Tuesday November 17th, 2015

It’s been almost 40 years since Star Wars debuted in theaters. In the years since, fans have clamored for a definitive franchise video game, one that captures the story, characters and energy that have defined the series. Is Star Wars Battlefront that game?

A gorgeous game, Battlefront perfectly captures the spirit of the Star Wars universe—from the John Williams-composed opening to the Ewok huts hidden among the trees on the Endor level—but it feels incomplete. And while a seemingly unfinished product can still be fun (a lot of fun), it may fall flat for those expecting “a new hope” on the video game front.

At its core, Battlefront is a multiplayer game. And that’s really where it hits its stride. Set across four maps—Hoth, Endor, Tatooine and Sullust—multiplayer let’s you duke it out on the ground or in the skies. The latter is a real treat. After selecting one of the trademark vehicles you must navigate the unfriendly skies. Fighting for the Alliance? You can avoid homing missiles by barrel-rolling an X-wing. End up on the dark side? You can chase after the Millennium Falcon in a TIE fighter. With easy-to-pick-up controls, it’s the most fun I’ve had in space since Star Fox 64.

The boots-on-the-ground battles are more standard shooter fare. Whether playing the traditional battle mode or the game’s version of capture the flag, Battlefront feels like most other shooters on the market … until you find a hero. They are scattered throughout the field in traditional battles, and you can also select hero-based multiplayer modes. The initial release of the game includes six heroes: Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett on the Empire side; Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia on the Rebel side. Each character has their own set of skills, and while fighting with a lightsaber is what every Star Wars fan dreams of, Boba Fett is the real treasure with his jetpack and flamethrower. If you're a fan of the series, this feature alone could be reason to purchase the game.

If multiplayer is Chewbacca (robust and entertaining), single-player is Jar Jar Binks (feeble and irksome). There’s no storyline mode. Instead, you can select between training (an enjoyable introduction to the vehicles of the game, which lacks replay value), battle or survival. The former is a poor-man’s version of multiplayer with fellow gamers replaced by bots; the latter pits you against wave after wave of bots, with the difficulty increasing each round. (You can play both of these modes cooperatively with a friend, which is a nice bonus, but, to me, that only underscores how lacking the single-player experience is here.) While each one of these modes is a nice warm-up for multiplayer, they provide little to keep you coming back.

So, if multiplayer is a hoot, why does Battlefront feel like it misses the mark? Because the game could be so much more. The multiplayer maps are jaw-dropping in their detail and breadth, but there are only four worlds. Even if the footprints are different in different modes, it feels like EA under-delivered here. It plans to remedy this in a series of expansion packs (an industry standard at this point), but should you really have to pay $110 ($60 upfront, $50 for the season pass) to experience a fully fleshed-out game?

Make no mistake: Battlefront is a dream for hardcore Star Wars fans. The details are brilliant, the environments are gorgeous and it’s a joy to play as Luke, Han or Vader. For the casual fan, however, there may not be enough content to justify the purchase.

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