Monday 19 March 2018

Star Wars Battlefront review: The Force is strong . . . while it lasts

Star Wars Battlefront (XOne/PS4/PC); rating: 8/10; Age: 16+

Star Wars Battlefront: The aerial dogfights pale beside the ground-based action
Star Wars Battlefront: The aerial dogfights pale beside the ground-based action
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

BATTLEFRONT doesn’t play by the rules. It doesn’t follow fashion. It doesn't even pay much heed to its history as a decade-old team-based shooter franchise.

It exists in its own world – but what a world that is, a crisply rendered, gloriously soundtracked facsimile of a handful of key Star Wars locations in which to do battle with heroes and villains. Hoth, Endor, Tatooine, Vader, Palpatine, Skywalker, Millennium Falcon – the names alone will be enough to give fans a shiver.

Unlike many modern shooters, Battlefront developer DICE attempts to tell no story bar the ones you write yourself. Nor is the game crammed with dozens of weapons or a complex levelling-up system.

Instead, it presents a nostalgic playground filled with echoes of the original trilogy and invites to you to toy with its box of tricks. And when it works, it works magnificently.

Star Wars Battlefront: Gorgeous locations, frantic action
Star Wars Battlefront: Gorgeous locations, frantic action

Single-player mode hasn’t much going for it, save to serve as a tutorial for the basic mechanics, to teach you the 12 maps and to introduce the recharging perks system (eg, jetpack, automated gun turret, etc). Kudos, though, for the old-school nod to split-screen enthusiasts who like to game in the same room.

Multiplayer changes everything, with Supremacy mode the standout. Up to 40 players tussle for three control points on the map. It’s thrilling stuff, with some players on the ground, some in aircraft and occasionally an appearance from the likes of Luke or Darth. These superheroes or villains can easily turn the tide of the battle so, thankfully, the power-ups that turn players into one or other are shortlived and relatively scarce.

Star Wars Battlefront: Be afraid of Vader, be very afraid
Star Wars Battlefront: Be afraid of Vader, be very afraid

One mode pits X-Wings versus TIE Fighters in an aerial dogfight but it turns out much less fun than you’d expect thanks to unremarkable handling.

A series of less crowded ground-based fights including 6-vs-6 and 3-vs-3 provide a modicum of variety but nothing tops the sensory overload of the 20-vs-20 Supremacy mode and its close analogue Walker Assault featuring lumbering AT-ATs.

Yet there’s a slight hollowness at Battlefront’s core. The shooting lacks the satisfying precision of, say, Destiny, and the limited number of maps soon becomes overfamiliar.

Given that Battlefront is a close cousin of DICE’s revered Battlefield series, the lack of strategic options ranks as a disappointment. Limited customisation and loadout variety indicate that DICE doesn’t want to alienate a mainstream audience with overcomplication. But the decision limits the game’s long-term appeal.

More maps and modes are promised but, for now, Battlefront proves a shallow though enjoyable romp.


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