Star Wars: Battlefront

Yes, I’m aware that the sequel to this is due to be released in a few months. I also know that this is a multiplayer-centric game and I have no intention of playing multiplayer mode for its sake. I had bought this a few months back due to three reasons: the strength of the Star Wars brand, especially its original trilogy setting, its reputedly excellent graphics and fond memories of the 2005 version of the game which I similarly only ever played single-player.

Like many others, I was impressed by how good the game looked when its trailers were released and the thought of participating in large-scale, combined arms battles sounded very cool. After messing around with this for a while, I can say that the former is at least true. While I spend a lot of time on indie games with only perfunctory graphics due to their innovative gameplay, there are still times when I want to be blown away by great visuals and this title certainly manages to provide that. Whether its the crisp snowy banks of Hoth, the dense jungles of the Endor moon, the character models or the vehicles, everything looks fantastic and moves great as well. It truly does feel great to dash across the battlefield while a gigantic AT-AT plods nearby.

On the second point however the game is a disappointment in single-player mode. You do get to drive vehicles in the specific missions where they’re used but you don’t get to hop in one whenever you like in the big battles. Those so-called training missions are good to play through once or twice and they do manage to evoke a bit of cinematic magic, but they’re very, very short and have zero replay value. It feels odd that you can fly an airspeeder in the training mission to take down AT-ATs but you’re not allowed to do it in the Walker Assault mode, at least not in single-player mode. For some reason that I can’t quite pin down, I also found myself being somewhat underwhelmed by the experience of controlling heroes. They can kill regular troops pretty fast but they also go down quite fast in the face of concentrated fire. Perhaps the older game allowed more enemies to spawn at a time, so that it was easier to rack up crazy high kill counts?

Of all the available modes, the only ones that have any lasting gameplay value are survival mode, in which you always control a Rebel soldier who has to survive waves of Imperial attacks, and the epic scale Walker Assault mode. The former lasts a decent chunk of time, between 30 to about 45 minutes in my experience while the latter has you either accompanying the AT-ATs as the Imperials as they approach a Rebel base or attempting to destroy them as the Rebels before they reach their objective. At hard difficulty or above, this isn’t easy at all. The other epic battle is dueling in the sky with starfighters, which seems novel once or twice, but the game mechanics are too simple to have any lasting appeal. I also fail to see how the choice of different maps matter in the any way for this mode as you’re above the battleground anyway.

Uncharacteristically for me, I did try to get online to join some multiplayer matches but I couldn’t get into a single one. I think that there are simply too few active players left to easily find matches especially if you don’t buy the DLCs. In fact, you even have to connect to the servers to play the single-player modes and I’ve had problems connecting several times. It’s extremely annoying. While playing this I also noticed the many ways in which EA’s Origin framework is markedly inferior to Steam. I still can’t believe that they have no native method of taking and sharing screenshots. I haven’t used FRAPS for years but this game forced me to download and install it in order to write this post.

So this has been my experience with Star Wars: Battlefront. Very pretty and has all the right bells and whistles. But it’s very much a multiplayer game that now no longer has the community to support it. Though I understand that the single-player is much improved from its initial state at release, it’s still very basic and is probably only good for less than a dozen hours or so. It compares especially badly to the 2005 version of the game that I was so fond of. I understand that the upcoming sequel is specifically promised to come with a more complete single-player experience including a real storyline.

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