Star Wars: Battlefront: The Kotaku Review

Star Wars: Battlefront: The Kotaku Review

Star Wars: Battlefront wants you to believe you're in a Star Wars movie, but at heart it's one of the video-game-iest video games I've played in ages. This is the source of both its greatest triumphs and its worst failures.

Star Wars: Battlefront is a large-scale multiplayer shooter loosely set during the original movie trilogy. You can fight as Rebels against Imperial walkers on Hoth. You can try to defeat Rebels on Endor with your fellow Stormtroopers. You can fight as Princess Leia against Boba Fett on Tatooine. It is, for the most part, a multiplayer first-person shooter with the sights and sounds of George Lucas originals. Matches can contain up to 40 players, and at any given moment they might be blasting each other with laser weapons, riding around in land vehicles, or flying classic ships. The result is sheer, unbridled chaos — but it's wearing a Star Wars Halloween costume.

Like many other people between the ages of 0 and 21,547, I grew up with Star Wars. I watched the original trilogy, I played games like Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Star Wars: Jedi Knight, and I bought action figures by the bantha-load. Despite capturing Star Wars' iconic look better than any game before it, Battlefront reminds me most of that last thing — of sitting in my room while my imagination spirited my action figures off to another galaxy.

Battlefront is a patently ridiculous game. During one of my first matches, I witnessed a TIE fighter fall out of the sky and explode at my feet in a way that was more slapstick comedy than cinematic intergalactic warfare. Then I got bulldozed by hunched, sagging skin sack Emperor Palpatine, who suddenly became sprightly enough to pull off a tornado tackle that resembled M. Bison's psycho crusher from Street Fighter. I still crack up every single time I see or perform that attack.

In stills, Battlefront looks so much like Star Wars that it's eerie. In motion, it's arcade-y, oftentimes hilarious. Seriously, I haven't laughed so much while playing a multiplayer game maybe ever. Battlefront is, at times, a goddamn cartoon. Corpses soar and tumble through the air like dolphins briefly freed from the shackles of cruel gravity. Cherished Star Wars characters like Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo regularly fall off cliffs and bungle big moments. Spaceships clumsily crash into each other seconds after taking off with a swell of grandiose music in their wake.

I frequently find myself watching these moments unfold and creating a comical alternate Star Wars canon. "Remember that time Han Solo ambushed and killed Darth Vader while he seemed chronically intent on hurling his lightsaber at the ground? Remember when a single, valiant rebel soldier punched an AT-AT until it died? Remember when Princess Leia ended up trapped on Hoth with seven storm troopers, and they fought to the death countless times, only to never truly die? Remember when they figured out they were trapped in some bleak purgatory?"

In short, here is what Battlefront wants to be:

Star Wars: Battlefront: The Kotaku Review

Here is what Battlefront often is:

Star Wars: Battlefront: The Kotaku Review

Some modes lend themselves better to reveling in wild Star Wars "what if" scenarios. Supremacy is all-out 40-player warfare on land and sky with any player assuming the roles of heroes like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader if they pick up a temporary power-up. If you want the Battlefront experience distilled, it's great — albeit sometimes frustrating because of how often you'll die in the chaos. Walker Assault is an inspired spin on that formula, giving the rebels and imperials different objectives with tremendous cinematic heft. Imperials have to guard a massive AT-AT as it advances on a rebel base, and rebels have to battle back while securing uplinks and calling in bombing runs. For the rebels, the odds feel overwhelmingly against them (and to an extent, they are), but it captures what the rebels were actually dealing with in Star Wars so well.

You get some especially great character moments in a couple more intimate modes: Heroes vs Villains and Hero Hunt. The former is a fairly straightforward small-scale battle of heroes and infantry, while the latter sees one player assume the role of a hero while seven others hunt them down. Whoever gets the kill becomes the hero next. As a result, you get these frantic showdowns with characters like Luke and Leia. Sometimes players are desperate but wily — using every trick in the book to prolong the hunt. Other times, Han Solo strafes futily in the snow in a way that makes it look like he's dancing, and everyone laughs themselves into a coma while blasting him to smithereens.

If you're looking for a perfect, serious recreation of Star Wars' most epic battles, all of this might upset you. Battlefront is, sometimes, the Jar-Jar Binks of Star Wars games. It's got out-of-place comedy in spades. It can be really, really dumb. Strangely, though, that's endeared it to me in a big way. I think it's because, for me, there are two versions of Star Wars: what I saw on screens and what played out in the theatre in my head while playing with action figures. The former was grand and epic and scored by John Williams, sure, but the latter was even more vast in scope, patently hilarious, and — most importantly — mine. On reflection, I realise the latter is also the source of most of my Star Wars nostalgia. Star Wars is great not because of the characters, the plot, the bottomless barrels of merchandise, or everyone's favourite part of all, Hayden Christensten. It's great because it throws the imagination into overdrive. It's a universe of possibility, and we get to own what we imagine.

Unlike my halcyon action figure escapades, however, Battlefront has limits, and they're quite confining. Even its best moments are ephemeral and, at worst, forgettable. For all its interlocking parts, Battlefront is not a particularly complex game. There are nine main multiplayer modes, but only a few amount to more than simplistic close quarters shooting — the sort of thing that's been done better in other games, that doesn't really benefit from having Star Wars attached. The modes I listed earlier? Good, but ultimately repetitive. Some of the others, like Drop Zone and Cargo? They're essentially king of the hill and capture the flag, except kinda boring because Battlefront's infantry combat is so simple — meant more for massive battles than intricate small-scale engagements.

Shooting has a nice weight to it, but many guns — which you unlock by playing matches, earning in-game currency, and ranking up — feel similar. It's nice that, so far, there don't appear to be any hugely overpowered weapons, but there aren't many guns that are super interesting or unique either. Unfortunately, you start out with hardly anything equipment-wise, and unlocking the coolest stuff (ex: jetpacks) takes forever. It's irritating. Even slightly better starting gear would have been much appreciated. Similarly, the flight model for the few ships in the game is simplistic and a bit wonky. Removed from larger battles — for instance, in a mode dedicated to aerial battles — ships aren't all that fun to fly. Battlefront is definitely more than the sum of its parts; it needs those parts working in conjunction to be truly standout.

Even then, it becomes repetitive fairly quickly. For every moment where Princess Leia steals her brother's kill of their jerk-arse dad, there are tens of typical shootouts with the samey weapons, confusing deaths amid constant chaos, and scenarios other shooters have done better. This isn't helped by the relatively small number of levels. Technically speaking, there are only four locations, but they change size and layout depending on what mode you're playing and how many players there are.

Still, you'll come across similar landmarks a lot of the time, and before long Hoth's hangar, Endor's tree fort, and Tatooine's tarps and crates will feel awfully familiar. It doesn't help that some levels are markedly more varied than others. Endor levels tend to have alternate routes and vertical paths in spades, regardless of size. They're also visually breathtaking, teeming with greenery and life. Dark, lava-filled Sullust levels, by contrast, are mechanically bland when they're small, and they're still only so-so when expanded. Their visual palette, meanwhile, inspires very little of the imagination and excitement I get from running around in other Star Wars locations.

Star Wars: Battlefront: The Kotaku Review

It must be noted that Star Wars: Battlefront has a $US50 season pass, and it definitely feels like a strangely small $US60 game designed to be fleshed out with more stuff. Perhaps, in that respect, it's a bit of a cynical enterprise, given how rabidly people adore Star Wars. Don't get me wrong: what's there already is solid, and it's kept me entertained for tens of hours. But I'm already starting to get bored, and I feel like — given the sheer joy in experiencing all these strange, hilarious moments with Star Wars characters and locales — even a little more initial variety would have gone a long way.

Even Battlefront's balance issues come from its marriage to Star Wars. There are cool, thematically appropriate things like the Walker Assault mode I mentioned earlier, but you've also got to contend with issues like the fact that Storm Troopers — clad in armour white as the driven snow — are easy targets against Endor's green backdrops. On Hoth, meanwhile, they blend in almost too well. Again, it makes sense in the context of the setting, but it can grow frustrating over time.

Battlefront also has a few single player battles and survival runs, but they're not particularly noteworthy. This is a multiplayer game through and through, and glorified AI bot matches just don't live up to the spectacular lunacy of games with and against real people. If you don't plan to play this game with other people, it's simply not worth your time.

Star Wars: Battlefront is a game that's helped me better understand where my own Star Wars nostalgia came from. I remember, when the first Force Awakens trailer came out and everyone was talking about how it made them weep, I found it hard to muster any real emotion. Battlefront has given me moments that made me laugh until tears streamed out of my eyes. It's given me tales of victory and loss, maverick storm troopers 360 headshotting Luke Skywalker while (presumably) shouting, "Yippee ki yay, motherfucker!" and winning the day in the most un-Star-Wars ways imaginable. It's taken me back to my time inventing goofy, implausible Star Wars stories with action figures — things I fully acknowledge were dumb and terrible, but also mine.

Battlefront is not the best game ever, and it's certainly not the best shooter ever. To top it off, I'm worried about its ability to keep people entertained long-term, something crucial for a healthy multiplayer game. But there's a feeling of childlike joy to playing it and thinking about it. It's a game I will probably not go back to regularly, but when I want some silly, Star-Wars-flavored fun, I'll be happy to have it waiting on my hard drive.


Comments

    To be honest I feel like this game is a missed opportunity in what It could have been. I do like the game, and have enjoyed it, but I too am starting to get bored. I hope that they can somehow capture the spirit of the first two games; they to me seemed infinitely repayable, whilst this version seems limited. I do love the atmosphere of game though, the visuals and sound design are excellent. I'd also like it if they added aim assist for controller users on the PC, so many deaths haha.

    It's true. Definitely not the best game out there. But I am too old to play with Star Wars action figures like i did in the 80's. Battlefront is the next best thing.

      It's also vastly cheaper than buying the original figures and playsets, even factoring in buying a console or PC to play it on... http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Toltoys-Vintage-Star-Wars-Death-Star-Playset-boxed-Complete-Rare-New-Zealand-/151817008789?hash=item2358ffb695:g:XM8AAOSwgQ9V28fX

      (My uncle had this one and I used to play with it when I was a kid. He had pretty much every figure too...)

        Your uncle is awesome. :D I took my Darth Vader to the sand pit... never saw it again. :(

    2nd best GOTY after Ark.. full of action
    Great partnering up with a friend as it opens all the missions and half the game content
    Great fun for many hours so far.... it will wear off eventually.
    Many newbs to kill and a fair amount of skilled players to keep you dying as you press the attack, which is one of the few strategies of the game.
    Server browser sucks big time... many game modes you wont find a game because of australia game population... only walker assault and supremacy are good bets.

    Overall a good hit and miss shooter/FPS,
    team up with a friend or two and take out the whole team :)

    Last edited 23/11/15 12:49 pm

      lol GOTY but "Great fun for many hours so far.... it will wear off eventually."

      Riiiight... Just cant justify this one - feel Ill be bored after an hour

        Can't say I'm a fan of the 'Partner' System. Would have preferred had they stuck with squads.

          How does it even work? I was partnered with my mate in the first game then it split us up and partnered me with a random the following games. Couldn't work out how to manually select my mate as my partner again after that.

            No idea. I make sure I'm in a Party with my mate(s) first, then partner with a particular one. I've stuck with them for the entire duration, so far.

          Oh wait... They removed squads in favour of a single buddy... No... Hell no!

        are not I allowed an opinion? that is my opinion... Second in GOTY

          Just wondering if you know what GOTY stands for - you are entitled to an opinion no matter how misaligned it is to popular opinion ;)

            popular is just that. like pop music... justin beiber or niki minaj or the top Vevo views.....
            Im not looking for Taylor Swift in my preference.

            Im after a game of the year that thrills me the most out of the year... a proper game not some popular misconception. That I wake up to and go hells yeah lets play, sadly there is too few of these over a year I would love it to be doubled and spread out a bit more.

              I understand but this game is so light on - it seems like half a game. how can that be game of the year?!

              Read this from a user below:

              Played for about 5 hours total. The game already bores me. Ranking system has nothing that entices me to keep playing to level up. That and I don't enjoy the 'variety' of maps. Yeah we have four different planets with maps for each of those planets. But look at it like this - It's all set on the Same Map, the gamemode just dictates which portion(s) of said map we play through. Supremacy & Walker Assault, you play through the entire thing from Point A - B. Fighter Squadron, you're on the same map - just in the sky. Drop Zone, a set area of the map, same with Blast.

              This is all I'm seeing about this game!!! Don't know what hole you've crawled out of but this is not what one would expect from a AAA game with such a large franchise name on it...

              Certainly NOT GOTY material...

              Original stuff like No Man's Sky is the kind of thing you can cry out GOTY early about but this seems a little half baked! It will always have fanboys but it will never be GOTY!

                to you young padiwan you will never understand the true power of the force...

                have you even played it yet? you will have a lot of fun, even tho the map numbers are small they are large and the game modes pick out different spots. Good pure action.

                what would you pick? graphical fidelity fallout 4 or cutscenes for 100 hours witcher 3?
                I dont like single-player boring games such as them. Therefore its ARK survival evolved and then star wars battlefront for me. best games of the year

                Last edited 23/11/15 3:19 pm

                  Nah played the Beta - Couldn't see myself shelling out for only MP game at the moment anyway as I have 2 kids under 2 so MP isn't always an easy option ;)

                  I was actually pretty surprised at the depth of Black Ops 3, having not enjoyed a COD game for years! Quite enjoyed 100 hours of cutscenes... Have been enjoying Fallout but being only 8 hours in i cant pass judgement on that

                  Definitely had more fun playing Until Dawn getting the misses into it over some other big titles this year!

                  Trying to think about it i realise there really hasnt been that many amazing games this year! Cod BO3 is definitely my biggest surprise of the year though - Game is fucking polished!!! Not what i expect anymore lol but pleasantly surprising!

                From the sounds of it you haven't played the game, yet here you are arguing opinions with someone. Why is someone's negative opinion more valuable than a positive anyway? Play it first at least before talking shit and trying to convince someone who loves the game why they shouldn't love the game.

                If the dude rates it as his GOTY who gives a fuck? What's it you?

                  yeah uhh... If i dispute his GOTY suggestion, who gives a fuck? What's it you?

    Cant get past the directx error I'm having at the start of the game. I've updated the drivers to the latest so I'm sad

    I'm a MASSIVE Star Wars fan/nerd but this game just...............meh.

    Plus Fallout 4.

    I am in love with this game, can't stop playing. I don't care about the shortcomings, but I am a Star Wars nut.

    Last edited 23/11/15 1:16 pm

    Played for about 5 hours total. The game already bores me. Ranking system has nothing that entices me to keep playing to level up. That and I don't enjoy the 'variety' of maps. Yeah we have four different planets with maps for each of those planets. But look at it like this - It's all set on the Same Map, the gamemode just dictates which portion(s) of said map we play through. Supremacy & Walker Assault, you play through the entire thing from Point A - B. Fighter Squadron, you're on the same map - just in the sky. Drop Zone, a set area of the map, same with Blast.

    On PC, I will get unexpected frame drops from 80 FPS to 20 FPS in situations where I go from being in control to being dead, due to frame glitches fxcking me over. Not expected from an i5 4670k, gtx970 and 16gb RAM. Relatively minor I guess. Didn't get it that bad in BF4 however.

    It's fun for maybe an hour or so worth of play, it's Star Wars. I hope that Battlefront 2 and future DLC expands upon what there is.

    Last edited 23/11/15 1:24 pm

      I'd be pretty bummed if I shelled out for this experience...

        I'm bummed out, don't get me wrong. However it was worth the $50 that I paid Greenmangaming. I didn't get any 'extra content' and it was well worth it. It is fun to play, but as I said - for maybe upwards of 2 hours a time.

          Yeah id love to play down the track - kinda see it a bit like injustice gods among us - Great for a couple of hours when a mate's around but thatll do thankyou!

      the gamemode just dictates which portion(s) of said map we play through

      Well that's identical to how Dice have done it in their BF games...and most other games for that matter. Don't know how realistic it is to expect a full fresh set of maps for every different game mode.

    Loving it. Honestly it is the best looking and sounding Star Wars game ever.

    Supremacy and Walker Assault are big chaotic maps (play the objectives folks!). Blast and Drop Zone are good for smaller more stategic encounters. I think you get out what you put in. Even wandering around making your own stories up is fun. Perfect game to let off a bit of steam for a couple of hours after work and when the kids are in bed.

    I for one am looking forward to the DLC. Can't see myself going back to the crucible in Destiny. Seems tame in comparison.

    Self-indulgence does not make for good reviewing. Look at how many sheep just reiterate individual perspectives presented in the article, almost beat-for-beat. Why is so much emphasis (SO MUCH!) put on what the reviewer "feels"? I mean, surely something, some kind of construct or system MOTIVATED this feeling? Isn't it worth exploring, isn't it worth understanding - isn't it actually a big [art of the game for everyone? Why are we removing the efficacy of the reader in favour of more uneducated, indulgent nonsense? I'm at a loss as to how important the subjective, uneducated, unclear "feelings" of reviewer are meant to inform my perspective.

    I feel like this is a symptom of the level of communication and discourse commentors and readers are capable of. Is there an actual reason why every single piece of creative work on the internet is so self-indulgent to the point of irrelevance?

      When one is paid to write a good review and the game sucks ass, then they need to talk about how it makes them "feel" so as not to alienate their audience when they finally play the horrible game and feel they were lied to - If it was just how the reviewer feels, then the audience may feel something "different" when they play (something different like "THIS IS SHIT!")

    This game is pretty average. I was hoping for better but kind of expected as much. The unlock system is awful, at least at the start, and it is just lacking in content all around.

    I can see only the die hard fans still playing this in a few months.

    In a sense I feel a SWTOR coming on. I'm having a crap load of fun with it at the moment (if you can get 3 friends together it's a different game!), but it is very shallow and horribly imbalanced. There is plenty of room for it to grow, but that season pass is actually almost as much as I paid for the game itself. Unless they put a lot of work into it, people will get bored quickly. This means all the modes other than Fighter squadron, Walker and Blast will have no people in them, in turn making the game even more narrow, until no one plays it any more at all. It's what happened with Titanfall as well.

      Would not buy a season pass for a game that has not even proved itself as being worthy of being supported!!!

        Well me personally, definitely no. The only season pass I ever signed up for was Witcher 3, and that was a no-brainer for me. Even if the game wasn't good I was going to love it.

        I didn't even buy the Titanfall season pass, and I really loved that game. This one is stupid expensive, and if it's just more maps then I predict the game won't even last long enough for all the DLC to make it out.

          I bought Titanfall - and this is what makes me think twice about buying this!!!

          Really wanted to like Titanfall and get into it - but just couldnt enjoy the repetitiveness

    I'm not paying $110 for the same level of content Battlefield 2 or even 3 had at launch.

      How did they go so backwards when they acquire such an awesome franchise?!

      If this had a good campaign in it then it may be excused that the MP feels half baked but being essentially MP only this is inexcusable!

        TBH I'd still take this half-baked multiplayer over BF4 shitty, forgettable campaign and all. The MP in this game might be shallow, but it's a crapload of fun (for the moment). BF4 was fucking boring from start to finish. That campaign was so bland I don't even remember what happened. Same with Ghosts and Halo 5. I'm happy enough for multiplayer FPSs to ship w/o a campaign considering the level of crap they've shipped with so far.

        I picked up Battlefront for 68 dollars, 30 bucks less than what I paid for BF4 (I'm not good at finding deals) and I've already spent more time with it, than I did with BF4.

          I platted BF4 - it was quite enjoyable - all round. Alright at launch it was a bit shit but i had a great time with that game! Had it on Xbox one then when i got a ps4 bought it for ps4 as well - i did have 4 close mates on it most evenings as well though so wed squad up and get into it!

    Everything I've seen seems to suggest it's a very good "Star Wars thing" but a pretty average game. I realise they wanted this to appeal to not just FPS fans but Star Wars fans in general, but I feel it would have been better if they'd stuck a little closer to the Battlefield formula.

    I might pick it up in post-Christmas sales, but I wouldn't pay full price for it nor would I get the season pass. I can see it being fun to play every once in a whole for a short period of time to blow off some steam, Star Wars style.

    Played the Beta, got the feeling it was really shallow and would get bored of it in no time.
    Decided to get Black Ops 3 instead (another COD, I know right), so so so happy with that decision.
    Plus, Fallout 4...

    Having fun with it..but by God why put a homing shot into the game...this has to be the most infuriating part of the game. Why put it in there, why? :'(

      They're really easy to avoid, basically the trick to battlefront is don't stay out in the open, always be ready to run for cover. The primary reason they're there is so snipers have a good option at mid ranges as it takes too long to get your primary out and shoot them.

    I love Star Wars, but there are simply a bunch of better games out there currently. I might check it out for nostalgia's sake one day.

    It's a ton of fun for hardcore Star Wars fans and a nice counter point to hard core shooters. Pity that the 4 planned expansions contain what looks like more maps than the retail release!

    Loving the game but why in god's green endor do we not have a server browser or any form of team balancing/mixing? I can put up with repetitive maps for close, exciting games but to have one team continually steamroll the other gets sour quickly.

      It's been known for upto a year prior to the release of Beta that there was going to be no Server Browser. Granted, it's pretty easy to leave said game and join another match.

        It still does not answer the question of why games are leaning away from Server Browsers when every single gamer I've ever met, spoken to or seen floating around the internet wants them within the game.

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