When I saw the first teasers for this on YouTube I was pretty impressed by how it looked. I’ve played many StarWars games in my time and there are a lot of them. Many didn’t quite hit the mark but at the same time there are others that have elements – that magic – in them. Obviously, nobody goes past PC’s Tie Fighter and X-Wing. Then X-Wing VS Tie Fighter which was one of the first games that I played more in a multiplayer-only context. It was within that game that a group came to be known as The Guardians of The New Republic (GNR), one of the Internet’s finest XvT clans. I flew in the Australian squadron, Black Talon. Despite the reviews I actually had a lot of time for X-Wing alliance, too. It was a nice visual update to the classic formula and I had nothing against the story. On the ground it was Jedi Knight II.
EA’s recently released StarWars: Battlefront would be the game GNR would be playing today, if the clan still existed. The trouble with reviewing EA / DICE stuff is all the politics around it. Nuts to that, I say. Here is why it’s cool:
The graphics. I spent a number of rounds just running around looking at the scenery. I understand it’s been nominated in the best-clovers-in-a-video-game category and it should win, hands down. I think the forest moon of Endor is the one that does it. I’m running it on ultra settings, on a 144hz monitor, and I don’t have anything further to ask for. It’s incredible. Closely linked to graphics is the actual textures and models, all faithfully recreated and applied in high detail. They really are digitised versions of the movie sets, spread out. And of course it’s the little things. I especially liked the direct throwback to Ralph Macquarie’s Endor concept art. Apart from high in the trees, there are also Ewoks that have their villages set out on the lakes of the planet. They’ve used this as a backdrop for the map and it leaves me with no doubt in my mind that the people that made this game love StarWars and wanted to do this right. And the first time you see an AT-AT lumbering towards you (even in the distance), you’ll be afraid.
The sound. The Battlefield franchise has always had very good SFX. They really started to come to the fore in BF3. SW BattleFront is the same approach to sound design, but with the added character and impact that are is genius of Ben Burt sound. They even include the “squad shield” which has come directly from the Gungan technology, but without the Gungans. I always thought they looked sweet and sounded awesome (the shields, not the Gungans). Then, in the midst of all the chaos an orbital strike rains down and you know you’re listening to a soundpack put together by people who know what they’re doing.
With all that said, there are some things to bear in mind. First of all, this is a Battlefront game but it it’s also StarWars IP so it has to be accessible to a younger demographic – the gameplay is not deep, at least in public matches. I’ve seen people use a range of different weapons to good effect but they feel quite similar and a lot of them you won’t use after levelling up. Player population on PC is sometimes an issue too, here in Australia. I hesitate to say that because it only contributes to the problem but it highlights an issue – the game lobbies don’t give enough opportunity to interact with other players. I assume this is why I don’t see many clans and why the community feels fragmented. It would be easy (I assume) to at least include a basic chat system and it would help a lot. Also, this server arrangement is flavour of the day but it would be a lot, lot better if you were able to choose which server to play on. The amount of game modes available is also too varied as it fragments the player population – that said most people gravitate towards Walker Assault and Supremacy (both because they’re good modes and because you’re more likely to find a full game). The Hero characters can be a bit awkward to play as (Han and Bobba Fett are the easiest I find) but they add an extra dimension to the game, too.
It looks like there are a number of DLC packs to come and at this stage I’m not sure what I’ll do. It depends on the price and I’ve already given EA so many of my shiny dollars over the years. Then again the problem might be solved for me ala the devs of Mortal Kombat X deciding not to release the upcoming Kombat pack on PC. I actually would have paid just to play as the Xenomorph.
Overall, I’d give StarWars: Battlefront 6.5 out of 10 Womp Rats.