Version Tested: PS4

A little short for a Stormtrooper

A little short for a Stormtrooper

EA’s acquisition of the Star Wars license has brought renewed hope and a slight hint of trepidation to this fan’s expectations. While being a publishing behemoth means more Star Wars, which is a good thing, the new captains of this ship might just steer it into the jagged rocks of mediocrity. Such was the fear I felt when it was announced Disney would be behind all movies and other licenses from now on. Cancelling The Clone Wars animated series and promising games such as 1313 was irritating to say the least. All LucasArts projects were put on hold or terminated and most of its staff laid off. The entire Expanded Universe was deemed non-canonical and it was declared that the new movies would ignore it and feature a new original timeline independent from the newly christened “Legends” brand. So far so meh. The new Battlefront is therefore somewhat of an introduction to this new approach so a lot is riding on it.

And it doesn’t disappoint. Well, sort of.

It’s a very different beast altogether…

The beta that was released earlier this year gave us a good indication of where the game was heading. I for one was satisfied with it but not overly impressed by the gameplay. The lack of prequel trilogy assets felt limiting, the auto-aim was too generous, aim-down-sights were too similar across all available weapons, the modes seemed unoriginal. All this, but generally speaking it was fairly enjoyable. Not a patch on the old Battlefront games but decent nonetheless. Those minor gripes still persist in some way so I would strongly recommend going into this game with a fresh mind set; it’s not Pandemic Studios’ Battlefront. It’s a very different beast altogether.

When 1080p you reach, look as good you will not.

When 1080p you reach, look as good you will not.

The first thing that strikes you is the attention to detail. A lot of love is poured into making this seem as authentically Star Wars as possible. The graphics are phenomenal; arguably the best and most detailed of this generation so far. Every weapon, costume, ship, landscape is lovingly recreated with the Frostbite 3 engine and DICE has done an amazing job, crafting a virtual simulation of the kind of battles you dreamed of taking part in as a kid. Most of the time, you will take part in huge skirmishes, laser bolts frizzing to and fro, the thundering sounds of explosions and ships overhead, the Wilhelm screams (yes) as Rebels and Stormtroopers alike fight and die for their various objectives. It’s overwhelming and exciting in equal measure.

"Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid."

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Sound design is as you would expect: brilliant. All the genuine article, taken from Lucasfilm’s extensive sound library no doubt. John William’s famous score occasionally sweeps in and works beautifully in concert with the ebb and flow of combat. The only mismatch here is the voice acting which is pretty bad. Whoever does Darth Vader’s voice is terrible; he sounds like an American teenager who received one of those voice-changer masks for Christmas. He’ll soon get on your nerves while you play the tutorial mission that hides the game’s extensive installation time. Other than that, the sound is superb.

 For some reason, EA have decided to limit themselves…

If you were expecting a more exciting menu're looking in Alderaan places. God help me.

If you were expecting a more exciting menu layout…you’re looking in Alderaan places. God help me.

There are 9 modes on offer, varying in quality. The one you’ll most likely revisit is Supremacy, which is as close to the original Battlefront‘s gameplay as you’ll get. Teams fight for dominance across large beautifully designed maps as they vie for control of command points. The side with the highest level of control wins. Individually, there is a lot of scope for different gameplay styles. Some might want to jump in and storm a base with large crowds of fighters on your side. Others may take the lone wolf approach as I tend to do, flanking enemies and making my way round the outer edges of the map, sneaking into undefended areas while everyone else is distracted. The eagle eyed among you will seek out the power ups and vehicles, which can often give big advantages and turn the tide. An AT-ST (chicken walker for you non-nerds) can pin down forces trying to escape a tunnel for example. Someone clever on the opposite side may then seek out a T-47 Airspeeder and take it out, allowing his allies to push forward. There’s plenty of room for tactical gameplay here and you’ll soon find your feet among the hectic battles.

Stay on target....Stay on target.....Oops.

Stay on target….Stay on target…..Oops.

The other modes are not as immediately interesting. Fighter Squadron does what it says on the tin, foregoing the on-foot sections and allowing players to take to the skies in popular ships and having it out among the clouds in epic dogfights. Walker Assault will be familiar to the beta participants. The Imperials march towards their destination in imposing AT-ATs while Rebels attempt to summon Y-Wing bombers to halt their advance. Cargo is your run-of-the-mill capture the flag and Droid Run is basically King of the Hill with roaming GONK droids. All modes are rather basic and don’t offer much more than what you’d expect. They’re of course all prettily wrapped up in Star Wars colours but people looking for something deeper may be disappointed. This is the game’s biggest flaw. For some reason, EA have decided to limit themselves. There’s the aforementioned lack of prequel trilogy content (no Clones or Separatist Droids) and while this may be a blessing for many people, it seems a shame that the Clone Wars are not included. I guess it keeps the game focused so more attention is lavished on the Galactic Civil War, but it would have been nice to see more planets like Naboo or Kashyyyk featured rather than the relatively simple tundras of Hoth or the barren volcanic landscapes of Sullust. That’s not to say they don’t look fantastic and highly detailed but there are only 4 planets at the moment, with 12 maps in total spread across them. A fifth, Jakku, the new desert planet from the upcoming Episode VII: The Force Awakens will be available soon.

It’s kind of cold and clean. It’s very EA…

I found the lack of screenshots disturbing. So I grabbed my own. Motion Blur for the win!

I found the lack of screenshots disturbing. So I grabbed my own. Motion Blur for the win!

Other limits or downgrades from the previous renditions of Battlefront are the lack of space battles and other such amenities that fans will miss. No longer will you have Battlefront 2′s epic ship-boarding fights or the ability to hop into any parked vehicle or tank. Grabbing a floating hologram of an X-Wing and then spawning as one elsewhere takes away from the inclusive atmosphere. It all seems a bit…empty. Everything seems to be there for the simple purpose of fan service. The menus are strangely uniform in their simplicity; white backgrounds with simple icons. Not everything screams Star Wars which seems a bit of a waste. It’s kind of cold and clean. It’s very EA.

Orbital Strike!  It's as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

Orbital Strike! It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

That’s the underlying sensation I get with the new Battlefront. It’s good but it’s not really enough. It doesn’t have everything you could want, but it does have a lot. I started this review by warning you, dear reader, not to envision the classic Battlefront while playing this one and I’ve gone and done that anyway. It’s really hard not to though. I can’t help but feel that they shouldn’t have rebooted this series. They could have called it “Star Wars: BattleFIELD” and it would fit more in line with DICE’s popular military shooter. With the very little experience I have with that particular franchise, I can tell you that it feels somewhat similar, but with the obvious attachment of sci-fi tropes replacing realistic physics. Blaster bolts aren’t affected by gravity for example, so some may find the weapons lacking that impact or skill in use. Like the beta, there is a strong auto-aim which makes targeting most weapons too easy and it only takes a few hits to fell an enemy or get slain yourself. Some of the weapons offer more of a meatier punch than others but generally speaking they feel quite samey, just with different firing speeds. The power ups range from gun turret emplacements to proximity mines to the very satisfying Orbital Strike and secondary weapons like snipers and rocket launchers keep things fun though they’re often single shot affairs that only work if you have good aim.

"Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh... everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?"

“Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?”

You can unlock new weapons by earning credits, which can also be put towards getting Star Cards which work as perks a la Call of Duty. You can customise loadouts too, eventually earning the ability to gain passive abilities that grant bonuses such as faster health regeneration and thicker skin against explosions. Spend a few more credits and you can unlock different looking Rebel fighters (I’ve gone for the cute blonde with the ponytail) or Stormtrooper variants (baldy guy with beard) but these seem more expensive than they need to be. Your loadouts can offer a large degree of freedom in the way you play; so if you prefer to jump in using hit and run tactics, you can equip the jump pack with the Jawa’s short-range hand cannon. Alternatively, you could hang back and provide sniper support or wait for those all important ship summoning power ups. If you get a decent group of friends together, you can really plan out tactics and form a solid team. Assign someone to vehicle-destroy duty or a pair of captors to go grab that cargo while a heavy gunner stays to defend your base, it’s all up to you and this is where the gameplay shines; finding your comfort level and style of play in a large open environment.

If you get a decent group of friends together, you can really plan out tactics and form a solid team…

You're no good to him dead. Actually you are, because he needs to raise his K/D ratio.

You’re no good to him dead. Actually you are, because he needs to raise his K/D ratio.

Gestures and taunts can be bought but these are, as the characters, purely cosmetic. These customisations are nice but lack the depth of other shooters, and for a game purporting to be multiplayer-only, it soon becomes apparent that unless more content is added, the longevity of the game will be called into question. There will be DLC (the season pass is already available) but the lack of mode variation, weapons and scenery may get irksome before long. Online integration with your party works well. You can choose to partner up with someone in your chat room and this will allow you to respawn on their location during combat. Selecting the same game mode will lump all of you together seamlessly too which makes this efficient.

There are single player missions, but these are nothing more than simple distractions to pass the time until your friends get online. AT-ST massacres, a race through the Endor forests on a swoop bike and sight-seeing over Beggar’s Canyon on Tatooine are a few of the attractions as well as Battle mode, which works similar to COD’s Kill Confirmed. Quite basic really but the exception to this is the Survival mode which lets you play alone or with a friend on or off-line as you take on waves of increasingly tougher foes. The bulk of gameplay will of course be spent on the big multiplayer event modes like Supremacy which offers enough entertainment, especially when you have 40 players duking it out on massive well designed maps. It’s regrettable that the game doesn’t include a campaign mode as the potential was there for an interesting set up, much like the story of the 501st as told in Battlefront 2.

Princess Leia sucks…

Play as a Hero. Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold. Whatever.

Play as a Hero. Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold. Whatever.

Occasionally someone will grab the Hero power up and grace your presence with a cameo from one of the fan favourites. These characters can often turn things around so there’s often a struggle for who gets the pleasure of playing as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo et al. Unfortunately, playing as Hero characters isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For starters, you don’t really earn the right to play as them; whoever gets to the power up wins. They’re dodgy to play with too. Boba Fett’s blaster, while powerful, is difficult to aim. Han Solo has his famous shoulder barge which of course he used to great effect in…well, never. Princess Leia sucks. Palpatine can’t deflect attacks like Skywalker and Vader but he has his scary-ass Psycho Crusher dive to compliment his Sith Lightening. It’s all fan service but it comes across as more of a lazy add-on than a fully-fledged gameplay mechanic. It is however, exciting to see a Hero appear on the battlefield, and when you finally get to use that Fett jetpack/missile launcher combo, the little kid inside you will giggle with delight.

The Forest Moon of Endor. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. It has Ewoks. Fuck Ewoks.

The Forest Moon of Endor. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. It has Ewoks. Fuck Ewoks.

It’s great for what it’s got…

And that’s the overall statement I’d like to make about this iteration of Battlefront. It’s a shooter which is obviously lovingly designed by a talented team of people who set out to deliver the most authentic experience a Star Wars fan can get. Re-enacting famous battles like this makes the child inside you jump for joy, but the reality is that the game is let down by a lack of longevity and “could haves”. It should have been more. It’s great for what it’s got, but I for one am constantly reminded of what it doesn’t do.

Somewhat of a missed opportunity then, but nonetheless, we are left with a solid and beautifully designed  multiplayer blast ’em up that fans of the series will enjoy and come back to. It doesn’t quite have a focus but the freedom to jump into iconic battles is a thrilling experience. The potential for improvement with expansions is big, but for what it is, the game is exhilarating and well made. The Force IS strong with this one then, but more training does it require, hmm…

Review Score:

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Born in Iraq, grew up in London. Been a massive gamer and geek for years and years! Love writing and hope to be a screenwriter/voice actor! Gamertag: Razorus PSN: Razzorus Nintendo: Razor87

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