When Star Wars Battlefront was announced at E3 2013, I couldn’t believe it. Star Wars was officially back. With The Force Awakens ushering in yet another era of Star Wars hype, a new Battlefront was just icing on the cake. Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront 2 on the PlayStation 2 are easily my most played games from that generation. Hundreds of hours were poured into them over many years. I’d watch a movie and then play all the maps that were in it. I was obsessed. Star Wars has always been an important part of my life and Battlefront always felt like a way to remember the magic I felt whenever I’d play with my action figures as a little kid.
So with all that in mind, how does DICE’s attempt at a Star Wars game stand up to the legacy left by Pandemic Studios?
Let’s start with the most important point: DICE’s Battlefront is nothing like the Battlefront of yesterday. It is a new product that merely shares the same name as those games I poured so much of my younger life into. But is that a bad thing? With all the talk of little content and only a few good modes, I was nervous stepping into this new territory. I was used to tons of maps across countless Star Wars planets from all six movies, not 16 maps across four planets from three movies.
There’s no hopping out to the menu to queue up five more planets and there’s no tough decision about whether to throw a space battle into your friends’ long line of planet requests. In fact…there isn’t a level queue that you and your friend can add to because your friend needs his or her own copy of the game to play. Battlefront is very much an online game, with couch co-op being more of an afterthought. While there is another free planet on the way with Jakku, there’s no denying relative lack of environments in which to stretch those Star Wars muscles.
For the game itself, check out our review here. It goes into modes, how the maps feel, and how it plays. While that should influence a purchasing decision, I want to explore what this game feels like to a fan. What are the emotions it pulls up?
Unfortunately, it feels like a tug-of-war. One minute I’m downright giddy when I ram a speeder bike into a tree after wrecking the battlefield while the next I’m sniped immediately after spawning. Battlefront is full of dichotomies like that: the maps are gorgeous and feel like the movies…yet somehow I always spawn in front of enemies. Ships feel great in fighter squadron…yet they’re too fast and rather boring in regular matches. Getting a hero in a huge open battle is exciting…yet actually playing as them is often anticlimactic. On paper, Star Wars Battlefront is any Star Wars fan’s dream. But in reality, it’s often rather shallow and feels very rushed. And yet…I know I will buy all of it.
Like many of its contemporaries, Battlefront has gone the route of the season pass, and this one’s pricey. For $50, a year’s worth of content will be rolled out that includes maps, heroes, modes, weapons, etc. I’m excited to see what they have planned. Yet there is also a part of me that knows that if this game were anything else (Battlefield, for example), I’d be bored by now and scoffing at that season pass. This is a very clear manipulation of nostalgia and one that I am certainly not helping by playing a part in it. Is the fun I’m having only present due to the title of the game?
I don’t think it’s that simple. In fact, the real reason is almost more infuriating than if the game were just bad. The game is good. And that’s it. It isn’t the huge return of Battlefront everyone was hoping for and it isn’t a flop. It’s an okay game with a hefty asking price and a ton of nostalgia thrown in. While all of that counts for something, it certainly doesn’t justify the lack of content in the base package.
And that is truly where the game’s biggest problem lies: it is using me. DICE put in just enough for the game to be fun, but not enough that I feel satisfied. I am going to purchase the season pass because I want more and I am going to buy the inevitable sequel because I know that a lot needs improving. It is truly a clever marketing ploy but one that I can’t help but feel slightly upset by.
For all of its problems, the original Star Wars Battlefront certainly was not lacking in heart. Everything from its campaign to its map selection felt like they were trying to please every type of Star Wars fan out there, from the movie watchers to the expanded universe junkies. This time, the nostalgia gut-punches are what the game relies on. Whether this is a testament to how expensive game development is or how little can be done in a limited development window, I don’t know. But as a consumer, I do feel let down and a little disappointed that a brand name I care about is being used against me.
Star Wars Battlefront is a lot of fun if you’re a Star Wars fan. It’s got the best planets of the bunch and some of your favorite heroes too. But it also lacks focus. It throws modes at you and hopes that you like at least a couple. It holds your hand sometimes with auto-aim and hopes you don’t get frustrated and leave before paying an extra $50. And yet there’s also that old feeling you got when you used to play with those toys as a kid. And sometimes, in the right moment, that’s enough to make you forget about the shady tricks pulling on the strings of your heart.