Star Wars Battlefront (2015) Was Far Better Than You Probably Heard

Star Wars Battlefront EA

I spent an embarrassing amount of time with EA’s 2015 reboot of Star Wars Battlefront.

I did enjoy the game’s free open beta beforehand, so when the full game launched to mediocre-to-poor reviews, I wasn’t dismayed; I already knew this was going to be something I’d love. In fact, as thoroughly as I played the overwhelmingly massive Witcher 3 (which was a masterpiece, by the way), I think Star Wars Battlefront may be responsible for stealing more of my time.

There are two major facets to why I believe this game was reviewed poorly. I don’t want to get too deep into it (that’s a topic that could fill it’s own article on its own), so I’ll just mention those briefly.

  1. EA is bad at communicating with its customers. They made very little effort to clear up the cloud of misinformation that was perpetually swirling around Star Wars Battlefront.
  2. The gaming audience is obsessed with numbers, sometimes to their own detriment. By this I mean that the quantity of things inside a game has more weight than the quality of those things, because quantity can be, well, easily quantified, while quality is a trickier and more nuanced thing to talk about.

So what we ended up with was a game that was penalized — by game critics, at least — for prioritizing quality over quantity.

Star Wars Battlefront EA

Note that many of the criticisms about multiplayer’s “lack of depth” are actually referring to quantifiable depth — number of customization options, number of maps, number of weapons, number of levels in the progression hierarchy, etc. What they’re not referring to is the unquantifiable amount of strategy or skill involved in becoming a true master of its multiplayer experience, or the amount of care put into perfecting the actual game mechanics so that becoming that true master actually feels really good.

And this “good feeling” is something I know from firsthand experience, because I did become the true master I was talking about. (My username is froshes32.)

Battlefront Brag

But I come from a very strong multiplayer shooter background. I can play this stuff all day long without getting tired of it, and I would assume that’s true of many people who prefer multiplayer shooters over other game genres.

I get the feeling that that most of the people who reviewed Star Wars Battlefront weren’t really interested in multiplayer shooters in the first place. And that’s totally fine. I imagine Star Wars Battlefront wasn’t the game most Star Wars fanatics were hoping for — a lot of people wanted a vast single-player campaign, or a lengthy RPG set in the Star Wars universe, or maybe even an open world game.

But the way critics talked about that disappointment was by nitpicking the quantity of things in the game while ignoring how intensely polished and well-implemented those things were. And I think that sent the wrong message to both the gaming audience and the people who make games.

Personally, I would much rather play a smaller-scale game where every little detail is painstakingly designed than a massive game where the details are just excuses to add bullet points to the description the back of the box.

Star Wars Battlefront EA

Star Wars Battlefront remains one of the slickest, tightest, most fluid first-person shooters I’ve ever played. Movement feels incredibly smooth, and button mapping is virtually flawless. The addition of the Jump Pack, a burstfire jetpack that allows for humongous leaps, makes terrain traversal an adrenaline-pumping thrill. The old school power-up system has an arcadey feel that very few current games can re-create.

And the map design is unparalleled. Every map is specifically designed to force players into encounters with the enemy, which is the entire point of multiplayer games. There’s a natural flow that creates these encounters organically, and I don’t think that was praised — or even understood — enough by critics.

Star Wars Battlefront also contains a hero system where players can find power-ups that will let them play as classic characters like Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and freaking Boba Fett. Battlefront 2 (developed by Pandemic back in the mid 2000s) had heros, but they were basically limited-time death machines that players with high kill counts could tap into. The 2015 Battlefront reboot, however, makes a lot of very smart decisions in how those heroes are implemented.

Star Wars Battlefront EA

Most importantly, it creates a delicate balance, so each character has unique strengths — as well as unique weaknesses that other heroes can exploit. Every character has his or her own playstyle, and each of these varied playstyles has its own learning curve. This gives a huge amount of (non-quantifiable) depth to encounters between two opposing heroes. A player familiar with Leia’s defensive playstyle, for example, can survive in a skirmish against Boba Fett or Palpatine for a considerable amount of time. Non-Force-wielding characters possess abilities that give them a fighting chance against the Jedi and Sith characters in the game, so Han Solo won’t feel completely underpowered in battles against Darth Vader.

One of the positives that did receive praise in many of reviews was just how painstakingly accurate this representation of the Star Wars universe is. And I’ve always agreed with at least that much.

Here’s an in-game screenshot I took:

Star Wars Battlefront

Compare that to this image from The Empire Strikes Back:

Hoth - The Empire Strikes Back

The sights and sounds of Star Wars Battlefront are the sights and sounds of Star Wars period — and I think very few people could make a compelling argument to the contrary.

But the most important — and most successful — element, at least in my opinion, is how comfortable all of this feels. For a very long time, this was the game that I would flip on after a bad day at work because it would almost instantly make me happier. This game was my comfort food.

For me, it never mattered how many maps the game had at launch, because every single one of those maps was almost infinitely enjoyable and replayable. And I’m saying this as a guy with almost 200 hours of play time invested into 2015’s version of Star Wars Battlefront.

Thankfully, the game sold well enough that a sequel is on its way. I just hope the sequel lives up to the first one, and that if it does, critics will take care to recognize the things it does well beyond a bunch of silly numbers.