Assault is one of the strongest, based entirely around AT-ATs: teams either have to bring them down or escort them, depending on which side they choose. Naturally, playing as the Empire gives a slight advantage, seeing as they have the walking death-machines at their disposal, but the excitement of trying to take them down as a band of Rebels is undeniable.
Supremacy mode pits two teams of 20 against each other, battling for control on a sprawling map. Players need to be aggressive here, taking advantage of vehicles, mounted weapons, and power-ups (orbital strikes, for example), as well as hero pick-ups. The tide of a battle can really turn when a player spawns as Luke Skywalker or Boba Fett, wading through enemies with their spectacular weapons and abilities.
Handling these heroes and villains is just as exciting as in Star Wars: Battlefront II, only now they look incredible and move with much smoother, slicker animations. Playing as Leia, for example, is a real improvement over the previous game: not only does she look much more like the fearless princess we all know and love, she’s also suitably powerful, blasting away at stormtroopers like a pro.
Lightsabers and lasers also look the best they ever have in any Star Wars title, resembling their iconic big-screen versions to a stunning degree.
The Heroes vs Villains mode is a real blast to play, giving players the chance to pit Han Solo against Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett against Leia, and Darth Vader against Luke Skywalker as they see fit. Droid Run is a zone control-based mode, with teams’ areas changing throughout the fight, and there’s also the outstanding Survival. In this mode, one or two players face wave after wave of enemies, with subsequent hordes boasting extra armour, shields, invisibility, and jetpacks; this makes opponents more of a challenge as you progress, and kicking their armour-clad butts is highly rewarding.
Progression in the game comes courtesy of Star Cards, which are unlocked and purchased (with in-game currency) to improve loadouts. Perks like damage resistance and sniper rifles can be snapped up, and cosmetic customization allows players to change the way their character looks; this variation ensures diversity on-screen, and gives plenty of reason to prevent all players using the exact same gear.
While there are, at launch, just four worlds to play in, each feels massively different, and offers a huge amount of space to battle in. Whether steering speeder bikes through Endor’s labyrinthine forests or making a hasty retreat from Vader in a narrow Hoth cave, players will find plenty to keep them entertained.
With EA promising many more Star Wars games in the near future, fans have plenty to look forward to, and while Battlefront might not offer quite as much singleplayer depth as some gamers may have hoped, it’s undoubtedly an incredible experience that stays true to the original trilogy.