Over the last year, I've really been thinking about 'the power of Star Wars'. Even as someone who would only considers themselves a passing fan of the franchise, with the run up to the Force Awakens, the sheer excitement and wonder that I get from those around me has been palpable. If you're as entrenched in pop culture as much as I am, it's near impossible to not 'feel' that power beginning to take hold.
Said power is a huge part of what what EA is banking on with Star Wars: Battlefront. Taking the namesake of one of the most beloved Star Wars games of all time and launching it so soon before the return of the film franchise, is a bold move and it requires a lot of finesse to not end up feeling like a quick cash grab. Luckily, I don't believe that to be the case at all here, as the attention to detail and love built into this game runs through its veins like Midi-chlorians. How much you enjoy your time with it though, will likely depend on how intensely you intend to play it.
So, lets get to the things you should know going in. The game certainly has a multiplayer focus, with most of the effort clearly going into the online portions of the game. You can play certain modes of it on your own, but this clearly isn't the best way to enjoy the title. That means it should go without saying that you shouldn't expect a story mode or campaign or.
With that though, I can only preach to you how solid the 'moment to moment' experience of playing the game online is. There is a heft to being thrust into one of these matches and seeing a huge battlefield unfold in front of your eyes. It's seriously impressive work. The Walker Assault mode just feels massive in ways multiplayer games rarely feel. The authenticity and care that went into researching the Star Wars franchise shows on the field of play in every way as it all just feels so tangible and full of texture. There is something deeply grand about the weight of the action on screen, which isn't often the case with multiplayer matches.
One of the true delights, and what gives the game its power is the loving recreation of all of the Star Wars assets here. DICE were given access to all of the vaults within Lucasfilms and that access shows on every inch of the screen. At times, when you let yourself forget about the heat of battle, these locations feel like museums built to recreate Star Wars in a digital space. These maps are unconventional and not very symmetrical, but instead feel real and torn apart by space opera battle. Be it crashed X-Wings on the field, to the Ewok houses on the forest moon of Endor, these spaces are mouth-wateringly well designed. Even the art of shooting a blaster feels right based on what we know in the movies, the laser feeling more floaty and a little slower than normal bullets. Add on top of that, the explosions are ripped right out of how these effects were captured in the films, and it means that even the smallest details feel faithful to this recreation. And the sound design, oh boy the sound design! This might be one of the finest sounding games I've ever played with the audio engulfing you on the battlefield becoming engrossing to the fullest degree. The level of work is actually pretty staggering at times. It really does all come together to make the maps that feature in the game, from big to small, feel like some of the best work ever put into a Star Wars video game.
In terms of online multiplayer, there are nine modes for you to choose from. Supremacy, which has you fighting for control over five zones, Fighter Squadron, which is all about arial combat and the aforementioned Walker Assault, which has you trying to stop two AT-ATs, are the cream of the crop with modes you'd expect from most multiplayer outings filling up the remainder of the slots. It's a fairly good selection, and does offer enough variety, whether you're looking for small scale or large scale fights.
There is also a Survival Mode in the game, that will make up for most of the co-op and single player time you spend with the game. This is a typical 'horde' type mode that will have you going up against waves of Stormtroopers. The real highlight is doing these in the lushly designed worlds of the game, but other than that, there isn't too much to make this stand out in any meaningful way. There are also tiny little missions you can partake in as well in the single player and co-op modes, but in truth, these rarely add up to more than 5-10 minutes of something a little more involving than a tutorial.
With that said though, the game's main shortcoming don't take too long to rear its head. With only four planets offering a handful of maps each, and a progression system that doesn't take too long to max out, you might find yourself struggling to keep coming back. When you aren't being continually rewarded for your play, it can feel a little aimless to continue on. This is really one of the game's only major drawbacks, but it is not an easy one to hurdle. A lack of content is always going to be troublesome for a game, and Battlefront can feel a little light in terms of the structure of its progress. There is of course more updates coming with new maps and planets on the way, but right now, that is hard to lean back on as it is trading off the promise of a more worthwhile experience down the road.
However, and I think this is an important point to make, I don't think that a multiplayer has to be continually playable and engaging for hundreds of hours to be a worthwhile experience. I'd say that there is a good 10-15 hours of play in here before that lack of progression really seeps in, and they are hours full of grand scale battlefields, tangable texture and a fair helping of Star Wars magic. Much like Titanfall from last year, it may not have extremely long legs for those who like to play one multiplayer game over and over and over again like Call of Duty, but it is still an incredibly fun experience to have at your finger tips whenever you get the itch. It doesn't require your constant attention and I think that is possibly refreshing depending on who you are, being much more inviting for a casual audience. If you are here for this game to take over your life though, you may be left quite disappointed.
Ultimately, Star Wars: Battlefront is a pretty magical experience at times that just oozes with Star Wars from every pore. If you love this franchise, I promise you you've never seen such a faithfully recreated version of this universe in a digital space. The detail on show here is unmatched in any licensed game I can bring to mind. It's a down right beautiful, beautiful game. However, the lack of content, by way of the structure of its progression or number of maps is a hard pill to swallow. It does mean your time with the game might be shorter than what you'd expect from a multiplayer experience, especially one that doesn't offer a substantial single player campaign. If you can see past that though, and are interested in having a very solid, moment to moment multiplayer game that looks incredible and is not overly punishing to newer players, than this should fit the bill perfectly. It's love for the series it's based on is intoxicating and it really does put you in the shoes of a soldier on a Star Wars battlefield (unless you end up playing as a hero, of course). If you are willing to forgive it its shortcomings as a hardcore multiplayer game, then Battlefront is an incredibly powerful and grand experience while its charms last.
Get it if: You want a Star Wars game to pick up casually from time to time to engage in one of the strongest moment to moments multiplayer experiences in a long time.
Avoid it if: You uncompromisingly hate multiplayer games or, conversely, if you are a hardcore multiplayer gamer who needs 100s of hours of progression to commit.