I’m increasingly feeling part of the minority, but I still consider multiplayer secondary to single-player. As the previews swamped Twitter at 3am on Saturday morning, my overtired mind was deterred by Star Wars Battlefront overlooking a campaign. After all, it was a big part of the best game in the brand it’s trying to restart, even if those are remembered for multiplayer. But after having time to reflect, I realise it’s for the best, despite killing some of the excitement.
DICE isn’t right for story-based Star Wars
I quite like the good Call of Duty campaigns. It’s mindless over-the-top action with predictable first-person shooter gameplay, an assured helicopter crash and a villain you can’t wait to shoot in the face. The campaigns are better than their reputation. Battlefield, on the other hand, is rubbish for solo players. The campaigns of Battlefield 3, BF4 and Hardline are all convoluted messes and only detract from the technical marvel of the astonishing multiplayer.
DICE is not the right developer to begin the rebirth of narrative-driven Star Wars games. It doesn’t have the experience, or the resume, to tell a convincing story with its own characters, let alone those from a beloved 40-year-old icon of science-fiction.
Visceral Games is also working on a yet-to-be announced Star Wars game and is clearly a better candidate to usher in a new era of games under the reign of Disney. It doesn’t mean Battlefield is multiplayer or nothing, but don’t expect too much from the Missions mode. I’m glad DICE had the foresight to accept some players want more than repetitive murdering sprees that won’t hold the attention of everyone once the lure of Star Wars intertwined with Battlefield wears off – DICE is adamant this isn’t just Battlefield: Star Wars, but we can’t believe that until we’ve played it ourselves. Hopefully, the missions, which can be played alone or co-op, are more than filler to enable writing “1-40 players” on the back of the box.
No space battles makes for a better game
DICE doesn’t have the pedigree as a campaign developer, but it’s an industry leader when it comes to multiplayer. Nobody does it better in terms of scope – even if a maximum of 40 players is a little smaller than we’ve recently become accustom – and it’s a master of combining ground and air combat.
I understand the disappointment by the lack of space battles. This is Star Wars, after all, and in many ways it’s a step backwards after Battlefront II did it on PS2 a decade ago. But DICE isn’t Pandemic Studios, and by limiting fighter combat to the atmosphere, it’s playing to its strengths: combing ground and air forces into a hectic, massive battle.
DICE is the wrong developer to take the lead on Star Wars narrative, and it’s not right to venture into space either. But 40-player planetary mayhem built on the foundations of Battlefield with the locations, weapons, characters and vehicles of Star Wars: that is why it has the honour of developing the first in a new era of Star Wars games.
My imagination ran wild proclaiming space battles should somehow be a part of that; “next-gen” wizardry should make all my wildest dreams come true. But upon reflection, I realise my imagination is an idiot. There’s no way space battles could be implemented into the DICE formula without diminishing its quality, and a separate space battle mode would be rubbish, especially given the limited development time. Now, 40 players in relatively tight confines, with enough room for X-Wing vs TIE Fighter dogfights and Darth Vader to go wild sounds awesome, despite being the safest route that leaves plenty of room to expand in EA Battlefront 2. Plus, these are the environments you know and love, and there’s surely going to be a revival of Rouge Squadron. There’s a movie next year called Star Wars Acknowledges More Than Jedis: Rogue One (something like that). It’s going to happen, and a dedicated space battle game will be considerably better than trying to fuse it with planetary combat.
The more I think about it, the more I really don’t believe the company line about Battlefront sharing no relation to Battlefield. It looks like a premium skin on familiar gameplay, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a proven formula that got DICE handed the project in the first place, and Star Wars is so different to plausible warfare and cops ‘n’ robbers that it won’t feel anything like Battlefield, most of the time.
Awakening before the Force
DICE has to hit the November deadline. Battlefront can’t launch after The Force Awakens, at a time when we’ve almost come to expect the first release date announced to be a lie ahead of the inevitable delay.
While the days of movie shovelware are mostly behind us, the stringent release dates for the accompanying self-sufficient games still remain. EA had the luxury of delaying Hardline, but can’t do it with Battlefront. By forgoing the campaign, DICE bought itself enough time to deliver most of what fans want by a deadline that cannot be moved.
No campaign means Battlefront is no longer a certain buy for me, but only because I’m extremely selective with multiplayer gaming, as I’ve fallen out of love with online play. I thought Evolve might prompt a longterm comeback, but it proved that even when playing with friends I lose interest after a couple of sessions, and random Xbox Live dwellers suck (yes offence). I need to see more to be convinced Battlefront is the one, and there will probably only be one, multiplayer game I commit to this year.
However, now that my inner (single-player loving) Star Wars fanboy has calmed down, I realise the two Battlefront announcements I despised out of Star Wars Celebration – no campaign and no space battles – are actually for the good of the game, and the good of future Star Wars games. DICE is the wrong developer to take the lead on Star Wars narrative, and it’s not right to venture into space either. But 40-player planetary mayhem built on the foundations of Battlefield with the locations, weapons, characters and vehicles of Star Wars: that is why it has the honour of developing the first in a new era of Star Wars games.