Star Wars Battlefront Review – Corporate Greedo

Electronic Arts shot first.

01

Developer: DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: November 17, 2015
Copy supplied by publisher

I love Star Wars Battlefront.

It is, in fact, the most fun I’ve had with an online shooter for years, and I’m not saying that out of mawkish Star Wars nostalgia. I like the original Star Wars films, but I’m not what you’d call a huge fan. Oddly, I’m not a big fan of either Battlefront or Battlefield either, which may go some way toward explaining why I’ve so enjoyed myself with DICE’s galactic shooter.

The game is neither enough like the old Battlefront games nor recent Battlefield releases to please anybody looking for a direct continuation of either. Those who expected a traditional Star Wars Battlefront game will likely be the most disappointed, as this manic first-person shooter strips away a lot of what fans expected. No space battles, no campaign mode, no classes – just a load of fast-paced shooting.

I happen to enjoy a load of fast-paced shooting, and the Star Wars flavor is just an added bit of garnishing.

As far as garnish goes, however, DICE really nailed it. The visual design, sound effects, and overall atmosphere of Battlefront provides what may be the most authentic Star Wars experience a videogame has provided. As blaster fire zooms overhead, Ewoks scream from the trees, and TIE Fighters let loose their shriek across the skies, the sense of being part of a climactic fight in a galaxy far, far away is thoroughly evocative.

The whole thing is gorgeous, to boot. Environments are beautifully designed, richly detailed, and full of inspiring visual effects. Stepping out onto Endor for the first time, green trees slick with torrential rainfall, is simply breathtaking.

02

Combat is pretty damn satisfying – the various range of blasters to unlock look, sound, and punch like the real thing (not that blasters are real), while various toys like thermal detonators and jetpacks are a joy to use. Rather than give players specific classes, characters are customized via Star Cards, a hand of up to three abilities/weapons that can be used to bolster one’s loadout.

Most Star Cards operate on a cooldown timer and take the form of unique weapons like Pulse Cannons and explosives, or special equipment that temporarily stops your gun overheating or increases your accuracy. As players level up, passive cards can also be equipped to reduce blast damage, speed up health regeneration, and more.

In addition to equippable cards, there are item pickups dotted around each map with one-use gun turrets, attack droids, and other fun playthings.

Overall, it’s a great little system that lets you have flexibility without the need to lock into a specific role. I’ve gained a lot of enjoyment from unlocking and upgrading my favorite cards, and you can also have multiple “hands” to change your loadout mid-match.

There are cosmetic customizations including various preset heads and emotes, but I haven’t found this element quite so edifying. For a start, the Imperial customizations are weak as hell, and any visually distinctive appearances are withheld for the very highest levels. Until you reach level forty, you’re stuck with a variety of generic heads, though DICE has an impressively diverse amount for all races and sexes to enjoy.

03

Matches range from small skirmishes to large, 40-player rumbles across huge maps. The biggest and most intense match type is Skirmish, where two teams of twenty are joined by playable heroes – Luke, Leia and Han for the Rebels, Vader, Palpatine and Boba Fett for the Empire – in a massive fight to claim territory and push one side back. These battles can feature speeder bikes, AT-ST walkers, as well as dogfights in the sky between your obligatory X-Wings and TIE Fighters.

There’s also Walker Assault, in which the defending rebels must try and halt an incoming wave of Imperial AT-AT Walkers. It’s an interesting match, though it favors the Empire so much it’s a little one-sided.

Personally, I prefer the smaller, objective-oriented fights, such as Droid Run, a mode where you capture and hold Power Droids that walk around the map saying “Gonk.” Hero Hunt is another personal favorite, a six-a-side battle in which one side has to eliminate the other team’s heroes. A lot of the smaller map modes have engaging objectives that are much better suited to those who want to do more than just kill stuff.

On the subject of heroes, it’s as empowering as it should be to step into the alarmingly tight leggings of Palpatine or slash one’s way across the map as Luke Skywalker. Each hero, played from a third-person perspective, has a range of special abilities that operate on their own cooldown timers, and they can cut through regular players like butter. The downside is that their health doesn’t regenerate, so every hero is destined to suffer death by a thousand cuts eventually.

As a regular player, it can be downright terrifying to suddenly find yourself facing Darth Vader, knowing he can just Force choke you in an instant. Nothing quite beats the feeling of taking him down, however, being that one to put the final boot in and lay claim to his big helmeted head.

I have to say though – I’ve no idea what’s going on with Darth Vader’s voice. Every other main character sounds fine, but there’s something offputtingly dorky about the way DICE has Vader speaking.

04

Dogfights aren’t so thrilling, and are by far the weakest part of Battlefront‘s package. Taking to the skies is a surprisingly boring affair – vehicles are slow moving while combat is a simple case of locking on and holding down the fire button, hoping for victory. There’s an entire match type revolving around airborne fights, but it’s incredibly dull.

If I have the option to use air vehicles in Suppression mode, I more or less ignore it – it’s just not fun.

Everything else, however, I’m adoring. Absolutely adoring. The Star Card system, the regular drip-feed of unlocks, the decent matchtype variety, Battlefront ticks all my boxes, and it’s a game I can envision playing for quite some time, even after this review’s done n’ dusted.

All that said, however, there’s an elephant in the room that needs addressing – the business model.

05

I usually try and separate the business of games from the art of games when reviewing them, but when I feel that the former has impacted the latter, I’ve got to make it part of my critique. To that end, I can only express dismay at what I see as a potential fracturing of Battelfront‘s excellent foundation once the promised avalanche of downloadable content starts falling.

It’s hard to ignore Battlefront‘s tie-in $50 Season Pass – the game itself prominently displays an advertisement for it every time you view the main menu. More than that, though, this is being presented as a pass that’s almost obligatory for the long-term enjoyment of the game. As well as new weapons, heroes, and expansion packs, this pass promises a whole 16 new maps, something that will undeniably break up the userbase and strongarm players into buying.

It doesn’t help that, as good as Battlefront is, it feels like more of a starting point than a complete package. Only a few hours of playing will be enough to see every map in the game, and with no campaign to speak of – only a wave-based horde mode for solo or co-op play – there’s not a lot of meat on the bones, especially for those who get bored easily.

In many ways, Battlefront finds itself an unlikely comparison in Splatoon.

Like Splatoon, I’m finding the multiplayer compelling enough to keep going back, but unlike Nintendo’s squid-themed shooter, we’re going to have to pay for any increased longevity. It’s like Electronic Arts adopted Nintendo’s “game-as-service” model but made us pay for it where Nintendo didn’t. With these expansions being so potentially crucial, it’s not unfair to suggest that the real MSRP of Battlefront is $110, rather than $60.

Except we don’t even know if the other half of the game will even be worth that much money.

06

This close to launch, it’s hard to tell exactly what impact Battlefront‘s business model will have on the game and its audience, but it’s enough to lower my opinion of what should be a potential game-of-the-year candidate for me. I’m not being hyperbolic when I talk about how much damn fun I’m having with this – but I keep thinking about the future, and I cannot in good faith give this game super high scores and accolades when Electronic Arts’ plan is the exact opposite of what I want to see in videogames.

It makes for a frustrating review – trying to balance the amount of enjoyment I’ve had versus the overbearing money-grubbing that’s going on from a company that’s only pulling this shit because it can, not because it needs to – effectively exploiting the power of the Star Wars name and abusing the loyalty of its fandom in a way that’s not even vaguely subtle.

Electronic Arts has been shameless in its behavior, but again, I can’t stress enough how much of a delight the game itself has been – at least during its launch period. That I’m not just slapping a five or lower on the score should be taken as a sign of just how high the quality is. That I cannot give it higher than a seven, conversely, speaks volumes of how overwhelming a shadow has been cast by its DLC.

The best way to describe Star Wars Battlefront, I feel, is to call it what it is – a good game that was deliberately designed to not be a great one.

I wanted to rate it higher than this. Way higher.

At least the online connection is mostly stable, though. As far as EA launches go, that’s pretty amazing.

7/10
Good

Barry Wallace
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Barry Wallace

One of the best games in the last 10 years, a absolute masterpiece game and so much damn fun to play this is a definite 10 with out a doubt.

The Dreamer
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The Dreamer

5/10 at BEST…game gets boring quick.

Luke Walter Alexander
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Luke Walter Alexander
In this case, ehh…sorry, Jim, but I’m inclined to believe AngryJoe more – he positively (or negatively, in his review?) mauled the game for its many faults and shortcomings. Yes, the aesthetics (not graphics, which are just 720p and the like) are supposedly surreal (I’m not going to purchase it), but the gameplay itself…well, it’s unbalanced. Strongest, most unbalanced gun in the game, normally given as the last weapon being given immediately to preorders? Stupid. Lack of singleplayer? Stupid. Essentially-mandatory season pass? Crippling (though to be fair, you did mention that). The unbalanced special characters, particularly Boba Fett? Stupid. Absolutely… Read more »
CptMold
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CptMold
I’ll pick this one up on sale, if its community survives. I want to play it, but the whole “MP only” keeps me away. If the community doesn’t hold out for at least half a year, this is not the game you’re looking for. At least there’s no microtransactions, and the season pass seems worth it considering just how much it’ll give out over the course of the next year, so I might pick up the Ultimate Edition soon. Yes, sue me, DDoS me in your range, I’m everything wrong with the gaming industry, but I really want to get… Read more »
Luke Walter Alexander
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Luke Walter Alexander

Nice ‘A New Hope’ reference there.
Too bad Jedi tricks don’t work through comments sections.
Or that midichlorians (whether you believe it to be an acceptable explanation or not) don’t exist on Earth.

Fernando Alberto Larenas
Guest
Fernando Alberto Larenas
yeah… no. this game is a polished shell of it’s predecessors. even with their more dated graphics the older games offered so much more in content which boggles my mind that you have either overlooked or ignored entirely. this game is so painfully average it should be a clear vision of things to come for star wars if disney doesn’t snatch back the keys & give any other developer a shot at making these games. EA should just follow konami & do what they really want which is make themed slot machines that need to be constantly fed money for… Read more »
Luke Walter Alexander
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Luke Walter Alexander
I just want Mass Effect to be remade, or at least ported, to PS4. I’d buy the PC versions, but Steam lacks ME3 for whatever reason, and Origin…as you said, ‘bordering on vomit’. And it’s a royal shame you cannot transfer PS3 games to PS4 – is it really that difficult? Nintendo’s consoles can play both ‘current-gen’ and ‘last-gen’ games easily, so why not Sony’s? Heck, the Game Boy Advance could go all the way back to the original Game Boy, and the 3DS’s Virtual Console supports Game Boy Advance games and prior, so Nintendo beats everyone else at backwards… Read more »
nobbler
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If there is one thing I’ve learned from reading your reviews, it’s to ignore all your FPS reviews and opinions on them because you’re bad at them and I can’t picture you spending more than 40 hours with one, ever.

p.s. I’ve gotten 800 hours out of CS:GO, I paid $15 for it. maybe consider that purchase instead, anyone reading this.

Eplex
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Eplex

It’s not like CS is for everyone.
I for one, can stand CS and detest it but I sure do love a good FPS and I play a lot of them.

And I have to agree with Jim.
This fast paced shooter with the Star Wars theme all around it, the sounds, the levels and the atmosphere.

It’s good. I agree with that score.

CommanderKyubey
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CommanderKyubey

Yeah, for me, I just hate the “die once and you’re out” type of game that CS is. I’m really enjoying Star Wars Battlefront, the atmosphere is spot-on, and, at the end of the day, that’s really all I wanted from this: a competent shooter that makes me feel like I’m in Star Wars.

Block Review
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Block Review

“If you’re bad at the game, you can’t review the game.”

Solid logic there.

ThePete
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ThePete

I’ll just buy the inevitable GOTY version with all the content in a years time.

Edgar Sheep
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Edgar Sheep

By then no one will be playing it. NO SP so money lost.

Boris Drumev
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Boris Drumev

In a year’s time all the servers will be shut down, to force you in to buying Battlefront 2. Oh and don’t forget there are no dedicated servers for this multiplayer only title. Now you just soak that thought in… yeees, let the hate floow through you!

Matheus T. A. Taniguti
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Matheus T. A. Taniguti

Battlefront 4*

Boris Drumev
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Boris Drumev

Battlefront 2 EA. This year’s release is the first of the series under developer DICE. Battlefront 3 was that game, that never got made. There was even a trailer of the beta for it, really depressing to watch – because it looked amazing, easily 5x the content of this year’s small offering.

Matheus T. A. Taniguti
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Matheus T. A. Taniguti

I’m still gonna call it Battlefront 4. But thanks for the info, I had no idea there actually was a game (almost) called Battlefront 3.

Boris Drumev
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Boris Drumev
alilsneaky .
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alilsneaky .

I want to see how your opinion of the gameplay evolves over the coming days Jim.

A lot of people are getting burned out on the game within 10-20 hours of game time, it gets repetetive very very fast. That simplicity soon turns into shallowness.

CommonSense
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CommonSense

If the worst generation could only pass the marshmallow test…..

Za_Docta
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Za_Docta

The what now?

CommonSense
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CommonSense
The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In the Test, a child will be offered a small, typically lame treat, like a cracker, pretzel, or the titular marshmallow, and told that they would be left in the room alone with the treat for fifteen minutes, if they could resist the instant gratification of the lesser treat, they would get a much better treat upon the testers return. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were… Read more »
Zach
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Zach

From everything I’ve seen and heard, it looks like the game hasn’t changed since I played it at San Diego Comic-Con, what did they do in between July and November? obviously not work on the game anymore, it still looks and moves like it did when they told us it was just a demo.

OpticalOut
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OpticalOut

I’m not sure if Matthew Sloan did the voice acting for Darth Vader, but here he is in action, where he is infinitely better: https://youtu.be/gweHctgkirI?t=11m54s

Jc
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Jc

That is about how I feel. What I played, I loved. But as a single player gamer who is never going to pony up for Live Gold or PS Plus, there is just not enough to justify a $60 purchase. (FWIW, my copy was free with a PS4).

The biggest complaint I have is that you can’t play multiplayer maps solo with bots, like in the original games. Fix that and most of what I dislike about it is gone.

Matheus T. A. Taniguti
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Matheus T. A. Taniguti

the problem with that idea is that when EA decides to release a new game and shut down the servers, you might still find something to do.

Northreyar
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Northreyar
I’d have a few objections of my own, but nonetheless i appreciate your input because its still valuable information, no offense but i consider you to be terrible at shooters, and I think you’d agree. So the fact that you liked this so much, immediately points out red flags for me, and that is useful information that i can get as a consumer thanks to this review. I played the Beta extensively, and if the media is to be believed, not much has changed at all on the core mechanics of the game. If you are someone that likes shooters,… Read more »
Taylor Dierks
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Taylor Dierks

I’m conflicted, being really excited for Battlefront’s new direction, but I miss the old direction just as much, if not more so.

Inevitable
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Inevitable
“I feel, is to call it what it is – a good game that was deliberately designed to not be a great one.” This sort of sums up what I’ve suspected about this game for a long time. Dice are taking the franchise in an experimental direction and stripping features to rush the game out in a quality state to coincide with the film and neither they nor EA are sure how well it’s going to go. Approaching this project they probably had all this in mind and budgeted it accordingly. There’s a reason it’s not called Battlefront 3. They’re… Read more »
CyanManta
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CyanManta

So basically, it’s good except for the parts that EA managed to get its slick black tentacles on.

Zul
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Zul
WHAT THE HELL MAN?! YOU GAVE IT A SEVEN????!! OUT OF TEN?!????! HOW COULD YOU DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT WHAT THE FUCK MAN I MEAN REALLY WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU NOT SEE THE INTRO LOGO VIDEOS JESUS CHRIST OPEN YOUR EYES JIM THE BULLSHIT’S GETTING IN I MEAN DID YOU EVEN STOP AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING DID YOU REALLY NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THOSE POOR KIDS IN CAMBODIA AND SOMALIA YOU ARE A HEARTLESS PRICK A HEARTLESS PRICK AND I- There. That should give you material for two more… Read more »
ghost whistler
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ghost whistler

It’s not a game, it’s a console seller. You buy the console because it comes with this.

And the shooting is awful. Hit detection is among the worst ive ever seen

CaitSeith
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CaitSeith

That’s not the definition of console seller. A console seller is a game that makes buying a new console worth it; not a game that’s just bundled with the console.

a_v
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a_v

The last “console seller” that I really though deserved the term was Super Mario 64. To date I still have yet to see a game that manage 3D control as well as that one (with the camera/movement etc).

But it seems that none of the companies since then have spent as much time on launch titles in the last few generations…

det.bullock
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det.bullock

The dogfights in the beta were horrible, EA was the worst possible candidate for a Star Wars licence as they would never do anything for a niche audience even with a lower budget like a X-wing vs Tie Fighter or Rogue Squadron remake.

Taylor Dierks
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Taylor Dierks

Which is, unfortunately, exactly why they have the Star Wars license.

ghost whistler
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ghost whistler

“star cards” – so i’m playing Hearthstone?

Richard Vlášek
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Richard Vlášek

It’s essentially Titanfall’s Burn Card system, though less shitty.

ghost whistler
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ghost whistler

I like verisimilitude. Cards just makes it sound really lame. What’s wrong an equipment loadout?

Manen
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Manen

The carebears would be scared off.

Nevac
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Nevac

I mean SW Battlefront 2 let you play as Ki-Adi Mundi on the planet Mygeeto… That’s an indication of the number of heroes and planets there were in that game. Shame the level of content in this one is on the other end of the scale.

Having said that, what limited content there is looks real good.

Matheus T. A. Taniguti
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Matheus T. A. Taniguti

looks real good* you don’t need that “is”. Hope this was useful

Sam
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Sam

Yeah, that’s what I’ve been hearing. A good game held back from being truly memorable by it’s shameless business model.

Milestone_RP
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Milestone_RP

No real campaign? Really?
I’m shocked it got as high a score as it did. I thought this series had a pedigree to live up to.

Matheus T. A. Taniguti
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Matheus T. A. Taniguti

So am I. I just read FO4, JC3 and this review and incredibly I haven’t agreed with any of them.