The TV spot for Star Wars Battlefront sums things up nicely.
A middle-aged guy sits in his office reminiscing with his Kenner Toys’ R2-D2 action figure. He’s too old to be playing with toys but – as with so many of us in our thirties – he misses the escapism and fun of acting out imaginary adventures with the Rebellion and Empire.
Then in steps Star Wars Battlefront, the acceptable way for an adult to relive their childhood fantasies.
The advertisement tells you exactly who Star Wars Battlefront is aimed at, and why it’s is such a simple and slender experience.
It also explains why the game has received brickbats from some corners. It’s no Halo. It’s not a game to grind away at, Destiny style. And it’s not as hardcore as Call of Duty or Counterstrike.
Star Wars Battlefront is a play-set, an interactive toy aimed at players of all levels, and instead of being criticised for what it isn’t, the game should be praised for what it is; an evocative experience that successfully combines nostalgia, quick thrills and top-notch production values into a ‘one size fits all’ package.
There’s no point hiding it: I suck at shooters, particularly at online, deathmatch-centred titles. But despite the criticism it has received, Star Wars Battlefront has somehow managed to become one of the few modern multiplayer shooters I have enjoyed – another being Splatoon.
Splatoon works for me because the shooting element is just one component of its expertly constructed gameplay system. Star Wars Battlefront has a smaller feature set but also works by being very tightly designed, trimmed of flab and excess. Like Nintendo’s paint ‘em up it successfully removes layers of complexity to create a free-wheeling, accessible experience that is completely welcoming to a player of my age, attitude and ability.
Battlefront is still a competitive game – I die just as much as I do in Call of Duty – but it never feels quite as punishing or cruel. Whether it’s by good design or good fortune the game ensures that average players still experience enough moments of exhilaration to be satisfied – be it with a long distance headshot, or a close quarters fumble with a Thermal Detonator.
These moments more than compensate for coming bang last on the scoreboard, and it’s here that the Star Wars wrapper steps in to give the game a leg up.
Star Wars Battlefront is reminiscent of the N64’s GoldenEye 007 in how it completely understands its licence and translates it to a video game experience. Every zap of laser fire and explosive pop comes straight from the movies, with DICE avoiding the temptation to amp things up. It’s expansive and spectacular but also homely, just like the original Star Wars films. Even the character animations evoke the movements of jobbing extras rather than highly trained solders.
Battlefront’s recreation of Star Wars certainly helps to make the experience aesthetically enjoyable – and it would be foolish to deny the importance of this aspect – but spectacle alone is not enough to make the game great. Luckily Battlefront also benefits from excellent design in other areas.
Its map design is superb, with the topography of each planet being used naturally but creatively. The tight corridors of Hoth’s cave interiors evoke GoldenEye’s Facility, offering opportunity to play hide and seek. And the ground level foliage and tree-top villages of Endor provide the freedom to combine camouflaged stalking with long-range sniping.
Like Splatoon it’s also successful in providing excitement in bite sized portions – again something appreciated by players my age. Knowing that three matches of the Battlefront’s Blast Mode can be completed in under 30 minutes ensures the game fits perfectly into the daily grind.
Of the other modes, the thrilling Walker Assault is perhaps the best. It adds just enough structure – and some AT-ATs – to the experience but doesn’t ruin the moment to moment pleasures of shooting a Stormtrooper up the arse with a E-11 blaster. It’s also the mode that comes closest to recreating those childhood action figure battles.
Battlefront also manages to offer up a fairly decent sequel to Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, with a solid flight model that lends itself to giddying games of cat and mouse. Hopefully the mode will be fleshed out with specific moments from the movies, via DLC.
Ah yes, DLC.
The other criticism levelled at the game is that it feels like a significant chunk of content has been held back. Whilst it’s true that the on-disc content doesn’t compare to the likes of Fallout 4 or The Witcher 3, I would argue that overall package provides plenty of value. I would hope that the amount of content included is – in part – due to aggressive development timescales, rather than being a blatant cash grab. If Battlefront’s Season Pass can justify it’s exorbitant price by offering enough content to see engage my interest throughout 2016, I’ll be happy.
Star Wars Battlefront might be for dummies but it’s the perfect modern Star Wars game. Like The Force Awakens it may rely heavily on nostalgia, but it’s also more than capable of providing memorable moments of its own.