While Star Wars Battlefront ultimately is a must-have experience for hardcore fans of the franchise, the game’s biggest crime is that it’s unexceptional as a multiplayer shooter. You won’t find much to hold on to beyond the glitz of Stormtroopers and the Star Destroyers looming in the skies of familiar planets. Battlefront‘s strengths lie within its extreme attention to detail, down to the last Ewok, and its excellent visuals. Without a doubt, Battlefront is the best-looking Star Wars game ever made, which is why it’s doubly a shame it fails to include a memorable experience.
The lack of story is a glaring omission in Battlefront since it’s based on a franchise with a story-telling legacy. And the fact that all the gameplay takes place during the saga’s most important and memorable battles and settings doesn’t help the game along. In fact, Battlefront might have found a way to make the Battles of Hoth and Endor just a bit boring. Because after just a few hours of the multiplayer experience, you’ll discover that there just isn’t all that much weight to your actions.
While Battlefront boasts several multiplayer modes — many of which are Star Wars-themed classics, such as Blast (deathmatch), Cargo (capture the flag), and Walker Assault (big team battle) — the game still suffers from a lack of content that will hurt it in the long run. I wouldn’t be surprised if, like Evolve and Titanfall before it, we saw a massive drop of players just a few months after release. Of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will help Battlefront along in the coming months.
But for the time being, some of these multiplayer modes are enjoyable. Blast is the entry-level deathmatch mode that will feel familiar almost as soon as you spawn on the map. This is a perfect mode for Star Wars fans who don’t normally play shooters, but can’t help but jump in. The shooting mechanics are simplified so that virtually anyone can pick the game up. A competitive shooter, this is not. Although it does take some skill to out-maneuver your enemies once you’ve unlocked a few power-ups, such as jet packs and in-battle bonus abilities. That said, shooting alone can be a bit unexciting after a couple of playthroughs.
I was unfortunately most disappointed with the mode I was most excited for: Fighter Squadron. With the lack of a true successor to Factor 5’s excellent Rogue Squadron games, this little mode was the closest thing on current-gen consoles. And it’s a real shame, because it’s barely a mode at all. Nowhere in sight are the epic dogfights or any kind of objectives other than locking on to an enemy and shooting them down. These fights are treated just like they are in the larger modes — support units battling out in the skies while the ground forces complete the real objectives. Fans hoping to take to the skies and find the grand X-Wing/TIE fighter action they’ve been waiting for since the GameCube won’t find any comfort in Fighter Squadron. That said, as with all of Battlefront‘s modes, the gameplay looks damn good.
Heroes vs. Villains is one of the better multiplayer modes included in the package. It’s basically a twist on team elimination, where two teams of six players face off for several rounds in a one-death Star Wars cameo fest. Three out of the six players on each team get to play as Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, or Boba Fett if you’re an Imperial and Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia if you’re a Rebel. When one team has killed all three heroes on the other, the round ends. First team to five points wins. This mode brings stakes to the gameplay, something many of the other modes are missing. Things intensify when you have to keep your heroes safe. And laying down covering fire for Princess Leia while she runs across a map is an epic way to go.
But it’s very evident that the most love has been put into Walker Assault, which is the mode you’ll undoubtedly want to come back to again and again. The mode consists of massive battles between the Empire and the Rebellion, complete with AT-ATs, fighters, and Star Wars heroes and villains. Each match is exciting, as you rush to complete objectives, whether it be disrupting enemy communication or taking down the hulking AT-ATs. It’s always a race to the finish as one side must finally overpower the other in an endless tug of war. Needless to say, these matches can go on for a pretty long time. Long enough for you to jump into the cockpit of an X-Wing or slay your enemies as Vader. It’s the mode that brings everything in all the other modes together, and it really is one of the main reasons to play this game in the first place.
The other reason is Survival mode, which is the closest you’ll get to a single-player experience. You can face hordes of Imperial enemies on your own or team up with a friend for co-op in my favorite mode of the game. Each Survival mission presents itself as a tiny story. Nothing too fancy, but you do get mission briefs and a short little cinematic in the beginning that informs you of your situation. You might have crash-landed on Tatooine or you’re waiting for extraction on Sullust. The point is to hold out against the growing Imperial force for as long as you can. The first few waves are relatively easy, but the mode quickly introduces stronger Stormtroopers and even AT-STs. Things can get hairy pretty quickly. And you’ll also have side objectives to complete during some waves, such as securing drop pods full of fresh equipment while you wait to make your escape. These objectives add a bit of complexity to the run-and-gun arcade mode.
As expected, the soundtrack also delivers. There isn’t too much in terms of original music. Instead, we get a delightful mix of John Williams’ greatest hits. This is one time when an original score isn’t missed. Really, when an AT-AT is headed right for you on Hoth, what song would you rather hear than “The Imperial March?” Again, Battlefront‘s attention to detail is evident every time a piece of music is cued by a Rebel or Imperial advance. These musical cues keep the game fun as long as you don’t mind doing the same things over and over.
Star Wars Battlefront truly succeeds as a nostalgia piece and love letter for the galaxy far, far away. But it comes up very short as a shooter experience. It certainly isn’t as good as the other multiplayer shooters on offer this year. And that’s a shame because the game looks so good and takes so much care with the license that I want to keep playing it over and over (and I probably will).