Dropped into the big FPS holiday bout between Call of Duty and Halo, Star Wars: Battlefront has every advantage in the world: a new film on the horizon, nostalgia, and an established developer (DICE) who has a lot of experience in the genre. Immediately, though, I can’t help but notice how safe this first EA Star Wars game looks. From its very big reveal at this year’s Star Wars Celebration to the E3 2015 show floor, the game seems less an innovation and more of an amalgamation of what’s come before. If you’ve played DICE’s other big IP, Battlefield, and the first two Battlefront games, brought to you by the deceased LucasArts, then you’ve pretty much had this experience before.
That’s not necessarily a terrible thing, of course. There is plenty to love in those games, and what EA has learned from them—the dynamic gunplay, large maps, the scale of objectives, the seamless changing of roles on the battlefield, and the teamwork—has been adapted expertly in Battlefront. And for all intents and purposes, my first twenty minutes with the game showed me a solid shooter that definitely does not fail as the sum of its parts. In fact, gamers won’t go wrong if they decide to add this title to their lists in November. The game is a lot of fun as long as you can get past Battlefront‘s lack of FPS identity.
The shooting is precise, and I could really feel the difference between my choice of weapon. Blaster pistols are accurate at short range and powerful, but suffer a bit at longer ranges. Meanwhile, the mid-range rifle—a weapon I would compare to the DMR in Halo, was my absolute favorite. A powerful scope and steady sights allowed me to pull off expert headshots from across the map. The longer range weapons were especially efficient in the map I played on Hoth, which is full of Rebel trenches, steep hills, and gun emplacements. Several guys charged in with their short-range blasters while I picked off the Rebels waiting in the trenches.
Oh yeah, I played as an Imperial Snowtrooper, which I really enjoyed, mostly because it was an uphill battle, an aggressive push through the Rebel base on Hoth, AT-ATs giving us support from the rear. I felt a bit of an absence of objectives at first, or rather, I didn’t really care about whatever our mission was, instead content with shooting down Rebels. That might be due to the winter wasteland that makes the initial attack a bit confusing or my obsession with how good it felt when a shot connected with its target. I’m not sure headshots have been more satisfying. Maybe it’s just good to be the bad guy every once in a while.
From what I could tell, the objectives didn’t really vary far from “blow this thing up” or “kill these guys.” The objectives did switch as you progressed in the attack, something I loved about games such as Killzone 2, which is still one of my favorite PvP games ever. This mechanic adds a bit of depth to the overall multiplayer experience, and Battlefront puts it to work. But again, I really was more interested in killing good guys than blowing up the reactor. It was nice to be a part of Star Wars history again—something I’ve really missed since LucasArts went the way of the Bothan spies—but it feels too recognizable to me.
I didn’t see in Star Wars: Battlefront anything I haven’t seen before. That’s the big problem for me. EA has been smart about the game—releasing a title full of iconic saga moments that we’ve played over and over again. The lack of fresh, new content—Sullust and Jakku being the only two things I can tell are new in this game—goes along with the rest of the new Star Wars continuity, which has been, so far, lacking in risk. Of course, it’s not a bad time to give fans a game full of the franchise’s “greatest hits.” People are very willing to play anything Star Wars after a long absence from consoles and PCs, but it’s not an excuse to rehash old ideas and concepts.
The demo didn’t offer me any vehicle play or time inside an Imperial Walker, so I can’t really speak to that, but it was exciting to run alongside AT-ATs while Y-Wings bombed them from the sky. I look forward to taking all of these vehicles for a spin once the game is released. The battlefield—with its large teams, vehicles, and points of interest—feels very populated, something that current-gen tech pulls off a lot more convincingly than its predecessors.
The game looks gorgeous and plays great. Its lack of new ideas shouldn’t be a deterent for Star Wars and shooter fans alike. There’s no better time to jump into these battles than the present, when their aftermath will be in immediate study in The Force Awakens. This is a vital experience for anyone looking forward to the new film. I just hope that EA doesn’t continue to bank on that in the future.
Star Wars: Battlefront arrives on Nov. 17 for XBO, PS4, and PC.