It is now December 2015, which means it is officially the month of Star Wars. A brand, spanking new Star Wars movie will be in theaters in 13 days. I completely forgot that when new Star Wars movies come out, it’s merchandising effectively consumes our lives. Boba Fett’s Sweet Creamer from CoffeeMate found its way in to my coffee this morning, and it’s probably going to be that way for the next six years. I’m not complaining.
While Star Wars may rule everything around me, there is one piece of multimedia that has made itself a part of my everyday life. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a new Star Wars game released that has caused as much excitement as EA’s awakening (see what I did there?) of Star Wars Battlefront.
Released for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4, Battlefront puts players in the shoes of both Rebel soldiers and Imperial Stormtroopers across a slew of planets. This reimagining of Star Wars Battlefront is handled by DICE, the same studio responsible for the incredible Battlefield games. The response to the announcement was mostly favorable, although some skeptics were afraid this would just turn in to a Battlefield game with a Star Wars skin.
After weeks of playing the new Battlefront, I can assure you that is not the case. This game reminds of everything I loved about that first Battlefront and more. While there can be a significant learning curve to this game for those familiar with other first person shooters such as Halo, Call of Duty, and even Battlefield, the game makes up for this in a number of ways.
Firstly, this game is breathtakingly gorgeous. I was so awful in my first couple runs through because I had to keep picking my jaw up from the floor at how incredible a job DICE did in creating these worlds. With maps spanning across four planets, Tattooine, Hoth, Endor, and new planet Sullust, with differing variations depending on the game type, DICE absolutely nails the look and feel of each planet. DICE was given access to the Lucasfilm archives which allowed them to observe and photograph the actual models used in the original films, lending the images that appear in the game a near-perfect visualization of these soldiers and vehicles. Field trips to past filming locations such as Tunisia for Tattooine and the Muir Woods in California for Endor allowed the developers to give an even more heightened sense of realism to the maps.
While some were upset by the omission of a single player campaign, I feel there is more than enough variety in the multiplayer game modes to warrant that decision. Battlefront’s bread and butter is Supremacy, the primary game mode from the original games in which both teams fight for control of command posts before time expires. Walker Assault is similar but tips the scale in favor of the Imperials, in which the Rebels must hold “uplinks” in order to call in Y-Wing attacks to weaken and destroy the AT-AT walkers before they reach the Rebel base. It’s a truly epic experience. These two particular game modes allow for 20 person teams, meaning there are 40 people online at one time, either playing as a solider, finding a pick up on the field to become a Hero (Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia) or Villain (Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett), or jumping in a vehicle to take the battle to the skies above.
The inclusion of the Heroes and Villains is was what gave me the most worry when these units were first announced before the release of the game. These units were included in 2005’s Battlefront 2 and I really did not enjoy the way they were implemented. This time around, they are much more fun to play and add a new dimension to the game play instead of just force-jumping through the air and taking out entire squads of troops. It takes much more thought and strategy to be effective as a Hero/Villain, especially when it comes to mastering the special abilities unique to each character. The most important thing though, it that they are finally just so much fun to play as. The first time I played as Boba Fett, it was basically peak video gaming. Using my enhanced jet pack to fly around and pick off Rebel soldiers from the air was a hoot. The flamethrower and rocket launcher were good additions too I suppose.
Vehicle combat I was also super impressed by. The Rebels have access to X-Wings, A-Wings, and Speeders while the Imperials zip around in their Tie Fighters and Tie Interceptors. Find a pick up on the battlefield, and you could be piloting the Millenium Falcon or Slave 1. There’s definitely a steep learning curve to mastering these spacecraft, but once you do it’s loads of fun. While one of the control sticks controls your movement, the other allows you to move your spacecraft’s energy to your engines to increase speed or to your blasters to increase damage when firing. Other temporary abilities such as speed boost and shields are available to help you evade enemies, while another button allows you to make a nifty evasive maneuver. Timing the use of these abilities and maneuvers in conjunction with their refresh times is what separates the Porkins from the Wedges. Proton torpedoes give your fighter some added punch when you can get a lock on to enemy fighters.
Battlefront has its own versions of classic multiplayer game modes most will be familiar with, but Supremacy, Walker Assault, and Fighter Squadron (straight up dogfighting) are the most unique. If you really want to try your hand at playing as the one of the Heroes or Villains, there are a couple modes that allow you to do just that, which are great ways to practice their special abilities.
Another facet to the game that caught me by surprise is the Star Wars Battlefront Companion App. Players use an in-game currency, acquiring credits based on performance after each match that can be used to purchase blasters, equipment, special abilities, character customizations, and emotes. The Companion App allows you to access your character and buy these items and customize your character even when you’re away from your console. Within the Companion App is also a card-based strategy game that you can earn credits from to be used in the actual Battlefront game. Even when you’re away from your console, you can still upgrade your character. It’s an extremely well thought out idea by the developers to keep their audience playing the game. The app can even send you push notifications to let you know when your friends are logged in and playing Battlefront. I really could not speak more highly of a companion app for a video game.
While Battlefront may not give hardcore first person shooter enthusiasts the kind of competition and strategy that other shooters might, it is still plenty of fun and could not give fans any more Star Wars feels.