‘Star Wars Battlefront’ Review

Platform PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Genre Shooter

Developer EA DICE Publisher Electronic Arts Platform Played On Xbox One

DICE, the development team best known for the Battlefield shooter series, has once again proven that it is a leader in video game visuals and sound effects. DICE knows how to make warzones look and feel alive, making it the perfect studio to take on the task of rebooting the much loved conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion. Star Wars Battlefront feels just like its spiritual predecessors of the same name and, despite those games being about ten years old now, that’s great. Granted, there isn’t as much depth as other games in the genre, but you tend to forget about that when you’re firing at an AT-AT in a last ditch effort to bring it down in Walker Assault, or holding off a Rebel push as the last few seconds tick away in a game of Supremacy.

These bigger game modes, with 40 players in a match, are where DICE excels. The maps, set across three iconic locations from the original trilogy of Star Wars films (Hoth, Endor and Tatooine), and one designed by DICE (a rocky, volcanic world called Sullust), all look wonderful thanks to the developer’s use of some pretty amazing technology that more-or-less replicated the sets, props and character models used in the films. From the dense forests of Endor to the icy plains of Hoth, each location brings back nostalgia for Star Wars fans, and makes each map feel unique. Character models, guns and vehicles all look life-like as well, adding to the stunning world DICE has created.

The true spectacle, however, comes in the form of the visual effects from blaster shots and explosions. As I said, DICE knows how to make beautiful games, and Star Wars Battlefront might just be the best looking video game to date. Seeing blast rifle shots being fired in all directions across the large battlefields looks wonderful, especially when you see the attention to detail like little sparks flying off anything the rifle shots hit. In Star Wars Battlefront, I always had two grenades equipped simply because watching them explode looks marvellous, especially the imploding grenade you can score as a pick up on the map. If there was an award for best explosion effects in a video game, it would hands down have to go to Star Wars Battlefront.

Along with the visual prowess is a phenomenal auditory experience. You’re going to want to use the best sound setup possible to play Star Wars Battlefront. Whether that’s a home entertainment system or surround sound headphones, just find something that can distinguish between high and low sounds the best, because DICE has nailed the sound effects for Star Wars Battlefront. Everything you remember from the Star Wars films is here. From the distinct noise of blaster rifles, to the booming mechanical footsteps of the huge AT-AT and AT-STs, Star Wars Battlefront captures the sounds of Star Wars brilliantly. I was playing the game without sound for a small period, but it just did not feel like the same game. DICE uses an original score for Star Wars Battlefront, but it still fits the Star Wars universe. In fact, the victory music when the Empire is close to winning sounds very much like the Empire’s theme from the films.

The best part about Star Wars Battlefront is how faithful it is to its namesakes. I used to play Battlefront and Battlefront 2 on my original Xbox all the time, and at first I wasn’t blown away by this newer version. But I’ve since realised it is because DICE’s version takes everything great that I remember from the earlier games, but adds modern elements we’ve become accustomed to like different game modes, the aforementioned visual and audio improvements, and the card system.

The biggest thing that reminds me of the original games is the shooting. In a smart decision, DICE decided to keep the same shooting and aiming mechanics. That is, there is no aiming down sights (ADS) to increase accuracy. While there is a zoom in button, it does not affect accuracy, meaning you can stay zoomed out to admire the scenery while killing enemies.

Battlefront’s shooting, the biggest and most important gameplay mechanic of a shooter – and a specialty of DICE – feels great. The shooting is smooth and accurate whether in first or third person (which can be switched between by holding down on the D-pad). Star Wars Battlefront does not have as much depth as other shooters – you’re not going to have to know map layouts or how to control movement abilities – giving the overall feel of conflict greater preference, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. In this case, less is best.

The biggest strategic element in Star Wars Battlefront is the card system I mentioned earlier. It essentially determines your loadout heading into a game. You can take two equipment items such as grenades, sniper rifles, or torpedoes that lock onto vehicles; one active ability that has a cooldown after use, such as making your rifle shots do more damage to vehicles, or reducing weapon sway temporarily; and a trait which is akin to a killstreak that gives you a buff such as reduced damage from grenades provided you don’t die. Credits, which you use to buy new cards, weapons or customisation options for your character, are earned at a nice rate (depending on how well you perform of course), and I never felt I had to wait too long before I had enough to buy something new.

The game modes in Star Wars Battlefront tend to be hit or miss. The bigger 40 player game types called Supremacy which has teams in a tug-of-war fighting over points on the map, and Walker Assault which sees the Rebels trying to activate uplink stations to destroy AT-ATs, are fun and offer the full DICE experience. Meanwhile, there are game types with smaller player counts that offer a nice distraction, like Heroes versus Villains which gives three players on each team control of heroes Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, or villains Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and Boba Fett; or Drop Pod which forces the teams to come together to fight over a single drop pod on the map. Star Wars Battlefront also has a fun single player or co-op survival mode set on each of the four worlds. This game mode is best on “hard” difficulty, where it offers a real challenge compared to the somewhat easy “normal” difficulty.

However, some game modes feel tacked on, like the other single game mode which is pretty much a game of kill confirmed against boring computer controlled players, or a split screen friend. Some of the smaller multiplayer modes aren’t that much fun either. One game type has teams fighting for control over three moving droids on the map, with the winning team being the team that has control of more droids at the end of the match. There’s really no point in playing this game type until the last thirty seconds or so, because even if one team controls the droids the whole match, if they don’t control them when the time runs out they lose. As I said earlier, DICE makes warzones look and feel alive, and that’s clearly evident in the game types that have more people on the maps.

My only other criticism of Star Wars Battlefront is the limited number of different environments. Now, there are different maps for the game types with the smaller amounts of players compared to the larger player game types, but they are all only set on the same four locations. In December all players will be getting a fifth environment for free, The Battle of Jakku, to coincide with the release of the film Star Wars Episode VII, but I think there need to be more. After four games, you’ve finished the rotation, and there’s only so many times in a sitting I can play on Endor, despite how beautiful it looks. I guess that’s what the four downloadable content packs in the Season Pass will be for (but that’s a debate for another time).

Star Wars Battlefront is something special. DICE has captured the magic that made the original games so great, and modernised it. The environments, character models and vehicles have all been recreated with an impressive attention to detail, while the visual and auditory effects produce a complete Star Wars experience. Star Wars fans are in for a treat with Battlefront. Despite prioritising a stellar immersive experience over gameplay depth, Star Wars Battlefront is still heaps of fun; the shooting is solid and every gun feels useful. 2015 is a big year for Star Wars, and Battlefront has lived up to its hype.

The Good

  • Wonderfully captures the looks and sounds of the Star Wars films
  • Takes the great gameplay from its spiritual predecessors and modernises it
  • Shooting mechanics feel solid in both first and third person

The Bad

  • Some game modes feel tacked on
  • Focusing on the nostalgia of the original trilogy, there are a limited number of environments to battle in.

The Score: 8