When Star Wars: Battlefront II hit the store shelves, it was played on the PlayStation 2, the PlayStation Portable handheld device, the original Xbox and of course the PC. Ten years later, the series gets a reboot in the form of the new Star Wars Battlefront for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
Under a new developer, DICE (of Battlefield fame), the new game contains remnants of Pandemic's two Battlefront games along with features that DICE believes will attract newcomers to the series. However, this delicate balance is the unfortunate reason why the game doesn't keep you hooked for more than an hour or so, even with its many modes.
Ready For Battle
From the main menu, you have the option of going down two paths: single-player (which also includes online co-op, or split-screen co-op if you're playing it on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One) or multiplayer. Either way, the loadout for your Rebel fighter or Imperial stormtrooper is the same, consisting of a primary weapon and up to three Star Cards, which contain special abilities or weapons. As you progress through the game, you earn experience and credits in order to unlock more powerful weapons, Star Cards and various cosmetic changes to your character.
It's a simple approach, forsaking other features in some of today's well-known multiplayer games such as weapon attachments and killstreak rewards, and offering only a place to choose weapons and abilities. Unfortunately, you don't see much change in your loadout for the first few hours, mainly because the price of each weapon and Star Card is somewhat high. For every 1000 points you earn in a game, you earn only 100 credits.
This means that even if you're the best player on the team and earned 5,500 points, you would only gain 550 credits. Some weapons and Star Cards are in the low- to mid-1,000 credit price range, so you would have to play a few games not only to afford it, but also to keep a respectable amount in your bankroll.
The same currency is also used to purchase different configurations for your character in the form of hairstyles, going into battle without a helmet, and even playing as other races. This is a bit unnecessary when you consider the small amount of money gained per game and the somewhat high price of weapons and Star Cards (the only two categories that will actually help you in combat). It would have been a better idea to have character configurations available from the start instead of having to purchase each one for a price. Better yet, there could also be rewards for gaining a new level.
Alone Or Together
Single-player splits into two categories: Missions, in which the player battles the enemy AI or a friend, consist of each side attempting to kill as many opposing forces as possible in order to collect the most tokens and win the game; and Survival, where a team of one or two players must endure multiple waves of enemies before reinforcements come to the rescue. Both game modes also include an option to increase difficulty and add extra goals during the game to earn more credits.
Of the two selections, Survival is the more exciting option, not only due to the increasing number of soldiers and special units, but also because of the extra challenge of securing escape pods for extra power-ups. As an additional challenge, you can even choose to go through it alone on the harder levels and see how you fare against tougher opponents.
Missions is a mild version of team deathmatch, only because you're fighting enemy AI instead of a real player. In fact, you can even approach it as your own practice arena where you can try out various combinations of weapons, abilities, and even the game's unique Heroes before you play online.
Speaking of multiplayer, it's the main attraction. Nine modes are available, from the popular Assault Walker (which was shown way back at E3) to Heroes and Villains (a gameplay mode where players take the roles of characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and duke it out with minimal assistance from the traditional Rebel soldiers or Stormtroopers). Other modes include variations of Capture the Flag (Cargo), team deathmatch (Blast), and even a variation of the mechanic made famous by Evolve of multiple players against one powerful opponent (Hero Hunt). Various challenges are put forth by the developers such as killing a certain number of enemies with a headshot or spending a specified amount of time piloting a vehicle, and players are rewarded with a figurine for their digital diorama, featuring scale models of popular characters and ships from the franchise.
Of the nine options, I was content with only about two to three -- specifically Supremacy, Walker Assault, and Fighter Squadron. They had the biggest maps and the best action throughout the game, keeping the essence of what was great about the old Battlefront games: lots of players thrown into a large area and left to fight for one side or the other.
Even though you were but one of 40 players (or in the case of Fighter Squadron, 20), your contributions helped in the long fight, whether it was taking an objective point or shooting down enemy aircraft. Controlling Heroes or Villains like Han Solo and Emperor Palpatine were interesting, as they obviously brought some level of variety to the fight with their own special abilities, but their uniqueness made them an easy target. Sure, they could take out a few opponents, but a small barrage of blaster fire can easily whittle them down. Victory wasn't guaranteed either, and the opposing force could take advantage of a costly mistake even in the late stages to push back all of that hard work. It was intense and grueling, but after each match, I wanted to play again.
That wasn't the case with the other game modes. They featured smaller maps, and I didn't feel like I was playing a Battlefront game at all. Instead, it felt like I was just playing a generic multiplayer mode with a Star Wars shell on top. The biggest problem comes in respawning. Due to the size of these maps, the system can sometimes drop you in the middle of hostile territory, adding to the frustration. After I finished a round on modes like Droid Run or Cargo, I felt the urge to return to Supremacy or Walker Assault because those felt more like a fair fight instead of a quick slaughter from one side.
Wait And See
So out of a total of 21 selections across multiplayer and single-player, only four (Supremacy, Walker Assault, Fighter Squadron and Survival) were really worth the time. The rest didn't capture my attention, nor did they have any unique elements that made them unique to Star Wars Battlefront.
This brings it all back to DICE's delicate balance of attracting those who played the previous games in hopes of capturing that nostalgia factor, while also attracting players who have never played Battlefrontbefore. It pleases both crowds to a certain degree, but there isn't enough effort towards one side or the other.
For old Battlefront fans, a 40-player battle isn't enough, especially when past games featured 32 and 64 players in one map, not to mention that there aren’t enough of these large-scale battles in the new game.
For the multiplayer diehards, there's a basic foundation for a variety of multiplayer modes, but there's nothing uniquely appealing to them. The settings and characters might be different, but the mechanics are still the same, with no special twist or X-factor reeling them in to playing countless hours.
If it has anything going for it, it's presentation. Every level, from Hoth to Endor, is beautifully crafted and makes you feel like you're actually entering these fictional worlds. However, looks aren't enough. There has to be substance too, and right now, it's sorely lacking. Maybe it will come in future DLC packages, although that's another issue with the season pass already priced at $49.99. If anything, the best option is to wait until it gets cheaper if you really want to try it out, and cherry pick the DLC offerings. That is, if the DLC is even worth the money.
Rexly Peñaflorida II is a Contributor at Tom’s Hardware. He writes news on tech and hardware, but mostly focuses on gaming news. As a Chicagoan, he believes that deep dish pizza is real pizza and ketchup should never be on hot dogs. Ever. Also, Portillo’s is amazing.