Star Wars: Battlefront is a good game. I'm just not sure it's a good game for me.

My hope when Battlefront was announced was that it would be Battlefield in the Star Wars universe. I wanted to drive an AT-AT up to the Rebel base, blast the doors off, and leap out with my teammates to kill every enemy inside. I wanted to rain down death on Imperial artillery with an X-Wing and then land on a hill so I could snipe their ground troops.

Battlefront isn't that game. The environments are indestructible save for a few scattered pieces of scenery. You don't have all that much freedom of movement, either. The largest maps, used for the game's Walker Assault and Supremacy modes, are essentially long strips of land with objectives arranged in a line. Plus, you don't climb in or out of vehicles. You pick up a power-up and are teleported to their cockpit. There's no seamless transition from infantry to vehicle to infantry.

But that's the thing: Battlefront isn't trying to be Battlefield with X-Wings. The sooner you ditch those expectations, the more fun you'll have. Battlefront a distinct game with its own design philosophy.

That design philosophy seems to be, "Let everyone feel what it's like to be part of an iconic Star Wars battle." The key word there is 'everyone.' The game is geared toward players of any skill level. Blasters have minimal recoil. Weapons don't have ammunition and gadgets can be used whenever their cooldown is up. Respawning is instantaneous. Many of the most powerful tools at player's disposal - like automated turrets or a rocket launcher - are power-ups strewn throughout the battlefield rather than items you need to earn through hours of gameplay.

The multiplayer modes are similarly forgiving. They're designed to keep each team competitive up until the very end. Take Supremacy, the 40-player battle for five capture points throughout the map. In most games, there's usually a scoring component for this type of mode. The team with the majority of the territories gains points and eventually accumulates a lead that could prove insurmountable. However, Supremacy in Battlefront can be won in one of two ways: capture all five territories at once or hold more territories than the other team once time expires. The latter rule means that a team backed up to their base for most of the match could still win with one successful offensive push at the end.

Walker Assault, the other 40-player mode, is also designed around comebacks. AT-AT walkers (driven by the A.I.) slowly walk to a Rebel base at the other end of the map. The Rebels must whittle down the walkers' health by activating communication relays that can call down bombers on them. The match ends when either the AT-ATs are defeated or they destroy their target at the end of the map. This mode felt really slanted toward the Imperials in the beta but DICE made some smart balance tweaks since then. There are now weak points on the walkers so it's easier for the Rebels to do a lot of damage quickly. I've seen multiple matches where the Rebels were able to dig in and make a successful last stand even after the walkers made quick work of early relays.

Fighter Squadron mode is another good example of accessibility. Dogfighting is typically the most difficulty activity in Battlefield games and that's also true in Star Wars: Battlefront. Chasing down enemy fighters or shaking off a missile lock without smashing into the ground below is a challenging task. However, Fighter Squadron makes the starfighters a little less intimidating by letting players fight against a mixture of A.I. and human opponents. Furthermore, there are objectives (like shooting down or defending transports) that you can tackle without actually being good at dogfighting.

Battlefront does an exceptional job of making you feel part of the Star Wars universe as well. It's the best-looking Star Wars game to date and in fact one of the best-looking games period. The battle sounds and music are likewise impressive. You never doubt that you're in the forests of Endor or on the frozen tundra of Hoth.

Luke Skywalker attacking Imperials

A shooter designed for all skill levels with a Star Wars license ought to be unstoppable. However, Battlefront is currently crippled by one large issue: there's not much game here. At launch, the game is limited to four planets (five if you pre-ordered). This means there are only four maps for the large modes and only slightly more for the infantry-only modes.

Speaking of the infantry modes, the current list isn't all that exciting:
  • Blast - Team Deathmatch.
  • Cargo - Steal enemy cargo from their base and bring it back to yours.
  • Drop Zone - Capture escape pods that land at random spots on the map.
  • Droid Run - Capture and defend three droids walking around the map.
  • Hero Hunt - One player is a random hero or villain, and tries to rack up as many kills as possible until another player kills them. That player then becomes a hero or villain.
  • Heroes vs Villains - A team of villains and soldiers fights a team of heroes and soldiers.
Blast and Cargo are modes you'll find in any other multiplayer shooter but with different names. Drop Zone and Droid Run seem to put an interesting twist on the usual capture-and-defend action but this twist doesn't go far enough. The droids in Droid Run move slowly and stay within a small area so they're not far off from static control points. Drop Zone's escape pods drop power-ups but they're no different than the ones you'll find in other modes. Furthermore, the pods only seem to drop in a few designated spots so an experienced player can likely anticipate where the next one will arrive.

Hero Hunt is maybe the best of the bunch. The process of trying to take down these powerful heroes or villains with just a few weapons and lucky power-ups is always fun. There's also some extra strategy at work here. While you're technically working with other players to take down the hero/villain, you need to time your attack well. You'll only get to become the hero/villain if you kill the current one. What you don't want to do is die after weakening your target and then have some teammate swoop in to steal your kill.

Heroes vs Villains wears thin quicker. The heroes/villains are cartoonishly overpowered and feel more suited to just carving up hordes of troopers than dueling each other. They're not balanced against one another very well. Plus, being able to play as these characters whenever you wants makes it easier to get tired of them. They're more fun as a reward doled out in small quantities.

If you're looking for single-player or co-op, there's barely anything to satisfy you. The game doesn't have a campaign and instead offers up "Missions" that pit you against bots. They give you something to do if EA's servers go down, I guess, but these Missions are barely a feature. There's not enough variety in the enemies and their A.I. isn't strong enough to make this side of the game worth extended play.

Right before Battlefront's launch, DICE said that they're going to add tons of content to the game in the months ahead: 16 maps, four modes and four heroes. That would go a long way toward addressing the current shortage of content in the game. However, you're going to have to shell out an extra $50 for these additions. In other words, you're basically doubling the price of the game to fix its biggest flaw.

If you're like me and want a shooter you can play for dozens of hours until the next big shooter comes around, Star Wars: Battlefront probably isn't the game you're looking for. It's a thin game so extended play will make it lose its flavor pretty quick. The game is better for someone with less free time, who might want to kill an hour a week. It's so accessible that you could stop playing for two months and easily jump back in. If you're a casual gamer or shopping for one, you could do a lot worse than Battlefront.

Platforms: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4
Developer: DICE
Publisher: EA
ESRB: Teen
Rating:

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