The Force is real. It’s the feeling you get when you catch a glimpse of a lightsaber or hear a few bars of John Williams’s theme song; a feeling that incites Proustian flashbacks of childlike wonder. For generations of moviegoers, you cannot avoid Star Wars, and you can’t avoid that feeling.
You get that feeling a lot while playing “Star Wars Battlefront,” and your enjoyment of the game is a direct result of how strong that feeling is.
“Battlefront” is a first-person shooter, though you can play in third-person if you’d like. It’s an online multiplayer game, though there are a couple of offline modes to help you get acquainted, and it’s made by DICE, the team behind the “Battlefield” series. That last part is a big deal, because exclusives like “Halo” aside, there are really only two multiplayer shooters that anyone cares about: “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield.” Each series has been around for years and each has a loyal fan base. While Activision now has three separate development teams working on the “Call of Duty” cash cow, DICE is involved in the development of every “Battlefield” game. And that expertise has come to the new “Battlefront.”
It’s been a decade since “Battlefront2,” an eternity in the video game world, and rumors of a “Battlefront3” circulated for years but never came to pass. When EA announced back in 2013 that it had an exclusive deal with Disney to make Star Wars games, they announced that DICE had something cooking. At E3 that year, EA announced “Star Wars Battlefront,” which was exciting for pretty much everyone involved. Fans of the series lost their minds, but the team at DICE was equally excited about the opportunity to take a stab at George Lucas’s expansive universe. They didn’t show much in 2013, but excitement has slowly ramped up for the past two years—excitement that has continued to build around the Star Wars property in general. We’re now less than a month away from The Force Awakens, and the release of “Battlefront” is perfectly poised to launch that hype into the stratosphere.
Each and every moment in the game is designed to make you think of Star Wars. It’s masterfully constructed. On some level, it doesn’t even matter if the game is any good, because it captures an essence. It’s a gorgeous game, to be sure, one of the best looking ones on consoles today. But it’s not just about how pretty the trees look or how rocky the cave walls are. It’s not even about how accurate every single piece of the world is. It’s about the fact that oftentimes you can look up at the sky and see TIE fighters battling X-wings or giant ships hovering. In some modes, there are people in those aircraft, but even when there aren’t, it makes you feel like the battle you’re waging is part of something much bigger; it makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a space war.
The costumes and weapons and locations are near-perfect re-creations of those from the films, as DICE was given unprecedented access to the Star Wars vault. They used all sorts of high-tech gadgetry to bring the original items into the digital world exactly how you remember them. But it’s actually not the visuals that make “Battlefront” feel unique—it’s the sound design. These days, most players are numb to the sounds of gunfire in video games. But that’s not the case in “Battlefront.” Every time you fire a laser blaster or wield a lightsaber, it evokes that special Star Wars feeling.
Whereas most first-person shooters strive for a heightened sense of reality—with video game violence increasingly resembling real-life carnage—“Battlefront” provides the digital equivalent of running around the park with plastic lightsabers and blaster guns with your friends. It’s pure wish fulfillment, and that extends to the variety of modes. There isn’t a mind-boggling amount of content in “Battlefront,” so your long-term enjoyment will be determined primarily by how well the fundamentals of the package work for you. But there are modes with TIE fighter vs. X-wing dogfights aside from the usual ground battles, and there are even a few modes where players can be reincarnated as Darth Vader or Han Solo or some other famous hero/villain from the series.
And in those moments, you’ve got a truly unique Star Wars game. The basic act of playing “Battlefront” feels like playing “Battlefield” or pretty much any other modern-day shooter. But you can’t Force Choke someone in “Battlefield” before striking them with your lightsaber. And the ability to do that to random strangers and have it feel right is the culmination of decades of waiting and hoping. We’ve had plenty of Star Wars games—some of them quite good—but hardware limitations have kept developers from truly capturing that feeling. “Battlefront” is the first game to do it. Hopefully it’s not the last.