Star Wars video games have been massively popular for some time, the two most popular franchises being the hack ‘n slash Force Unleashed series, and the shooter style Battlefront titles. Star Wars Battlefront is headed for a 2015 reboot, brought to you by Battlefield developers DICE. A decade on from what became a cult classic among Star Wars and video game fans alike, will EA bring another classic along, or are they going to repeat some of the mistakes that lead to the failure of Battlefield: Hardline?
One of the original criticisms observers levelled at the new Battlefront was that it was merely a Battlefield game with a Star Wars skin. This criticism probably originates from a similar complaint about Hardline, where a very similar foundation to Battlefield 4 was used in Hardline‘s cops and robbers “spin-off” – to such an extent that it appeared to be almost the same game apart from character models and map design.
A lot of fans felt that such minor changes didn’t warrant asking the full price for another title, especially when the amount of time that passed seemed to justify a larger game that had more going for it than improved graphics. This was a fairly legitimate complaint, and the proof lies in Hardline’s failure to capture the community’s attention for very long and that it didn’t show the legs that the core BF series did. There was definitely a possibility that DICE may have made the same mistake with Battlefront, but after getting some hands on time with it at rAge 2015, it looks like they avoided that trap.
The first part of the criticism is that it does in fact look like BF hiding in a stormtrooper costume.; but is that such a bad thing? Battlefield games, when DICE has eventually fixed hit detection bugs and server issues, are by and large some of the most enjoyable FPS games around. The large scale and novel objectives in different game modes lend themselves quite well to the design of the Battlefield series. The other positive that DICE can draw on is that the Star Wars universe is so widely loved that it will draw some players that may not ordinarily play the Battlefield titles. The maps available at rAge and on the released beta all look sufficiently different and improved from what has been included in previous DICE developed games, so much so that it’s quite safe to say that Battlefront will be more Jedi than Jar Jar.
The other main area where Battlefront will need to sufficiently differentiate itself from Battlefield is in the gameplay, which it appears to do from the content we have access to so far.
Access to a jet pack that can fling your character a fair distance across the large maps isn’t really something that has appeared in any of DICE’s previous titles, although the grappling hook from Hardline served a similar function. But, let’s face it, channeling your inner Boba Fett on Tattooine feels so much better than zip-lining around some random mock-up of a North American city.
The weapons found in Battlefront also incorporate some different mechanics, where ammo isn’t as big of a concern because with blasters, you don’t have ammo – you have an overheating mechanism instead, where your weapon will need to cool down after too much continuous fire. As far as feel is concerned, it’s clear that this is a DICE project, but the handling of the weapons doesn’t feel as though they’ve borrowed to heavily; recoil particularly feels like it’s been tailored.
Novel environments and differentiated gameplay: check. So what are some of the problems with Battlefront? The first is that EA is involved as opposed to LucasArts. Now, in the current gaming environment it is the norm to release a fairly modest launch day game and to siphon money out of consumers every 3-5 months with DLC. Ahhh, dreaded DLC. Which Battlefront will have, and possibly a lot of it.
It doesn’t bode well when DLC is announced before the standard game is even released, another common occurrence these days. What any new arrivals to Battlefront should know beforehand is that you’ll receive a decent game at launch, but there will definitely additional content released over the next 12-18 months that a player will need to purchase to gain access to new weapons and different game modes or maps, especially when your friends pick up the content and you get left out.
As a consumer that played Bad Company 2, where additional maps were occasionally added for free, paying 20% of a game’s value for expansions is a little unpleasant. And just like when you were in school, and all the kids started getting those trendy shoes with lights in the soles, eventually you’ll start feeling the itch to get that expansion so you can try out that new rifle everyone mentioned, or that new game mode that 5 YouTube reviewers say is the best thing since Pod races. Is it worth essentially buying a game twice, to get access to all the content that will be released after its launch? That’s a decision gamers will have to make for themselves.
I’ve left the biggest problem for last, as it might be the most relevant in whether or not non-FPS players pick up this title. It has no campaign mode. Online and a co-op “horde” mode are what will be available. No story mode whatsoever. With a universe as expansive and with as many characters, sub plots and fan favorite moments, lacking a campaign mode is a massive miss in my opinion, and an opinion that is shared by a fair few others. In the FPS genre, the online mode is everything at the moment. So much so that a lot of the campaign modes seem like tacked on afterthoughts, but to exclude it completely in favor of the online mode for a franchise like Star Wars will discourage a lot of potential buyers.
The online modes will be well worth the price of admission, but knowing DICE’s history with Battlefield, where buggy and frustrating issues plague the initial months of the game’s launch, was it really such a good idea for DICE to put all their eggs in a basket they frequently neglect?