Despite the success of the original Star Wars: Battlefront games back in the PS2/Xbox days, we never saw a third game last-gen. But now, with modern gaming technology and DICE's expertise on full throttle, we have a game that looks almost as good as the movies that inspired them.
Sure, the animations aren't as fancy as that original trailer set on Endor, (called it!) but the graphical clarity and slick 60 frames-per-second across all platforms makes this one of the best-looking multiplayer shooters ever made.
For what it's worth, I've had significant hands-on time with the finished PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. The PS4's resolution comes out on top (900p) and the Xbox One version runs at 720p. While that may sound disappointing for XO fans, it really isn't that noticeable if I'm honest unless you get uncomfortably close to some of the textures. Which you won't have time to do because you'll be too busy getting shot.
Both versions feature mild texture pop-in, especially on larger maps, but overall, the scenery is magnificent. The tall forests of Endor are supported by the likes of the slick black rocks gouged by red hot lava streams on Sullust or the epic eternal winters of Hoth. Fans of the original movies are going to love it.
Naturally, DICE have nailed the sound. Granted most of the effects aren't their creations, but all the familiar noises from blasters, lightsabers, Speeders and TIE fighters all sound spot-on. Crank up the volume or slap on some beefy headphones on and you'll appreciate it even more.
Sights and sounds are all well and good, but as ever, gameplay is king. While there's nothing particularly wrong about the way Battlefront plays, fears of longevity are well-founded. There are plenty of modes, but maps are recycled far too often and some modes have a very limited amount of maps to choose from, with the game feeling even smaller if you find yourself focussing on a few modes.
You're looking at your usual bunch of team deathmatch modes, domination and so on, but there are a few that feel a bit more unique. Droid Run is a zone capture mode, but the capture point is a moving droid. This provides a fantastically free-flowing match where the action stays on the front foot throughout. Combine this with excellent map design, especially the Dune Sea Exchange and you'll be raking in the kills with ease.
Larger scale encounters like Walker Assault can feel a bit too big for their own good, especially with the lengthy sprints back to the action whenever you respawn. There's just no need for spawn points to be that far away from the action. Despite some balance tweaks since the beta, all maps feel like they benefit the Empire side more. Rebels must power down stations in order to open up the AT-AT's weak spots and it's relatively easy to defend against them, especially when nobody is working as a team.
There aren't enough ships in the air over maps like Hoth either. You'll occasionally chance across a powerup that lets you take to the skies, but it's hard to feel like you're having a genuine impact on the match until those damn generators are down. Trying to shoot troops on the ground with them is a tough job too as you zip past.
However, Fighter Squadron matches put everyone in the skies (but not space) and it's surprisingly accessible. There's a mix of AI and humans on each side, so it's fairly easy for everyone to rack up a few kills. Ships are easy to pilot and barrel rolls are a cooldown ability rather than a given, meaning lock-on missiles will do their job if you use them at the right time. Keep your eyes peeled for the Hero vehicle pickups, and you may get a chance to pilot the likes of the Millennium Falcon, giving you an almost invincible session for the rest of the match. I'd have spent more time in this mode, but with only four maps for it, I found my affection waning.
Taking control of iconic heroes and villains plays a part on the ground too as random pickups. You'll get to control Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett. With a huge health bar and a range of unique abilities, other (sensible) players will flee on sight.
These characters get more use in the Heroes vs Villains mode where two small teams take turns to play as the lead characters. But this somewhat neuters their skills as they can die quickly if a rival hero/villain gets the drop on them, making them feel like the regular troops.
Hero Hunt is a frustrating mess. A small group of players have to take out a solitary lead character, with the person who gets the very last shot being given a turn as the hero next. This should have been reworked to give the nod to players that put the most damage in, or at least rotate the turns as a hero to give everyone the chance to post the best hero score. A poor execution of what could have been a great mode.
Battlefront's upgrades as you level up and earn credits don't really add much incentive to keep playing either. Browsing the stats of new blasters is incredibly disheartening as at first glance they all appear to be a bit crap compared to the one you start with. Given that the laser-fire is incredibly slow (compared to regular bullets), you may want to opt for one with an enhanced rate of fire, like the LMG-style piece. Equipable cooldown abilities play a large part of your setup, as you can choose from different types of grenade, powerful one-shot rifles and so on. The recharge rates are pretty quick too, so you'll probably get a lot of use from them.
DICE have had a rough record with online shooters in the past, but I'm delighted to report that I've encountered zero issues with Battlefront. No dropped connections, no problems finding a match and no signs of lag. This includes the early XO launch period on EA Access straight through the opening weekend on PS4. Consider me very impressed.
There is a brief offline side to the game. A co-op (splitscreen or online) mode puts you against waves of enemies, which is fun for a while, but it doesn't have any legs. There are a selection of timed challenges against the AI which also act as tutorials for the different play-styles and you can compete via your friends list for the best times.
These sections are a cruel reminder of what could have been if there was a proper offline campaign. You'll pilot an AT-ST to protect a walker on Sullust, murder an entire base as Darth Vader or maybe clear the desert canyons of TIE fighters. The Endor Speeder race/shooting challenge is crushingly brief too.
Star Wars: Battlefront can be a lot of fun, but as we expected, the value is highly questionable, especially given how much the likes of Black Ops III offer for the same price. If you're a Star Wars nut, you can probably add an extra digit to the score below. For everyone else, you're left with a very pretty online shooter whose maps you may tire of by New Year.
- Smooth online connections
- Looks and sounds brilliant
- Lots of modes (but not many maps)
- Walker Assault still feels unbalanced
- Weapon variety is poor
- Where's the rest of it?
The short Version: A solid multiplayer shooter that ticks all those nostalgic boxes for fans of the original trilogy. The graphics and audio design are excellent throughout and the net code has performed without fault. However, the lack of a proper offline mode and small number of multiplayer maps is frustrating given the opportunistic Season Pass content on the horizon.
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One (tested) | PC