We are a scant 17 days away from what will probably be the biggest moviegoing experience this generation. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already taking over pop culture, as toys and merchandise theories about Luke being a villain are thrown out there to satiate fans until the film’s release. Then, and only then, can they finally release the tension in their nerd bulges in a glorious synchronized climax.
Maybe the biggest of these stop gaps is Star Wars: Battlefront. A long-awaited sequel in the Battlefront series, the game drops you into battles on worlds from the Star Wars universe, like Hoth and Endor, and lets you play out your fantasies of sticking it to the Empire or wiping your ass with Rebel scum. You even have opportunities to play as heroes and villains such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. It’s the video game version of staging fights with your action figures as a kid.
So how does it stack up? The amount of enjoyment you get from Star Wars: Battlefront is largely dependent on how big of a Star Wars fan you are. Looked at as just a shooter, it’s really only an okay game. There are different weapons and abilities you can unlock, but many of the best ones (like a jet pack) don’t become available until you reach significantly higher ranks, which can make the first couple hours a slog. I also really hate how inadequate the radar feels compared to other first-person shooters.
But while the core gameplay mechanics may simply be standard, the game nails the details of running amok in the world of Star Wars. Everything from the look and sound of the blasters firing to the foliage on Endor is spot-on. There is an undeniable thrill as the John Williams score builds up as you take control of the Millennium Falcon during a dog fight. For any Star Wars fan, it’s probably the most immersive experience you’ll be able to have.
There is no campaign mode, which is a valid criticism that has been lobbied at the game even before it was released. Instead, Battlefront is all about the multiplayer and offers various modes. Blast is the most straightforward, with each side trying to rack up the most kills. Droid Run and Drop Zone are variations on King of the Hill, while Cargo is capture the flag. And while Walker Assault is meant to be the centerpiece mode, tasking each side with various objectives they need to complete in addition to blasting holes in their opponents, my favorite is probably Hero Hunt. In Hero Hunt, you have eight people in a match, with one of them being, say, Han Solo or Boba Fett, and the other seven teaming up to take him down. Whoever kills the hero/villain gets to be them next, and the chase begins anew.
Because of its smaller scale, it’s the perfect mode for a group of friends to play.
The game is also hilarious, especially with the inclusion of the hero and villain characters. There is no shortage of videos online depicting fails made all the funnier because it’s happening to Luke Skywalker. Emperor Palpatine has an M. Bison-like dash attack that looks stupid ridiculous, and I love it precisely for that reason. Just last night as I was playing with my brother, I watched as Slave I and the Millennium Falcon collided into each other in a mass explosion right in front of me. I laughed for a solid minute, because no matter how good the new Star Wars movie is, it will never include that scene.
That, really, is the magic of the game. The ability to smash all your different figures together on a mass scale and see what happens. And the more I’ve played, the more I can kind of understand why EA did not include a campaign mode. Including a single-player campaign a la Call of Duty seems like a no-brainer considering the richness of the Star Wars universe. But that would mean sticking to a script, when the most fun aspects of the game come from watching things happen that never would in a proper Star Wars story.
Star Wars: Battlefront is an imperfect game, and if you don’t care much for Star Wars it’s one you should pass up. But for any fans of the galaxy far, far away, it’s one hell of an entertaining way to pass the time until The Force Awakens.