The Force As We Know It
At E3 2015, I got a chance to check out Star Wars Battlefront , the new offering from EA and DICE. The demand for Star Wars games has always been high, as it is one of those iconic franchises that never seems to die and is always in the public consciousness. However, the quality of Star Wars games is uneven at best, ranging from classic and beloved space fighters and RPGs to kind of buggy multiplayer experiences. So we all wanted to see if Star Wars Battlefront was going to be a major hit or a Hutt-sized flop, and I am very happy to say that it is the former.
The reason why Battlefront is so cool is that it does something no other Star Wars game does. Most Star Wars games simulate a part of Star Wars . Battlefront , on the other hand, simulates all of Star Wars . Yes, all of it. Blaster fighters? Battlefront does it. Dogfights in X-Wings and TIE Fighters? Battlefront does it. Jedi lightsaber battles? Battlefront does it.
And it does it in the most simple and ingenious way, by using the Battlefield engine. Battlefield is already a game that allows for soldiers, vehicles, and lots of special cinematic events to occur. It’s a perfect fit for all the weapons and vehicles of Star Wars .
When you first play the game, you will undoubtedly get that familiar Battlefield feeling. You’ll spawn in a massive war zone with tons of other soldiers and vehicles around you, with little more than a blaster in hand. You have 19 other troops on your side, against 20 of the opponent’s, and you’d think that would be hard to keep track of. However, like Battlefield , Battlefront manages to keep all the players on track by giving them a clear goal.
In the Hoth scenario that was shown at E3, the Rebels had two goals: control a number of satellite uplink stations, and take down the AT-AT walkers that are striding from one side of the map to the other. The Empire had two goals as well, keep the uplink stations from being controlled and protect the walkers. This gave the game a sense of asymmetric gameplay, much like Battlefield: Hardline had, and this sense of asymmetry doesn’t stop there. As an Empire player, you are much more likely to get into a walker and blast people with a rapid firing laser or mortar strike than you would be as a Rebel, but Rebels get to hop in snowspeeders and wrap tow lines around walker’s legs in order to recreate scenes from The Empire Strikes Back . Both those things are equally cool.
Even though you are playing around with iconic Star Wars tech, the game isn’t very hard to break into if you have played a shooter before. There isn’t much difference between a laser rifle and an assault rifle, for example, with perhaps the one caveat that blasters do more damage to vehicles than bullets would. If you have ridden this Tauntaun before, you’ll get into the game, start aiming down sites, using cover to your advantage, and doing all the things you would do in any other shooter.
But the game manages to evoke that feeling of Star Wars nostalgia through its use of graphics and sound. The walkers, ships, and weapons aren’t just close approximations to Star Wars . They look exactly like they did in the movie, with all their retro flair intact. More importantly, they sound like they do in the movie, with blasters making that iconic “pew pew’ sound that we all know and love. The soundtrack further hammers this nostalgia home, as we get to hear tunes from the actual movie soundtracks. You will be fighting as epic orchestral scores play in the background, trumpets heralding your eventual victory over Rebel scum.
It also manages to evoke a sense of nostalgia through the way it formulates its multiplayer matches. You see, this battle for Hoth isn’t just a random game mode called “walker defense” or whatever. It’s a very specific instance of gameplay that takes place on a very specific instance of a map. In other words, this is the type of game that you play on this map because this is what happened in the movie.
The rest of the game’s modes will do the same, allowing you to play instances of battles from the movie instead of simply playing a random mode on the map. Scenes like the battle for Endor and the blowing up of the first Death Star are also possibilities. EA wasn’t ready to reveal what other scenes we would be able to play. Honestly, I can’t actually think of many scenes that fit the FPS mold well, unless we start going into prequel territory, which would strike me as worrisome if only because we might then have to deal with Jar Jar. We will have to wait and see.
Still, Star Wars Battlefront is an incredibly fun game. It’s about 20% Star Wars game, specifically in its unique vehicles and ability to play as Jedi in special circumstances, and about 80% generic Battlefield game with a Star Wars coat of paint. But Battlefield is a solid series, and this is a really really shiny coat of paint. Honestly, I’m kind of happy they didn’t try to re-invent the wheel here. I don’t want my laser blaster to handle totally differently from every other gun in every other FPS I have played. I just want to hop into a game, shoot some people with a blaster, and then ride off in the Millennium Falcon – and that’s exactly what Star Wars Battlefront lets me do.
Star Wars Battlefront will release on November 17, 2015, for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.