Greatest hits albums can be a lot of fun. They’re full of hits, right? That’s the good stuff!
Greatest hits albums can also be a drag. They’re full of singles, right? That’s all the stuff you’ve heard 10,000 times before.
The new “Star Wars” game, “Star Wars Battlefront,” is a greatest hits album.
Fight Darth Vader as Luke Skywalker while a snowspeeder wraps a cable around the legs of an AT-AT on Hoth. “Whoa, that’s a lot of ‘Star Wars’ greatest hits right there,” you might say. And maybe for you, that’s very exciting. That’s understandable: This stuff looks pretty incredible, and it’s hugely enjoyable to experience.
At least for the first few spins.
Somewhere around the dozenth time I’d run between the hulking legs of an AT-AT (or maybe it was the seventh time I’d shot a stormtrooper off of a speeder bike?), “Star Wars Battlefront” lost its lustre.
Yes, it’s gorgeous. And yes, it’s the digital manifestation of the fantasy that every young “Star Wars” fan has played out with action figures. But “Star Wars Battlefront” just isn’t much more than a greatest hits album: a rehash of popular standouts with little soul behind the repackaging.
What is it?
Allow me to be frank: “Star Wars Battlefront” will more than suffice for most casual game fans who love “Star Wars.” You want a casual, fun game experience full of “Star Wars” references? This is your game.
So, what type of game is it?
- First and foremost: “Star Wars Battlefront” is a shooting game. The vast majority of the game has you playing as a random stormtrooper or rebel soldier, shooting laser blasters of varying types at enemies.
- Second, “Battlefront” is a flying game. There’s an entire mode dedicated to flying TIE fighters and X-Wings and all manner of spacecraft (yes, including the Millennium Falcon). This is also a shooting-focused mode, only you’re shooting down enemy ships instead of other people.
- Third, it’s all online multiplayer. This is very important: there is almost nothing to do in “Star Wars Battlefront” that isn’t played online against other actual human beings.
- There is a nominal bit of single-player that puts you (or you and some friends) in a multiplayer map where you have to fend off waves of computer-controlled enemies. It’s not so hot.
To continue my (somewhat tenuous) metaphor: like a greatest hits album, what’s there in “Star Wars Battlefront’ can be gobs of fun.
For example, while playing online, pick-ups are scattered throughout the world that offer a variety of bonuses.
One may give you a single shot with a rocket launcher; one may give you a chance to fly an X-Wing over the battlefield; and yet another will unlock “Hero” and “Villain” characters. These are your Luke Skywalkers, your Han Solos, your Boba Fetts, and Darth Vaders.
Since these are special characters, they get special abilities. Vader can throw his lightsaber, and Boba Fett has his signature jet pack. Princess Leia is a hero as well, and she can…shoot a gun? Offer a protective shield? All that to say that some of these special characters feel better thought out than others. While Skywalker is literally leaping all over the battlefield, cutting fools with his lightsaber and force-throwing others, Leia and Emperor Palpatine are lumbering along, feeling dopey.
“Star Wars: The Shooter”
Shooting laser guns sounds a lot more fun than it actually is, it turns out. I had no idea.
The world of “Star Wars” is all laser blasters, all the time. That’s fine for them, but it’s not so great if you’re playing a shooting game. In my 10-ish hours with the game so far, I’ve yet to encounter a gun that felt meaningfully different from the stock blaster you start with.
And that’s unfortunate, because the stock gun you start with just isn’t that fun to shoot. It’s kind of erratic, and who knows how many laser blasts it will take to take someone out.
The lack of weapon variety leads to less-than-thrilling scenarios where a shotgun (close quarters) or a sniper rifle (long range) might be more appropriate, but your best bet is to try and patiently fire your generic, mid-range blaster.
None of this is bad, per se, it’s just kind of generic.
The same applies to the flying mode, which puts players in iconic “Star Wars” spacecraft. But after the tenth or twelfth time you lock on and destroy an enemy, it’s lost much of its initial excitement. It no longer matters that you’re flying a Millennium Falcon because you’re holding down one trigger, firing with the other, and asking yourself, “Do I really want to do this again?”
Should you buy it?
Let’s not kid ourselves: if you like “Star Wars,” you’re going to buy this game. (I get it. I was going to buy “Fallout 4” regardless of what critics said.)
For you, know that more is coming in the form of four promised expansion packs, which you can order now for an additional $US50 on top of the $US60 the basic game costs. Hopefully that will help sate your burning desire for more “Star Wars” content as the glow from the upcoming movie’s launch fades throughout 2016.
For the rest of us, know what you’re getting into: a glorified “Star Wars” greatest hits album, with all the highs and lows that brings. You will smile as you slice through stormtroopers with Luke Skywalker’s light saber. You’ll marvel at the dense forest of Endor. But you’ll smile once or twice, and then you’ll have played it several times and your smile will fade. At least that’s what happened to me.
So, should you buy “Star Wars Battlefront?” Probably not, honestly. But you’re going to anyway, aren’t you? Yeah you are.
“Star Wars Battlefront” is now available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
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