Star Wars Battlefront review: blast from the past - TechCentral

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Star Wars Battlefront review: blast from the past

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The very first Star Wars Battlefront game, carrying the exact same name as this 2015 version, was launched way back in 2004 and developed by Pandemic Studios for LucasArts. That game received generally positive feedback and sold well. After that, four other Battlefront games followed, each expanding on its predecessor and adding new missions, stories, options and characters.

This latest instalment of the Battlefront series uses the acclaimed Frostbite 3 game engine that was initially developed by DICE, a Swedish subsidiary of Electronic Arts. The Frostbite game engine is probably best known from the popular Battlefield series, but has been implemented into various other games like Need for Speed and Medal of Honour. In a nutshell, games using the Frostbite engine are characterised by their immersive, dynamic worlds that offer a high level of environmental destruction, convincing physics and realistic weather systems.

Mainly multiplayer madness
This 2015 Star Wars Battlefront game is in essence a reboot of the complete franchise, hence the same name as the 2004 version that started it all. The general concept behind the game has also stayed untouched.

While most of the previously released Star Wars games, such as The Force Unleashed, all focused on cool, attractive-looking Jedi masters or Sith Lords, along with aerial/space combat, Battlefront does not. Instead, most of the time you’re just an ordinary foot soldier, like a Stormtrooper or rebel fighter, carrying nothing but a simple blaster. The Battlefront series also differentiates itself from all other Star Wars games by the sheer number of vehicles that can be operated. In that respect, Battlefront is a lot like the Battlefield franchise.

Where it does stand out is the fact that it completely lacks a single-player campaign mode. Battlefront is all about multiplayer battles against human player or AI bots. If you’re looking for a good storyline and don’t take pleasure in continuously killing fellow gamers or bots, avoid this game. All these multiplayer battles take place in one of just 12 maps that are initially included, which isn’t that much to begin with.

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You can play Battlefront alone, though, without other human players or bots getting in your way. Spend time playing the training missions — in order to get the hang of the game basics, you’d be well advised to complete them one by one. Since they’re also linked to specific scenes taken from the original Star Wars movies, they’re tons of fun. In one of the training missions you’re operating a “snowspeeder” and need to take down a AT-AT with a grappling cable. Other training missions let you race a speeder bike on the Endor forest moon to get the hang of its controls. One of the best training missions, however, is where you become Darth Vader and need to sweep a base clean of all rebel scum. In the end, these missions are very enjoyable and a great way to master all aspects of the Battlefront gameplay.

Apart from the single-player training missions, Battlefront also features “Survival” and “Battle” modes. In Survival, you’re confronted with 15 waves of increasingly tough enemies you need to survive on your own or in co-op mode with a friend. You can also play Survival against friends, if you prefer.

In the Battle game mode, you and your squad of bots need to take on a friend or AI while scoring points by collecting tokens from the cold, dead remains of your freshly killed enemy. There’s even the option to begin as a hero instead of a regular soldier. If you turn off all AI bots, it’s just you and him. Choosing Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as heroes will put you in an epic light sabre battle, just like in the classic movies. What’s not to like?

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The droids you’re looking for
No matter if you’re fighting for the dark side of the empire, or the light side of the rebel alliance, these two factions will meet in various scenarios taken directly from the original movie trilogy. Lots of these maps are located on well-known planets or moons like Tatooine, Hoth and Endor. But the feast of recognition doesn’t end there.

At certain in-game locations, soldiers are surrounded by all sorts of easily recognisable Star Wars elements. These range from large vehicles and crafts like parked X-Wing fighters or Imperial shuttles to small, seemingly insignificant objects that were grabbed straight from the motion pictures, all of which add subtly to the authenticity of the overall game world.

It’s this true-to-the-movie-authenticity where Star Wars Battlefront scores its first and foremost points. For instance, if you take a good look at the rebel base on the planet Hoth in the game, and then compare that to the same scenes in The Empire Strike Back, you’ll be amazed at how similar they look. Developer DICE did an incredible job recreating the whole Star Wars universe, even to the smallest detail. As a result, every Star Wars fan will melt on the spot when playing Battlefront for the first time, that’s how good it looks.

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Environmental graphics such as rocks, trees, sand and ice also look stunning and definitely add to the overall atmosphere the game breathes. And the Endor map has to be one of the most visually attractive multiplayer maps I’ve seen in any game. The way it is structured is simply perfect and graphics are breathtaking. The game also runs at a silky smooth 60fps on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, adding even more to the visual feast. Although games running at 60fps are not new, it is impressive when you take the high level of Battlefront’s visual quality into account.

Sounds right
In order to create that typical Star Wars atmosphere, sound is incredibly important. No matter if it’s the fast sound of a Heavy Blaster or a thumping bang from a Thermal Imploder, all audio has to be spot on in order to convince. It’s a good thing, then, that Star Wars Battlefront features nearly perfect audio. Star Wars fans will love the level of sound detail and authenticity.

Characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader all have one-liners they call during the battle, though none of the original actors’ voices were used. Still, DICE managed to do a pretty good job. Only Darth Vader’s voice doesn’t sound quite right compared to the classic movies. In addition to the incredible sound effects, Battlefront naturally also features the well known Star Wars theme and musical score.

Because both graphics and sound are so spot on, Star Wars Battlefront will be a trip down memory lane even before you start playing and discovering all the different game modes and gameplay elements.

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Gameplay
Apart from beautiful graphics and amazing sound effects, gameplay still makes or breaks a game. In Battlefront, everything revolves around the ordinary foot soldier. They are the basis for the whole game in practically every mode. By using the central profile screen, the character you’re playing with can be customised with weapons, items or various outfits.

All these elements need to be unlocked first by reaching a specific level or collecting in-game cash. By default, freshly unlocked weapons and items can only be equipped either before or after a battle, so they must be chosen wisely. Only at a certain, much higher level will you be able to actually change items in-game.

The type of weapons or items you can choose to equip are based on which faction you fight for. On average, you’ll step into the shoes as a Stormtrooper just as often as a rebel soldier since the game mostly automatically chooses which side you play for to keep teams in balance.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the game is actually always balanced. On the forest moon Endor, for instance, rebel soldiers blend in perfectly with their surroundings. Stormtroopers, on the other hand, light up like a Christmas tree because of their stark white outfits. Despite this unfair rebel advantage, DICE was reluctant to address the issue and change the original Stormtrooper looks in favour of gameplay.

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Power-ups
Other gameplay differences between the imperial and rebel factions are with power-ups. They play a central role in the whole game and are scattered throughout each map. When collected, they’ll give access to new weapons, droids or vehicles like the Empire’s AT-ST or rebels’ snowspeeder. The ultimate hero power-up will put you in the shoes of characters like Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker or even Darth Vader.

When transformed into one of these heroes, a whole new world of pain opens up. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, for instance, are very efficient at killing in small spaces, while Han Solo and Boba Fett excel at long range elimination. Turning into one of these heroes creates one of the best gameplay moments Battlefront has to offer. The feeling of power that you get when playing Luke and ending dozens of Stormtroopers is great. However, these hero moments are few and far between, so you should enjoy them while you can.

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Accessible
What makes Battlefront’s gameplay so accessible, and as a result fun for both beginners and veterans, is that power-ups aren’t solely based on your game performance. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the lead with 30 kills and just one death, or vice versa. The chance of running into a vehicle or hero power-up is equal or all players.

In addition, aiming and firing in Battlefront is relatively easy. A lot of damage can be done with the majority of weapons without having to first zoom in. The combination of these two elements make Star Wars Battlefront as a shooter a lot more accessible and easy to pick up than games like Call of Duty, where only the top players are rewarded with the best upgrades. In practice, this makes playing the game fun for everybody and assures all get to be a hero, or get to fly a Tie Fighter at a certain point in the game.

Within a couple of hours of gameplay, you’ll unlock the jetpack that will facilitate flying to new heights and undiscovered locations, like on top of crashed spaceships. From that point on, the game reveals its true dynamic and fast pace, further increasing the overall fun.

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Game modes
Battlefront features nine different game modes. Two of these, Hero Hunt and Heroes vs Villains, instantly put you in the shoes of characters like Skywalker or Vader. In Hero Hunt, all participating players have just one goal: kill the hero. As soon as that’s done, the player responsible becomes one himself and the hunt continues. The Heroes vs Villains mode is more of a Mexican standoff between three Empire and three Rebel heroes.

The Fighter Squadron mode, meanwhile, puts you in the seat of a rebel X/A-Wing, Tie Fighter or Interceptor in which you’ll have to go head-to-head in a gigantic dogfight including dozens of AI fighters on both sides. If you’re into flying one of these babies, you’ll absolutely love the Fighter Squadron game mode. It gets even better when collecting a hero power-up mid-air, transforming you into the Millennium Falcon or Boba Fett’s Slave One.

Because the Fighter Squadron mode is so much fun, it’s disappointing to see DICE didn’t include more content around it, like more maps to fly in. Additional missions or even a dogfight in space would have been a welcome addition. Although we are talking Star Wars here, there are no stars or space to be seen anywhere. However, the upcoming downloadable content will undoubtedly fill that content gap very soon.

All the other seven game modes focus mainly on battles between regular soldier that can periodically call in the help of vehicles or heroes. The Blast game mode is nothing more than an ordinary team death match, while Supremacy and Walker Assault facilitate very large teams, and loads of vehicle or hero power-ups. In Walker Assault, the rebels need to destroy two AT-ATs before they are in gun range of the base. The Supremacy game mode features five strategic locations which need to be conquered to win the game. In the 16-player Drop Zone mode, it’s all about conquering pods that rain down from the sky. Cargo is more of a capture-the-flag game for up to 12 players, while Droid Run, also for a maximum dozen players, is comparable to domination-style games.

Down with DLC
Nowadays, it’s quite normal for a game developer to offer additional downloadable content (DLC) after the initial release of the game itself. Star Wars Battlefront is no exception to that rule. Somewhere in December, Electronic Arts will unleash the first free expansion called “The Battle of Jakku”, which will introduce a new game mode and a few new maps. Since Battlefront comes with just 12 maps and nine different game modes, future DLC will definitely be a welcome addition. According to Electronic Arts, even more free DLC will be released throughout 2016.

In addition, there are also four paid DLC extensions planned for next year. In order to get all of them, you’ll have to pay an extra R700, which is a pretty expensive endeavour if you ask me, but probably a no-brainer for Star Wars fans.

Conclusion
Star Wars Battlefront manages to recreate the Star Wars universe to perfection, making it a must-buy for every fan of the movies. Gameplay is very accessible and graphics silky smooth, slick and polished. No matter how good you are at shooters, you can dive right into a gorgeous Star Wars universe that will offer equal opportunity for all on the battlefield.

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Although you’ll initially spend hours, even days, playing the game, repetition will eventually kick in. With just 12 maps and nine game modes, boredom is inevitable. There’s also not much depth in Battlefront, nor does it require a sharp mind to choose the best tactics and strategy. However, I’m fairly confident the upcoming DLC expansion packs will tackle most of these issues. Until then, may the Force be with you. 8/10.  — (c) 2015 NewsCentral Media

  • Reviewed on Xbox One (R900). Also available for PC (R600) and PlayStation 4 (R900)

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