I don’t think I’ve had more divisive conversations over any game than I have about Battlefront. There’s a lot of features and ideas that will go against the ideals that most competitive multiplayers consider vital. I’m not a great competitive multiplayer fan so Battlefront’s fresh take was something I was eager to try. I was also a big fan of Battlefield back in the Bad Company 2 days so hopefully some of that lost magic can shine through.
The first thing that welcomes you warmly into what can be the cold world of competitive multiplayer is a substantial tutorial and offline training area. First off a series of solo missions will explain how to control just about everything in the game. You will play as soldiers and heroes, fly X-Wings and race speeder bikes. It’s similar in effect to finally being allowed to practice flying in Battlefield without making a complete prat of yourself and signing up for some online-gaming-grade hate mail.
Even after you’re done with these missions there are a handful of battles to choose from on different difficulties to get acclimated to the mechanics. Obviously fighting bots is never quite the same as the real thing and Battlefront doesn’t really mimic real players but instead creates a single player experience as you try out abilities and weapons. Moving into the online world is a bit of a disappointment from there.
The level up system in Battlefront is absolute meaning that if you want to use something you will have to level up to earn it. You will start with one gun and no star cards at all, which represent your abilities in Battlefront. You have the option to use 3 star cards representing different abilities but no cards to begin with. You might get a grenade, a bow caster, increased weapon cool down or a personal shield for example. There are huge amounts to choose from to create your own class but to start with you will have literally none. Sadly this also means that the higher level cards tend to be more powerful than the early ones.
I like a good grind but it’s playing systems like this that make it clear why online multiplayer tends to steer more towards the balanced approach these days in an attempt to make winning and losing about a player’s skill. To be fair you unlock the, completely overpowered, Thermal Detonator early which at least gives you something to do other than running around firing your single shot starter gun. But still it’s annoying when you find higher level players with superior equipment that gives you little chance to win.
And while we’re on the subject of balancing did somebody say Boba Fett? I mean seriously. What the hell brah? There are balancing problems and then there’s the infamous bounty hunter. There is a world class imbalance with Boba who has a powerful ranged main weapon, impact rocket, jet pack and close range flamer. While Han Solo has a blaster and three pretty useless abilities. Even the Jedi and Sith don’t really compete despite some awesome power that is inherently limited by their range. I would be surprised, and disappointed, if Boba doesn’t get taken down at least a peg at some point.
To counter that the matchmaking is actually pretty solid. I rarely entered games with little time left on the clock or completely lost battles. Players that I encountered were more often than not of a similar level with a similar lack of equipment. Less of a grind with much faster card unlocks would have been nice because there are just so many and most feel wasted for a long time. The grind is welcome in some places but personally I would have rather seen some balancing go on and have more unlocked from the start. There’s a lot of pleasure in those first hours online trying to figure out which weapons you like or perks you want as you level up but Battlefront reduces it to a game of grinding.
Along with competent matchmaking is a varied roster of game modes. Some are just plain old TDM which are fine to get started but most players will want to quickly move to the objective based rounds. There are some interesting objective modes to try out that are somewhat tactical but still simple enough to play with randoms. Don’t we all just want to play Hoth though if we’re honest? It’s Star War’s Normandy beach and it’s a cool map with loads of action. Some of the smaller TDM maps are comparatively dull to be honest and I found myself circling them very easily. They’re far too small generally speaking which is yet another reason to get onto the much cooler objective modes.
Even the smaller maps are at least faithfully recreated with details and objects pulled straight from the films. It does great fan service that even the barrels and boxes we see are all recognisable from episodes IV, V and VI. The attention to detail is refreshing and does justice to one of the most beloved films of all time. The same can be said for the sounds which are, again, all directly from the films. It’s so awesome to hear the instantly recognisable sounds of different blasters, shields, vehicles and fighters. Battling in an X-Wing against TIE fighters is probably the best example as the infamous elephant + car on a wet freeway sound can be heard circling your X-Wing. Speeders and AT-AT’s pack a punch too and if you were just listening you wouldn’t tell it apart from the film.
Say what you will about EA their budget certainly makes Battlefront nothing short of spectacular to look at. Character animations are amazing especially considering this is a game that relies on them very little. Detailing on ships and droids that skulk on the main menu are genuinely big screen worthy. Seeing is believing and Battlefront is simply the best looking thing on the PS4 at this point – aided immensely by the faithful use of genuine elements from the films. There’s nothing like seeing red blaster bolts flying back and forth in scenes reminiscent of The Arena from Episode II and knowing they’re all real players. Or trying to figure out an enemy location from blaster fire emitting from the greenery on the forest moon of Endor.
The only thing that lets down presentation is the voice acting. It’s fair to say they didn’t use the original actors. I don’t know why, can’t imagine it was a budget issue, but that’s annoying enough for a game that has gone through this much effort to keep things feeling authentic. But then they’re all terrible. You will notice the second any of them speak that a small piece of your childhood just died. Darth Vader is the obvious choice, and also so iconic that his name is the only one that isn’t flagged by this spell checker. You could definitely argue that he is iconic in no small part thanks to the voice. I cannot imagine who did the voice for Vader in Battlefront but it is the most terrible cringing childlike impersonation I’ve ever heard. It’s appalling on every front, no excuses for letting it get past so many people without someone saying “we need to do better”. I wouldn’t normally make such a fuss but really listen to it and see what you think. Big red cross there.
Star Wars Battlefront is a game of mixed emotions. I love the effort that has gone into the Star Card ability system but I’m not keen on the amount of time it takes for you to earn the significant ones or the fact that higher level players have a significant and undeniable advantage. Game modes are varied and some can host an impressive amount of players but others have their sights set too low with small maps and only a few players. Top grade presentation cannot be argued with though from sounds to visual effects to environments everything is absolutely brilliant. But then Darth Vader talks and you break your toes from cringing. There are also some serious Balancing issues with certain bounty hunters that need addressing.
Battlefront is a lot of fun if you play the right games, and level up a little first, and is a technical showcase to behold as well as proof that movie games can do justice to any franchise no matter how big or loved. It also feels like it needs time to grow and address some issues; but then what online game doesn’t?
Perfect game if you have an hour to kill waiting for your wife.
That’s actually a really good point. It’s a great game to jump in on and have an hour or two of fun!
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