For what seems like an eternity, the release of the new Star Wars movie has been flitting around the edges of the pop culture periphery. Occasionally some news, a teaser, or some other Star Wars tidbit has pushed its way onto the front pages of pop culture news, but overall its been mostly fringe activity. All of that is over. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has fully become a major story in the last couple of weeks and will likely be in full blast until its release on December 18. There have been many different analyses on the latest trailers and Pentatonix (who have seemingly become a staple on my Facebook page lately) performed a Star Wars inspired tribute during the AMAs last Sunday. As a fan of the film series these have been enjoyable, but what has gotten me most excited for the new movie is Star Wars: Battlefront III. The latest entry in the Battlefront series was released on November, 17 and I’ve been pretty wrapped up in it for the last week.
There are a lot of things to like about Battlefront, and some things which aren’t so great. First and foremost, this isn’t Call of Duty or Halo. The differences are both tangible and intangible. CoD and Halo are faster paced games where the action is constant and usually localized. Matches are punctuated by realistic combat sounds with the occasional guitar riff thrown in for good measure. You are rewarded throughout the game with killstreak rewards or achievement medals which highlight your good play. Typically the matches are smaller (10v10 or less) and usually feel like a firefight as opposed to a full on battle.
Battlefront is a bit more chaotic. Most of the maps are pretty large and can be difficult to navigate which leads to a lot of wandering and difficulty establishing a rhythm in non-objective games. In objective games the size of the maps, and the constant changing locations within them, creates a more fluid “battle” feel as opposed to just a firefight. Power-up rewards are available to any player on the map regardless of how well they are playing in that particular match. Add in the sound of blasters and Star Wars music along with playing as rebels or storm troopers and you become immersed in the Star Wars world. If you pick up Battlefront, it will be a different experience.
I’m going to start the review with the negatives so we can get them out of the way. Most of the negatives are minor so I won’t elaborate much on them. Little things like occasionally awful respawn points, an awkward interface for joining up with friends, and lack of a real story mode are small hindrances to an otherwise outstanding game. The first two issues can be fixed with patches at a later date. The third issue is really part of a bigger, and far more annoying issue.
The only major issue I have with this game, and others, is the idea of pre-planned downloadable content (DLC). DLC used to be supplemental material for games. New maps, sidequests, or other little add-ons would become available a couple of times a year to freshen up a game. These days games come with an option to buy a season pass or like-named package of future additional content. No big deal right, except that a season pass costs THE SAME PRICE AS THE ORIGINAL GAME ITSELF! Seriously, they want me to pay $60 for some content that A) I’m not sure I’ll want and B) I have no idea how much it will add to the game. Battlefront creators, DICE, made a big deal about not having in-game micro-transactions (monetary purchases to buy better weapons/perks/abillities, etc) and creating the game so that the only way to really advance is to actually play it. Instead of micro-transactions they are asking people to pay twice as much for content that was already announced but won’t be included in the game. Battlefront isn’t the first game to do this, and won’t be the last, but this trend of paying the same amount for DLC as I did for the game is getting ridiculous.
With that out of the way we can focus on the important issue at hand, what makes this game so great? The main answer is something I alluded to earlier, Battlefront provides an immersive experience for Star Wars fans. The sights and sounds are just incredible. From the opening Star Wars theme to blasters and lightsabers, the game sounds like Star Wars. Even the dialogue isn’t completely awful, which is an achievement for most shooters. In the larger variants the sounds of Imperial walkers and vehicles create an authentic ambiance for the game. The game also looks beautiful. World environments are detailed and very lifelike. Hoth is really bright from all the snow, Tatooine seems desolate, and the forest in Endor is dense enough that it’s actually difficult to see through. A fourth map, Sullust, is also available to play which provides a new look into the Star Wars universe. The game looks and sounds like Star Wars and rather than just an imitation. On top of that, the matches aren’t just one-off firefights, but full on wars between the rebels and Imperial forces.
Objective based game modes such as Walker Assault and Supremacy are large 20v20 matches where the focus of the battle shifts locations as teams try to control points on the map. There is a good mix of offensive and defensive playing which can be frustrating if your team isn’t on the same page. When your team is on the same page though, it’s a thing of beauty. For a smaller scale experience you can play Droid Run, Drop Zone, or Cargo. Drop Zone and Droid Run play like a king of the hill game while cargo is essentially capture the flag. Each map is playable for each variant and after each match you switch sides so the game is constantly refreshing itself and prevents the game from becoming monotonous.
There are also quite a few options for non-objective gameplay. The most basic is Blast, a 10v10 deathmatch style game played to a set number of points. Fighter Squadron is a bit of a mix of objective and non-objective. In Fighter Squadron you are a pilot and take part in dog fights taking out A.I. and actual people while occasionally defending or attacking an object. The Battlefront-specific non-objective variants are Heroes vs. Villains and Hero Hunt. In Heroes (Luke, Han, Leia) vs. Villains (Vader, Palpatine, Boba Fett), the rebels and imperials are led by their three respective heroes while other players form an army to help them defeat their opponents. Rounds are over when the opposing teams heroes are defeated. Heroes rotate each round so other team members get a chance to play as a hero. Hero Hunt is a variant in which one person is the Hero (could be any of the six aforementioned heroes) taking on seven opposing ground troops. The player who deals the final blow to the Hero then becomes the Hero and this continues until someone collects 50 kills as the Hero.
While the multiplayer options are varied, the single player/co-op options leave room for improvement. There is not a story mode to speak of. This isn’t really surprising simply because its Star Wars, anybody playing already knows the story. Besides, the cinematic story doesn’t translate well into video game format. Instead of a story mode, players are given a few options that really play more like training for multiplayer. Two variants, Battles and Hero Battles, are simply the Blast variant of multiplayer except you go against AI instead of people. There are challenges to achieve when doing these so you have some incentive. The other single player/co-op option is Survival, in which you fight waves of increasingly difficult enemies. These are fun when played with in co-op mode, but by themselves they are fairly tedious.
As you can see there are quite a few variants to choose from in Battlefront. One of the achievements in this game is that it is a pretty inclusive game. You can be subpar when it comes to shooters and still enjoy Battlefront. During the course of any match power-up icons are available to bolster your attack. These power-ups are just available throughout the game to pick up, they’re not dependent on getting killstreaks or achivements. For example, there are some killstreak rewards in CoD that require a 20+ killstreak. I won’t likely achieve that so that is essentially off the table to for to use. You can be awful at Battlefront and still get to play as a Hero or pilot the Millenium Falcon. That’s not to say it isn’t competitive. There is a leveling system which allows you to unlock various things in the game such as new weapons and character faces. There are even point bonuses for killstreaks, allowing you to level up faster. Ultimately though, this game was designed for Star Wars fans to enjoy the universe they love. While there are some things clearly missing (cough, Chewbacca, Yoda, cough) there are still a lot of ways Star Wars fans can take part in the universe and help bring balance to the Force. If you are a fan of the original trilogy and like a slightly more casual shooter, I highly recommend Star Wars: Battlefront III.