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Star Wars Battlefront

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA DICE
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2015 (US), Nov. 19, 2015 (EU)


PS4 Review - 'Star Wars Battlefront'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 19, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Star Wars Battlefront will deliver an incredibly authentic and immersive interactive entertainment experience featuring photo-realistic visuals and epic action in iconic Star Wars locations.

There have been Star Wars characters in games, like Disney Infinity 3.0, but it's been a while since we've had a full-fledged, big-budget Star Wars title. With the upcoming release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," it's just about time. Star Wars Battlefront is a revival of an older franchise. As in the previous games, players play as a soldier on the ground during some of the biggest battles in the Star Wars universe. Star Wars Battlefront offers one of the most authentic experiences in the market, but unfortunately, that comes at a cost to the gameplay.

The gameplay in Battlefront should feel quite familiar to shooter fans. Players control either an Imperial Stormtrooper or a Rebel soldier on a variety of battlefields across the Star Wars universe. Regardless of the side you're on, you are equipped with a blaster rifle that has infinite ammo but heats up the more it's fired. If your rifle maxes out, you either need to wait for it to cool down or attempt a manual cooldown, which can remove reload time entirely or increase your cooldown time, depending on how well you did in the button-press sequence. Otherwise, you can jump and duck, and there's not much else to master. By most shooter standards, the game is very easy to pick up and play, so that's great for Star Wars fans who haven't played a shooter in ages. It's very much in the modern military vein, so death comes quickly and frequently, and positioning tends to be more important than accuracy.

Customization is based around Star Cards. Every player has a "deck" of three cards that can be equipped, and more cards become available as you progress. The decks include special abilities and special weapons, like thermal detonators or new guns, like Chewbacca's Bowcaster. Most of the abilities have a cooldown system, so rather than having to find grenades, you always have one that recharges after about 15 seconds. The cooldown and power of these abilities can be upgraded as you gain more credits to spend. Eventually, you'll have a full set of cards that you can swap out, depending on your needs.

Star Cards are a good way to diversify how your character plays, but there are some frustrating limitations. It takes a while to get enough credits to build up your character, and several abilities that provide tremendous advantages are higher up the Star Card ranks. The jump boost isn't available until about six hours into the game, and it's frustrating since other players have that advantage. Since almost every ability has a cooldown, it's less satisfying to obtain them than if there were an actual loadout change. Every character is very similar, and the bulk of character customization options is cosmetic, so characters don't have different specialties like they did in the previous Star Wars Battlefront games.

Compared to other Star Wars games, which have an interesting and diverse selection of basic weapons, the guns in Battlefront are disappointing. You unlock a small selection of blasters, and I had a tough time telling the various guns apart. They have different ranges and damage ratings, but they feel really similar. The more customized and cool guns are locked behind Star Cards rather than being part of a default loadout. It makes sense, but it means there's little excitement in unlocking a new one. I'm sure everyone will find a specific gun that fits their play style, but once you do, there's no reason to look into the other blasters.

Of course, it wouldn't be Star Wars without the iconic vehicles, and it certainly wouldn't be a Battlefield game without them. Vehicles appear as power-ups throughout the environment rather than actual vehicles. Activating the power-up puts you in control of a vehicle, including speeder bikes, AT-ST walkers, and spaceships like the X-Wing and TIE Fighter. Vehicles are interesting in that they are powerful but with significant limitations. AT-STs are effectively tanks, but they're slow and immobile. Without proper support, they are wrecked in seconds. Speeder Bikes give you unparalleled speed, but it's easy to accidentally run into a wall. On certain maps, the Imperials can briefly take control of an AT-AT, giving them a nearly unstoppable behemoth for a short while.

Spaceship fights are fast and agile, and combat is all about dogfighting. You have to keep an enemy in your sights long enough to lock onto them without becoming a target, and fast-paced aerial maneuvers are the only way to survive. The Imperial TIE Fighters are weaker but faster, while the Rebel Wing fighters have built-in shields but can't match the TIE's speed. It's an interesting balance between the two. Rebels have the advantage in the air, but it's not so significant that it feels unfair. Spaceships can influence ground battles and vice versa, so earning control over the sky can give your team a tremendous advantage.

Star Wars Battlefront's best mode, Walker Assault, also happens to emphasize the game's weaknesses. In that mode, the Imperials defend their AT-AT Walkers as they close in on a Rebel base while the Rebels try to damage the walkers by locking on to them with Y-Wing Bombers. It feels like the game was built around this mode, and everything really comes together. Both sides have clear, concise goals that reward players for proper objective control, and every ability and skill feels useful. It's also one where control over the air and ground is a big factor, as having X-Wings and A-Wings in the air when the bombing runs start make it easier to do damage. Whether you're a Rebel soldier desperately trying to hold down an uplink so your Y-Wings can lock on or a TIE Fighter pilot performing strafing runs on an enemy target, it's an extremely fun experience. It's one of the most film-accurate Star Wars experiences I can imagine.

Why is that a weakness? The Walker Assault mode emphasizes that the other modes lack this cohesion. Rather than having different gameplay modes with different strengths and weaknesses, it feels like Battlefront began with Walker Assault and stripped out things to create the other game modes. The Fighter Squadron air-combat is probably my favorite of the alternate modes, but it feels shallow without the ground game and greater focus. The pure combat game modes are enjoyable diversions, but they feel like they need a greater goal to drive the gameplay mechanics.

One of the bigger disappointments is the Heroes feature. Heroes are the iconic characters from the films: Boba Fett, the Emperor, Han, Leia, Luke and Vader. Depending on the game mode, players can control the heroes, who are super powerful and capable of killing multiple characters in quick succession while withstanding an incredible amount of damage. Each character has his or her own abilities, but it boils down to one character being a lightsaber-wielding Force user, one being a long-distance shooter, and one being a leader with support abilities. It's perfectly fine on paper. The problem is just that they're not very fun beyond the sheer power they offer. Playing them involves spamming your abilities until someone gets lucky and kills you. Playing against them feels frustrating because there's little you can do. They're clearly intended to be important characters for your team to rally around or against, but they rarely feel like that.

Far less enjoyable are the modes specifically tailored to them, which really emphasize their weaknesses. Hero Hunt and Heroes vs. Villains both make them the centerpiece and are probably the worst game modes. Lightsaber duels between Luke and Vader feel awkward and poorly implemented. The Hero Hunt, which is a bunch of regular guys against a hero, is a little more fun, but the scoring mechanism sours it. Whoever gets the last hit can take over as the hero, and the Hero with the most kills wins. Getting the last hit is almost entirely due to luck, and since it cycles through the combat-oriented heroes, Luke is way more likely to get kills than support-oriented Leia.

Battlefront is absolutely a multiplayer game. It does offer single-player missions, but they're pretty unsatisfying. Some are tutorials for multiplayer features, and others feel watered-down and weak. The best of the lot is the Survival mode, which is a Horde-style challenge where you (and a partner, if you wish) try to survive increasingly difficult waves of enemies. There's no story beyond snippets of the original trilogy. If you're looking for a single-player campaign, Battlefront is not it. Most of the single-player missions offer challenges to finish them quickly, but it should take only a couple of plays to accomplish the challenges.

Battlefront's biggest problem is that the gameplay is fun but shallow. Once you've got a few unlocks under your belt and have seen the Endor or Hoth set pieces enough times, you'll feel like you've seen everything the game has to offer. Unfortunately, the gameplay may not be engaging enough to retain players as other games try to woo them away. The customization options don't have enough of an impact to encourage players to min-max, and most games end up feeling similar, so the title lacks long-term value for die-hard shooter fans. If you enjoy the gameplay, there's a lot of enjoyment to be had, and four DLC packs are expected.

Star Wars Battlefront is a nostalgic delight in action. It looks and feels like an original trilogy Star Wars film in every imaginable way. The visuals are spot-on, and it's a thrill to step into a giant battle on Hoth with a lumbering AT-AT in the distance and laser blasts flying all around. No previous game has managed to capture the feel of that epic large-scale battle in quite this way. Likewise, from the hum of the TIE Fighters as they swoop down to the pounding rhythm of blaster shots, the audio is perfectly geared for Star Wars fans. The music is straight from the films and perfectly timed. The closest thing to a complaint is that the voice actors for the heroes sound a little off, and it only stands out because everything else is so perfect.

Though it has its limitations, but Star Wars Battlefront is an enjoyable game. It's a love letter to the Star Wars universe, and it should be a delightful nostalgia bomb for fans of the original trilogy. The core gameplay is good but lacks the depth to keep players coming back. Battlefront is a Star Wars game first and foremost, and its second priority is being a game for shooter fans. Those who enjoyed the original trilogy will be thrilled to see an AT-AT downed by Rebel snowspeeders or Darth Vader appearing on the horizon with lightsaber ignited. Those more interested in a meaty multiplayer shooter may want to look elsewhere.

Score: 7.5/10

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