Game Review: Star Wars Battlefront

Nick Smit finds Battlefront’s lack of features disturbing…

The internet has been hollering for a new addition to the Battlefront series for practically a decade now since the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 in 2005. But it wasn’t all too surprising that many of the fan’s screams changed from “please make Battlefront” to “please don’t make Battlefront”, when Electronic Arts took the helm in 2013. It seems safe to say that if you wanted to recreate the themes of King Midas’ Golden Touch in the video game community, having two-time worst company in America, EA Games make Star Wars Battlefront seem like a pretty good way to do it.

My own personal fears were allayed somewhat by the involvement of DICE, however, as the team behind the Battlefield series (yes, I saw what you did there) have made some pretty quality titles in my experience. Consistent with DICE’s repertoire, the first thing you’ll notice about EA’s Battlefront is how shockingly good it looks and how well it must have been optimised. How I could get 60fps with ultra settings, while recording on a GTX 750 GPU, is beyond me.

The gun-play is also excellent, as all of the different blasters have a convincing and distinctive kick to them, as well as a cooling mechanic that is consistent with the Star Wars lore. The weapon cooling works like the quick-reload mini-game from Gears of War – in that a correctly-timed button press can eliminate your wait time, and an incorrect one can multiply it. Depending on what weapon you’re using, a successful cooling flush can help you lay down a continuous hail of suppressing fire or give you the last shot you need to best an opponent in a close-quarters shootout.

I had hoped that DICE’s experience with class-based gameplay and combined-arms combat would mean retaining those familiar aspects of the series as well, but that was unfortunately where the similarities between Battlefield and Battlefront ended. Instead, EA’s Battlefront uses a ‘Star Cards’ system of customisable loadouts that you bring into battle, which range from secondary weapons and grenades, to activated abilities and passive traits. I suppose this eclectic jumble of resources that encourages “use what you’ve got” makes sense for the ragtag band of Rebels, but it certainly doesn’t for the highly stratified Imperials who would make much better use of the traditional class-based system.

The freedom, or rather the delightful chaos, provided by vehicles in the previous Battlefront games has been severely limited as well. Where the previous titles had the various death-machines of the Star Wars universe spawn in set places, so you could take to the skies or indeed slip into the enemy base to nick a hover-tank essentially when the mood struck you, vehicle-use is now dependent on being lucky enough to be around the item for when it arbitrarily drops. DICE’s argument is this: rather than having random fun, we’re re-enacting scenes from the films, but having to actually pick up power-ups like a ‘hip’ 90s film stereotype of what video games do, seems odd to say the least.

Spawning as a ‘hero’ like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader has always been rather random, but the players facing them used to have something they could do about it. Without classes or vehicle choice, all strategy has been stripped away from the battles. You can no-longer switch to an anti-vehicle class to deal with that looming AT-ST, or take a starfighter to kamikaze the Sith Lord. When you die in EA’s Battlefront, there was usually nothing you could do about it, which certainly makes you feel like a Stormtrooper in a manner that perhaps was not intended. Rather than purely chaotic, due to player choice, random power-ups make EA’s Battlefront chaotic in a cold, not-so-fun way.

These problems are made especially painful by how well the game presents itself. From the aforementioned graphics, to the gunplay, the quality of sound effects, and voice acting, my surface reaction is that this should be a fantastic game. However, this flawless execution can’t hide a lack of substance, like a pie made of the finest pastry with all of the meat sucked out of it. Even knowing all of this, I’m probably going to continue bitterly enjoying EA’S Battlefront for the next few weeks. But I also went and bought the PC re-release of Battlefront 2 on GOG, which can host 64 players compared to EA’s 40. Do what you will with that information.

 

Feature Image: Marco Verch

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