Ever since the 1997 Theatrical Re-release of the Special Edition trilogy, Star Wars fans have been craving a video game that captures the epic battles of the Star Wars movies. The battles on Hoth and Endor, in particular, are begging to be transformed into an interactive experience through the wonderful art of the video game. While Star Wars Battlefront may not give us the chance to release a tow cable or fight alongside a tribe of ewoks, it certainly has a charm all its own that Star Wars fans can enjoy, if they don’t mind spending most of their time as a grunt.
Ultimately, Star Wars Battlefront follows the successful, well, Battlefield formula: multiplayer gun fights, objective-based game modes, and fast-paced first-person shooter action. Fans of this well-refined formula who want their game to come with a Star Wars skin will certainly feel right at home with the advancement and unlocking systems, the weaponry, and the environments. While I don’t count myself among that number, I found Star Wars Battlefront an entertaining way to spend a few hours (okay, quite a few hours) after work.
The game’s environments are taken directly from the original trilogy with one exception. Tattoine, Hoth, and Endor are all represented, but DICE, the game’s developers, have decided to add a fourth planet, the volcanic Sullust, to the mix. Given that the first expansion features a planet from The Force Awakens, Jakku, this might be a hint that the new movie will have some scenes on that fiery planet. Either way, Sullust was mentioned, albeit briefly in the original movies, but I digress. Each planet has a distinct look and feel, as you would expect from such vastly different planets, and is represented in every game mode. That said, there is a substantial amount of repetition. The Hoth Map, for example, always features snow tunnels and the Tattoine map is always a rocky, canyon-filled desert.
While the mapset may be varied, the primary weapons, all blasters, do not seem to be. Each blaster has separate stats, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem like it matters a whole lot which one you bring to the fight. High-rank weapons do eventually differentiate themselves, but it’s not by all that much and most players will only have access to them in solo missions at the moment. The secondary weapons, however, do have great variety. From a simple short-range pistol to a thermal detonator, your secondary weapons have a huge effect on the match. Bringing the figurative knife to a gun fight isn’t the end of the world, however, as you have a chance to change your equipment on the (in my case frequent) death screen. Of course, there are one-time powerups available on the map, and those can really cause some damage if used correctly.
To add fuel to the fire, each side has access to vehicles in order to destroy their enemies with laser fire of ever-increasing power. In supported game modes, you can hop in a Tie Fighter or X-Wing to rain down blaster bolts onto Rebel scum or Imperial lapdogs, respectively. Some modes also add Land Speeders and AT-STs to the mix to confuse the situation even more.
For fans of the massively multiplayer (up to 40 participants in one game mode) shooter, Star Wars Battlefront will be a welcome addition to the line-up, adding a bit of Star Wars flavor to an otherwise near-uniform genre. The addition of Hero and Villain characters adds an interesting twist to the game modes in which they appear. If you are selected as a hero, your abilities all do a quick switch to thematically appropriate special ones.
Heroes and Villains, the highly touted special characters, appear in five of the nine available play modes, and can be highly influential as the pre-release media suggests. In game modes where there is often only one such special characters on the field, Fighter Squadron, Supremacy, and Walker Assault, a hero spawning for either side can have a big effect on the flow of battle. Inevitably, the special character gets overwhelmed eventually, but skilled players can often carve a path through their foes and create substantial advantage for their teams. Special characters are much less exciting in the hero-heavy modes, Hero Hunt and Heroes vs. Villains, but their abilities do not change. In fact, in Heroes vs. Villains, a 6v6 game mode, it often feels like the special characters are the only ones that matter and you are just waiting your turn to spawn as one.
Where special characters do not appear are the four “traditional” game modes, which are essentially one Deathmatch mode, one Capture the Flag, and two variations on King of the Hill. These modes, while possibly more strategic for the lack of one-man-wrecking-balls running around, seem somewhat diminished by the special characters in the other modes, even if you haven’t actually gotten to play as one yet.
It would be great if the game was all smiles and lightsabers, but it does have a number of points that will hopefully be improved in future expansions. Chiefly, I found playing as the hero classes disorienting at first. Thrown into it as you are, the first time I played a hero (Princess Leia, incidentally) I died before I really figured out how she played. The special characters could also use a lot more variety, it’s not like there’s not enough characters to choose from, but it would be nice if everyone in the 6v6 Heroes vs. Villains mode could play a special character.
Another thing about the special characters that got to me was an apparent lack of balance. Even in the wrong hands (mine) Luke Skywalker was something of an unstoppable machine, I was able to handily take out Boba Fett and Darth Vader in my first game of Heroes vs. Villains, despite never playing Skywalker previously, before finally succumbing to Emperor Palapatine’s Force Lighting. However, Princess Leia appears to mostly be defensively oriented, which is an interesting choice for a game where winning in any mode requires the special characters to run through the grunts like so many weeds. This was a liability in the Hero Hunt games I played, where Leia’s survivability and kill count was laughable compared to the other special characters.
One of the things that makes the aforementioned “standard” modes less interesting is that they strip out a lot of the game’s systems. Without heroes or vehicles, Capture the Flag and King of the Hill lose complexity, and thus interestingness, compared to modes where your Imperial Stormtrooper can finally wipe that smirk off of Han Solo’s face permanently or mount up in an AT-ST and wreak havoc. Without these things as hooks to keep the attention focused on the objective, the previously mentioned blandness of primary weapons becomes more apparent, and the cracks that didn’t get patched because the developers were too busy implementing a Tie Fighter start to show.
As with any modern FPS with RPG elements, I’m not enamored with the system of hiding primary and secondary weapon choices behind ranks, effectively number of games played. While I can understand that there has to be some incentive to keep playing a game, I personally feel that the incentive should be the quality of the game, not the dopamine-fueled desire to unlock the next blaster pistol or the jet pack, especially in an FPS setting. At the very least, give me access to weaker versions of the cool stuff up front.
When the chips come down, Star Wars Battlefront is a Battlefield game with a Star Wars skin. While that’s going to do it for a lot of people, if you’re expecting a major innovation in the genre, well, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Adding a Star Wars skin and the ability to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker won’t change the fundamental aspects of the game, but it’s going to be enough for me to want to come back to check out what’s new and when Star Wars: The Old Republic gets a little too heavy-handed. I’m not likely to revisit the “standard” game modes after getting a taste of Walker Assault and Supremacy, but the Fighter Squadron mode (all aerial combat ala the Tie Fighter and X-Wing games) is also a great deal of fun.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Omanth Bathana.