If there’s anything more common-place this holiday season than festive lights or jolly fat guys, it’s Star Wars. And it’s certainly no coincidence that EA DICE’s incredibly anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront reboot hits shelves just when force-fever is hitting critical mass. Reimagined from the fondly-remembered Battlefront games from the PlayStation 2 era, it’s practically a quantum leap from the technology of 2006 to modern standards. On top of that, a myriad of newer, more complex multiplayer demands must be met that didn’t exist back then.
It may not be the epoch shifting sensation that The Force Awakens promises to be, but this updated and expanded Battlefront is still an entertaining, albeit incomplete, attempt at salvaging a loved-and-lost series while cashing in on the excitement for all things Star Wars.
There’s nothing new in the large-scale battle modes that we haven’t already experienced in DICE’s sister franchise, Battlefield 4, but try telling yourself that as you run headlong with rebels across the volcanic terrain of Sullust, firing your blaster at Stormtroopers on the horizon as an AT-ST enters view and Tie Fighters and X-Wings wage war in the sky above.
While I mention Battlefield, it isn’t to say Star Wars: Battlefront is simply Battlefield 4 with a familiar Star Wars reskin. Character classes, movement, shooting, a lack of reloading or hoarding grenades, and load-outs have been transformed, with the aim of making the Battlefront franchise a more accessible, casual-friendly experience.
A bevy of multiplayer modes greet you within minutes of loading the game, and it’s where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. There’s the spectacular Heroes vs. Villains, which plays out exactly how it sounds: as if a bunch of Star Wars action figures came to life and, unsure of what to do next, resorted to violence. There’s droid run, a unique take on zone control in which the zones shift locations throughout the match.
Unfortunately, many of Battlefront’s modes feel banal or even poorly designed. Blast and Cargo are slight variances on team deathmatch and capture the flag, respectively, and are only exciting for several matches. After that, I had seen what felt like every possible scenario take place. Battlefront may have the quantity, but only a few have the quality.
LucasArts gave the developers full access to the Star Wars vaults, and it’s incredible to see how much of an impact that time had, visually speaking. The leafy forests of Endor, the cold bleakness of Hoth, the dangerous Sullust — DICE has brought the most famous Star Wars locales to life, enveloping you at every turn. Rain glistens on drooping ferns, icy crystals extend from the rebel base’s walls, clouds of dust billow across Tatooine’s arid scenery. And while this is all stunning, it’s Battlefront’s sound design that truly reels you in. The wildlife surrounds you and explosions carry through walls, even as rain strikes the trees in the wind.
Amid the pantheon of big, bad, and ugly Star Wars games, Star Wars: Battlefront easily sits on the better side of the spectrum, and it’s an easy bet that fans will find something to like here. It’s hardly the best of the bunch – or even of the Battlefield/Battlefront franchise itself – and unlikely to tear hardcore FPS fans away from those other options once the glow of The Force Awakens is truly upon us. Still, EA DICE has delivered a successful and high-octane foray into the beloved Lucas universe.