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Last updateThu, 20 Apr 2017 10am

Entertainment

“Star Wars Battlefront”: No Stars, No Wars

Starwars BattlefrontEarlier in the semester, I wrote a feature on video game preorders in which I mention Star Wars Battlefront. I cautioned readers away from preordering Battlefront, citing questionable business practices of the game’s publisher. I also warned of potential bugs/balance issues, and that this new Battlefront title may bear very little resemblance to the original Star Wars Battlefront titles on which it is based. I finished on a positive note, stating that Battlefront would probably be a great, albeit flawed, game, due to Dice being the developer (Dice is known for the wildly successful Battlefield series). After spending a large number of hours playing it, I can say that I was very wrong about Star Wars Battlefront. It is not a great game, and, for most gamers, isn’t even worth playing.

Let’s start off positive. There are two things Battlefront nails: graphics and sound. Visually, this is the most impressive representation of the Star Wars universe that I have ever seen (be it in games, movies, or animated television series). Dice put a lot of effort into allowing players to customize the game’s graphics for their computers. In a gaming industry where console titles dominate sales, it’s impressive that they did this. When I should have been storming an Imperial bunker, I was occasionally stopping to watch AT-AT Walkers blow up my fellow rebels or stare at Endor’s foliage; the graphics were just that good. I played Star Wars Battlefront on my PC at max graphics, and you’ll need a very powerful PC to do that, but from what I’ve heard the console version’s graphics are quite phenomenal. If any gaming outlets give rewards for best graphics this year, I would expect Battlefront to be the front-runner. As for the sound, it’s basically an updated version of the original Star Wars trilogy. Imagine those sorts of sound effects, and the same orchestral score.

Now onto the bad/questionable and, unfortunately, there is a lot of that. When I say that Star Wars Battlefront lacks stars and wars, I am referring to the removal of two in-game features. Space battles (stars), a staple of the Star Wars franchise which was present in Star Wars Battlefront 2, are not included in this, the supposedly newer-and-better reboot of the series. Large-scale conflicts (wars) are also not in this game; battles feel much more simplistic and are limited in scope (closer to Call of Duty than previous Battlefield or Battlefront titles). The inability to customize your weapons (with attachments like sights/scopes) and the inclusion of only 11 weapons at launch further contribute to the shallow/simplistic tone.

My biggest issue with this game is its horrendous balance. Dynamic strategy and skill have been replaced with repetition and dumb luck, respectively. In Battlefield games, for which Dice is best known, modes like conquest and rush allow for dynamic strategy; even the 10-year-old original Star Wars Battlefront allowed for more complicated strategy than is available here. In walker assault, the games are wildly predictable and imbalanced as nine out of 10 times the rebels will win. You have two sides fighting over two control points—at certain times these points are easy to hold (typically when the AT-ATs are far away), and other times, you’re just rushing forward to be massacred.

Most games play out exactly the same way, and you very rarely feel like you’re contributing. It’s not like Battlefield 4, where a command structure is assigned and decisions have an impact of the battle. You (or your leader) might notice that the enemy is congregated over one point, and that your team has the option to abandon that fight, split up, then take and control the other four points. Even if the game did allow such decisions impact, without squads, command structure, or an option for in-game voice chat, your ability to communicate and strategize is further limited. Typically, the only one who does contribute is the one who finds a hero and/or vehicle power-up, and the chances of finding this are very random.

As for skill being replaced by luck, Battlefront’s in-game blaster weapons are actually inaccurate all on their own due to exaggerated projectile spread, and due to reduced recoil, skill’s impact is minimized. In most games, there is a dual reliance on recoil and spread. You determine the accuracy of various weapons with your ability to aim and control recoil, and spread puts some measure of randomness into the equation; this way no matter how good you are at controlling recoil, certain weapons will only be effective at certain ranges. Let’s not forget bullet-sponge heroes, like Luke Skywalker or Boba Fett, who take about 100 shots to kill (literally). Heroes typically get a minimum of 10 kills each time they spawn.

With regards to value, for $60 you get a game that has essentially 1.5 good game modes (walker assault is fun, the other mode, supremacy, is a slightly altered version of it). On those 1.5 game modes, there are effectively four good maps. EA claims that it has 12 maps, but most of those are small maps on unpopular modes that I can’t even find matches. Either EA’s matchmaking system is broken or literally no one is playing these modes, but given its impressive sales, the latter seems unlikely. If these 12 maps were all playable on walker assault, EA would have met the minimum for what a $60 game should offer, at least in my mind. Instead they’re selling a season pass for another $60, which will supposedly come with 16 additional maps (which I translate to mean only five or six).

EA mentioned that they were doing away with paid shortcut bundles (in which they unlock everything in the game for money), which I was happy to hear. What they didn’t mention was that the “deluxe edition” of Star Wars Battlefront (which costs $10 extra) comes with one of the best weapons in-game, so that those who pay extra get a marked advantage over those who “only” pay $60. With Battlefront, EA gives you less and asks for more; they started doing this a while ago (back with Battlefield 4), but this is a new low.

According to metacritic, Star Wars Battlefront has an average score of 71/100, to which 17 critics contributed. The highest score was from IGN, and was an 8/10.  According to user reviews, Star Wars Battlefront is a 3.5/10 game (935 users contributed to this score). Whether or not 3.5/10 is a fair score (it isn’t) it shows how upset people are by Battlefront. I personally feel that Star Wars Battlefront deserves a 6/10. It can occasionally be fun and it’s beautiful, but frustrating in-game mechanics make it a third-rate shooter. Despite my harsh criticism, I know that at some point, I’ll play Battlefront again due to the graphics (even if only for a few hours). Star Wars Battlefront is clearly to its predecessors what the Star Wars prequel series was to the original trilogy (in my aforementioned preorder feature, I stated that this may be the case). I would only recommend a $60 copy of Star Wars Battlefront to the most hardcore of Star Wars fans, and even then for only 10 hours. Star Wars Battlefront’s entertainment value pretty much explodes after very little use, much like the Death Star (oh yeah, spoiler alert…).

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