Rather than pair the first new Star Wars film in a decade with a tie-in movie game, the revival of Star Wars Battlefront stands as the fall’s marquee way to interact with a galaxy far, far away. So, is it a triumphant return for the series, or does the game rely too much on its nostalgic tendencies in lieu of a fulfilling experience?
The Battlefront series began in 2004 and returns courtesy of EA and DICE, the makers of the Battlefield franchise. The game emphasizes its multiplayer — don’t go in expecting any sort of meaty single player opportunities — with maps scattered around four different Star Wars planets and a number of game modes that offer differing ways to play.
And while players will spend most of their time as unnamed stormtroopers and rebels, the game does offer the ability to control some of the franchise’s most prominent names, like Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and more. EW’s initial impressions highlighted just how fun it is to control the Jedi, as well as the game’s overall reverent, detailed attention to crafting authentic locales that channel the looks and sounds of the films.
For more on EW’s first takeaways, read our full impressions piece, but read on below for a host of critics’ reviews of Star Wars Battlefront.
Star Wars Battlefront maps feel distinct, both within the game and the genre. Locations borrow heavily from the original trilogy and the upcoming The Force Awakens (while notably skipping the prequels entirely). There’s fan service there, and the game does look beautiful, but they’re more than a refreshing change of scenery. The large redwood forests of Endor and the canyon-scarred wasteland of Tatooine upend a lot of modern level design sensibilities in favor of creative geography.
“However, just as many of Battlefront‘s modes feel uninspired, or even poorly designed. Blast and Cargo are slight variations on team deathmatch and capture the flag, respectively, and are only exciting for several matches. After that, I had seen what felt like every possible scenario take place. Hero Hunt — in which a team of soldiers hunts down a Jedi, Sith, or bounty hunter — is imbalanced to the point of being frustrating. I grew tired of firing endless blaster rounds at Boba Fett right before he killed me with a wrist rocket — over, and over, and over. Battlefront has a depth of game modes, but only a few have much depth.”
“While there’s no actual single-player campaign, Survival mode is Battlefront’s most unexpected success.
“The solo or two-player cooperative wave-based missions pit Rebel players against an onslaught of increasingly aggressive Imperials. New enemies with invisibility, jetpacks, extra armor, and shields force you to change the way you react to each assault. It’s especially rewarding on higher difficulties, so skip straight past the cakewalk default mode. Entertaining as these deep, involving missions are, once there aren’t many compelling reasons to replay a Survival mission you’ve finished.”
“It’s not the biggest selection, but the heroes nevertheless manage to work really well. The Jedi in particular are just a blast to play with, this being one of the few games where a lighsaber is treated as something more than a baseball bat. It’s a treat to find one of the rare hero icons on the field, pick Luke Skywalker, and go to town slicing, dicing, and Force pushing hapless Imperial troopers.”
“If story is entirely absent and gameplay is pleasantly stupid, then what’s making up the bulk of the experience here? It’s in the extraordinary aesthetic faithfulness, a mainline of transportive nostalgia. Battlefront has worked very hard to get particular things very right. The environments are near-perfect, from the fluffed snow packing the caves of Hoth to the warm glow of the Ewok village clinging to the off-world Californian Redwoods orbiting Endor. Loving details have been excavated from the films and transplanted neatly and unexpected into maps we’d otherwise be dashing through to shoot perfectly presented Stormtroopers — the medical bay from The Empire Strikes Back, dugout desert architecture just like Uncle Owen’s farm on Tatooine, a striking twin-star sunset.”
“All across the board, DICE favors simplicity, making Battlefront more of a casual experience than the meaty, class-driven competitive shooter the developer is known for. This approach isn’t necessarily wrong, since it allows everyone to jump in and enjoy great Star Wars battles, but the lack of variety limited the time I wanted to spend in my favorite universe.”
“All of the vehicles are fun to control in the context of Supremacy and Walker Assault, but I was underwhelmed by the one vehicle-only mode. Fighter Squadron is set solely in the skies, spawning players in the cockpits of X-Wings and TIE fighters and other aerial units (with the Millennium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave I playable via power-ups). These airborne units feel special in other modes, as they’re essentially Call of Duty killstreak rewards that anyone has access to if they’re in the right place at the right time. When everyone has a ship, their limited abilities and functional-yet-unremarkable handling is made more apparent.”
“The new Battlefront also has a much less sophisticated upgrade system than shooter stalwarts are accustomed to. There is no weapon tailoring: no scopes, grips, or stocks to fiddle with and get just right for whatever distance you prefer to shoot at. You can switch to secondary weapons, but they operate on a strict cooldown that leaves you stuck with your primary weapon much of the time. What small customization options there are unlock slowly through play, over 50 levels of advancement that grant new guns, items, or cosmetics.”
“At the end, all of these modes are mere morsels when compared to the meaty offering that is Walker Assault. They don’t feel like truly distinct, full-fledged modes with personalities of their own. Instead, they are rather shallow and undeveloped, as if they were created with a minigame mentality. If Walker Assault stands as Star Wars Battlefront‘s core (and rightly so), the suite of multiplayer modes around it should have been fleshed out to complement its excellence. Instead, we are given threadbare offshoots in an attempt to add value and satisfy players who want those staple FPS modes like Control, Capture The Flag, and Deathmatch.”
“And [the environments are] full of neat little fan-pleasing details too, like the Ewoks on Endor who scurry into their treehouses when you approach, Tusken Raiders on Tatooine watching battles from afar, and mouse droids squeaking around Imperial bases. It’s clear the environment artists at DICE love Star Wars. They’re superficial details, of course, but add to the game’s impressive authenticity. Every prop, from vehicles to random crates, look like they’ve been plucked straight from the films.”
Star Wars Battlefront is now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.