battlefront 24 Nov

So I’ve put a solid week of some pretty intense gaming into Star Wars Battlefront. To be honest, I sort of had my fill after the free beta weekend, but it has been a long time since my brother and I played something together. We both picked up retail copies and played the final build on real servers vs. the general public. And as lifelong Star Wars fans, I think it’s safe to say that we both had a great time playing together in that galaxy far, far away.

But questions remain: how much did we enjoy that experience because we got a chance to live Star Wars nostalgia, and is that nostalgia worth $60?

If I’m being blunt? No, I don’t think the game is worth $60. Is it fun? Absolutely. It’s gorgeous. It sounds amazing, but if I were to describe the entire experience with one word, I’d go with “shallow.”

Shallow in the fact that, though there are a good number of game modes, there are essentially only 4 maps to play on. And that lack of variety takes effect pretty quickly as you play. The phrase, “oh we’re on this map again?” has probably been said aloud countless times this week by players across the globe. But EA has more maps in the pipeline. They’re just guarded by a hefty season pass price that costs as much as the base game. $60 for the core experience. $120 for the ultimate edition. That’s a fairly standard price point for EA and DICE’s Battlefield series, but that doesn’t mean it’s inexpensive or worth it.

Battlefront is largely multiplayer-only experience. There are a few game modes where you can practice the game’s basics like power-ups and flying in training and survival modes. But you’re looking for a single-player experience or if you’re tempted to pick up Battlefront to only enjoy the non-multiplayer modes, you will be sorely disappointed. And a grand opportunity has been missed here by leaving out a single player portion of the game.

The common response to this statement is always “but DICE never makes good single player games.” That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t lose points for not even trying. Star Wars fans have been starving for a quality, new game for a while now. The maps are gorgeous. The sound effects are stunning and everything feels like a legitimate Star Wars experience. But you never get to fully take in the beauty of each map. Without a single player campaign to allow players to appreciate the quality worlds, you’re stuck rushing from point to point avoiding the blaster fire of your enemies and are subjected to the commentary of whiny, foul-mouthed racists. Sort of sucks all the Star Wars right out of the game.

The multiplayer game modes available are Supremacy which is a tug of war of control points on a large scale. Walker Assault is similar to Rush mode in past Battlefield games. Players Fight over progressive control points using both ground and units (except for on Endor where air units are unvailable). The Empire tries to keep the walkers alive and healthy while the rebellion tries to shoot them down. Fighter Squadron is probably one of the best new modes the series brings to the table. Two teams of 10 fight it out in the skies using X-Wings, A-Wings, TIE Fighters, and TIE Interceptors while the Millenium Falcon and Slave 1 act as hero units. Blast is standard team deathmatch. Cargo is capture the flag. Drop Zone and Droid Run are control point games where the contended locations are constantly changing. Hero Hunt let’s you play as one of the Star Wars main characters as you try to kill as many troops before being brought down. And Heroes vs. Villains pits two small teams of heroes against one another.

There is no server browser. Initially that doesn’t sound like such a horrible thing. After all the game did a fairly good job of putting me into servers where I didn’t have any issues with lag. I only had problems finding matches once or twice, but that’s to be expected with a new release. Considering this lackluster launch, I expect to see a lot of empty servers in the not too distant future.

Without server browsers it immediately eliminates any possibility for unique modes of play that only add to a game’s longevity. For example, older Battlefield games used to have pistol and knife servers for people who wanted to play something up close and frenetic. Blatantly missing from this game is a hardcore mode with friendly fire enabled and deadlier weapons. There’s no way to mandate player perspective. The game could really benefit from dogfighting servers that force cockpit view. As it is, anyone who is flying their fighters from inside the cockpit is at a massive disadvantage to people who are flying in third person point of view. And it’s a shame too because the view inside the cockpits is actually really cool, but it’ll never be used. No server browser will be a deal breaker for a lot of long-term shooter fans out there.

The game has a super short learning curve which is both a detriment and a benefit to the game. Players who have only been in the game for a few hours are as lethal as players who have put in 30 hours, and that’s due to a few factors. Powerups are random on the field and they are accessible to everyone. And as you progress in the game, you unlock new weapons, but there are few guns that are clearly superior to the others, but a strong case could be made for saying the DL44 is the best.

Otherwise, once you’ve unlocked the game’s weapons, the rest of the game’s purchasable items are cosmetic unlocks. They aren’t even GOOD cosmetic unlocks. I understand perhaps wanting to customize how your rebel soldier looks since they don’t wear helmets, but picking and choosing a face for the stormtroopers seems pretty silly to me. The cosmetic unlocks could have been for cooler items. Color accents on the armor, perhaps making some pieces look battle damaged. Maybe even changing the color of your X-Wings and A-Wings stripes or nose art for your fighters. I wouldn’t mind a cosmetic system, but these unlocks are boring.

While I’m on the subject, at the end of each round the game “converts” your experience to credits. What? Why the need for some conversion? Just give me the credits. Or just let me spend experience points on items.

Autobalance either doesn’t exist or is a total joke. You will see teams absolutely dominating the field with the top 3 to 5 scorers all on one side and the game never breaks them apart. It’s a pretty regular occurrence and honestly, shouldn’t be happening in a modern shooter.

Speaking of balance, balance is without a doubt the game’s biggest setback. Walker Assault as a mode is very fun and super cinematic which is what will bring players back again and again, but most battles are completely one-sided. Many maps are rampant with blatant spawn killing, and at times the gameplay devolves into a grenade spamming contest.

And in the skies, the rebels have a clear advantage. Their fighters have 2 recharging abilities. A homing missile and a very long lasting shield which blocks all blaster fire (but not missiles). The Empire’s abilities are a homing missile, and a speed boost which… does nothing… It’s not wildly unbalanced, but either the empire needs stronger blasters that will take down rebel ships in fewer shots when their shields are down, or quicker recharging missiles, or, since this is technically an asymmetrical game mode, give the empire a few more ships on their side. The Slave 1 will tear through little fighters, as will the Millenium Falcon, however, clever pilots have discovered that by popping on the Falcon’s shields, they can simply ram the Slave 1 out of the sky without taking any damage. That’s gotta be fixed. I’d definitely say that both hero ships need to be scaled back, bigtime.

When playing on the walker assault maps, newly spawned starfighters are still ultra vulnerable, just as much as they were during the beta. It’s really a shame DICE didn’t do anything about this in the interim.

And while I’m talking about aerial fights, in a series called “Star Wars,” it is laughable that there are no fights in space. It’s not “Sky Wars.” Why aren’t there fights over either or both of the Death Stars?

In the end, the game is still fun, but asking $60 for a product that feels like it’s been mined to its core doesn’t feel right. If they said $40 for the base game and $30 more for the season pass, I might say go for it. But as it is, it’s an OK game that has a few neat modes that is REALLY riding the wave of Star Wars hype at the moment. The negatives here weigh as much as positives. For every time I was wowed by the action going on around me, I found myself supremely frustrated by what the game lacked, or what was out of balance. I predict this will go the way of Titanfall and sell for a fraction of the cost not long from now. And it’s a shame, too. So much more could have been done with it.

Tested on: PC
Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: Windows , PS4, Xbox One
Launch Date: November 17, 2015
Review copies purchased with personal funds