It’s fair to say that, since the game’s launch last November, Star Wars Battlefront has struggled when it comes to downloadable content and player perception. EA and DICE hurtled straight out of the blocks with their £60 year-long plan, vowing to deliver new modes, maps, weapons, and more.
We’re now three expansion packs deep and Battlefront is looking rather different than it did last year. In that time, we’ve explored iconic locales from the original trilogy and sampled a somewhat restricted cluster of new modes. From a purely gameplay perspective, the inclusion of various weapon types and Star Cards have managed to keep things fresh, forcing players to think twice about their current loadout.
Not all changes have been entirely beneficial for the fans, mind you. There’s a tangible sense of apathy clinging to Jabba and his Hutt Contracts – taxing challenges used to gate off new blasters and equipment. As touched on before, the new game modes introduced via paid DLC feel cordoned off from the rest of the game.
Many personal Battlefront highlights have come from tense rounds of Extraction and Sabotage. However, none of the game’s stock maps have been retrofitted to accommodate these new modes. The same goes for Battle Stations, the game’s newest (and biggest) match type.
Split into three parts, it kicks off with a space battle surrounding the Death Star. Rebels and Imperials face-off as the attacker try to down a Star Destroyer. If successful, the Rebels will land a transport ship inside Vader’s moon-like fortress. Switching from air to land, and the Imperials are on the defensive once again, tasked with stopping R2-D2 from reaching an extraction point. If a Rebel manages to break through and activate the droid, it will make a beeline for the objective, though it can be stopped if damaged badly. If R2 manages to escape, players are treated to yet another space battle. Unlike the first round, things are a little different. This time, Darth Vader and his TIE pilots are actively hunting down X-Wings. With intel on the Death Star’s weak points, these Rebel targets must enter its confined trenches in search of a weak spot.
Having played several matches, it’s perhaps the only game mode I won’t make a point of going back to. At launch, Battlefront’s dogfights were a welcome distraction though not an essential part of the experience. While the core shooting gameplay has been expanded and refined, dogfighting feels incredibly basic by comparison. And although the escort-style round can be fun, it barely holds a candle to Extraction or Sabotage. What’s worse is that, in order to even get to this new mode, players are forced to wade through that initial air conflict.
It’s a shame, as the Death Star has quite a bit to offer. A congested network of narrow tunnels occasionally open into larger halls and command decks though, for most part, you’ll be fighting close quarters. Once again DICE has absolutely nailed the sights and sounds of the original Star Wars trilogy. Take a moment to explore and you’ll find a number of familiar locales embedded within each map.
Death Star’s new blasters and Star Cards helped to mask my disappointment somewhat. Unlike many of Battlefront’s stock weapons, the K-16 Bryar Pistol and TR-50 Heavy Repeater come with a secondary fire option. Naturally, this makes them two of the most powerful and versatile guns in the game’s arsenal. Players have already taken an extreme liking to the TR-50. While competent enough as a mid-range blaster, it doubles up as a devastating grenade launcher. Fairly easy to aim, these shots will kill on impact with decent spread damage. Although a tiny bit cumbersome it is now my go-to choice, as it is many players. Enjoy it while you can though; I’d be extremely surprised if DICE didn’t have a nerf in the pipeline.
The new Star Cards are also pretty cool despite lacking any sort of originality. The laser trip mine is self-explanatory, helping defenders seal off doorways from careless enemies. The same can be said of the medical droid, reviving any nearby troops in desperate need of a pick-me-up.
If you love Battlefront’s air combat then Death Star is probably the expansion you’ve been waiting for. For everyone else, myself included, it feels as though DICE have squandered one of Star Wars’ biggest landmarks. Hopefully December’s Sarif expansion will turn things around before EA wheels out its next instalment in the series.