The Force Is Wrong With This One
Those of you who listen to our podcast are no doubt aware of my disinterest in the upcoming EA DICE outing, Star Wars: Battlefront. While there is not any gameplay footage floating around currently, EA (aka the Dark Side) has given me numerous reasons to avoid catching the Battlefront hype bug that so many people seem to have contracted. I will admit that I mistakenly hitched a ride on the hype train for both Battlefield 4 and Titanfall, but I feel like I’ve learned from my past mistakes.
Battlefield 4's beta was only playable on last-gen consoles (for very obvious reasons, as next-gen consoles weren’t out yet!). I remember heading into the release of Battlefield 4’s beta with a similar mindset to the one that I currently have in regards to Battlefront, as I felt burned by how underwhelming I found Battlefield 3 to be. As fate would have it, I actually had an absolute blast with the Battlefield 4 beta. Having not been spoiled by the sure-to-be beautiful next-gen graphics the game would sport as a result of the PlayStation 4’s increased horsepower, I decided this was a game I needed to pick up on PS4 launch night. If you paid attention to Battlefield 4’s post-launch woes, I don't think I need to get into any further details when it comes to why I was extremely disappointed in the $60 I dropped on the game; the servers were absolute garbage at launch! The game would hard crash constantly in the heat of battle! Worse yet, EA seemingly took their good ol' time getting the game to a tolerable and playable state, even going as far as delaying the planned DLC until the game was stable. Needless to say, I turned to Killzone: Shadow Fall early in the PlayStation 4 lifecycle to get my online first-person-shooter fix, and soon forgot that Battlefield 4 was even sitting on my shelf.
The most criminal thing about all of this is that, at its core, Battlefield 4 is an extremely fun game and a worthy entry in the Battlefield series. I understand that releasing a game on new consoles can bring with it some unforeseen challenges — especially when it comes to online play and the fact that the next-gen versions of the game were not beta tested prior to launch — but by the same token, EA knows that a Battlefield game will sell millions of copies, so why not beef up the servers? In a matter of days, Battlefield 4 went from being my most anticipated online experience with my brand new PS4, to a game I would only glance at and continue to ignore on my shelf. I'm sure the game has since been stabilized and is seeing a healthy amount of players enjoying it daily, but its time has passed for me. It was with hesitation that I picked up Battlefield: Hardline and, while I've yet to play it, I'm hearing its online experience is the polar opposite (thank you Visceral!).
One of my absolute favorite EA DICE outings is Battlefield: Bad Company 2. This was my introduction to not only DICE, but the Battlefield series as a whole. It possessed an excellent single player campaign and had the most addictive multiplayer of any FPS I remember playing last-gen. Just the sheer amount of ridiculous things you could do made the price of admission totally worth it. Killing someone with the repair drill, chasing down an opponent for road kills with the UAV, and hopping onto an ATV and tearing through the woods, only to crash through the door of a house that a sniper had shot you from and take them out in the process, all spring to mind when I think about the wacky hijinks in the game. Bad Company 2 produced a ton of these hilariously entertaining moments, and this is what made this game great to me. So, why am I mentioning this gem? Well, it turns out that, according to an interview with Eurogamer conducted last June, EA DICE executives DO NOT UNDERSTAND why people love Bad Company 2 so much! While they “have their theories,” they don’t feel they can pinpoint exactly which aspects of the game’s beloved multiplayer players enjoy the most. I'm sorry, but if you don't understand why players love your game, that's a serious disconnect that will leave me in a state of concern should a Bad Company 3 ever come to fruition. It's with that same concern that I look at Battlefront. Do they understand why people love the old Battlefront games? In a recent Battlefront Reddit thread, one of the developers working on the game, DICE_TheBikingViking, revealed that AT-AT’s (in the game’s signature “Walker Assault” game type) are on-rails and “that’s 100% a design decision,” before going on to say, “…just remember that full freedom etc. doesn’t always equal fun.” This is a design mentality which tons of fans seemingly disagree with, and these comments left several pondering if DICE even grasps the concept of why Battlefront games resonated so well with their fanbase in the first place. Having watched the trailer a few times, I get more of a Star Wars-skinned Battlefield vibe rather than the Star Wars-fantasy-battle-simulator that many fans want to see from the Battlefront series. I don’t feel alone in wondering if DICE is capable of producing a worthy entry in this acclaimed franchise.
Some of the early details revealed about the game have also rubbed me the wrong way. One of the first Battlefront articles I read was concerning the pre-order DLC. Seriously?! I haven't even seen any actual footage of your game and you're already talking about pre-order DLC?! This is a trend that I'd love to see done away with already. How about instead of talking additional content, we talk about what's actually shipping on the disc, or maybe a beta? While this is the unfortunate norm, one could argue that, due to the nature of Star Wars and how easily fans open their wallets to anything related to the franchise, EA understands what areas of the franchise can best be exploited to ensure that these poor saps...*ahem*I mean loyal fans…toss money at this game left and right.
While I'd be ok with dropping some dough on more single player content…wait what? This game doesn't have a campaign?! I understand that the draw of the Battlefront games isn't a campaign, however, I can't help but to remember another EA joint that released last year in a similar multiplayer only package. Titanfall was a game that I hesitantly “fell” for after trying out the beta. I'm not a big Call of Duty fan, so maybe I just didn't appreciate replaying the same four game modes on the same few maps for hundreds of hours, just to “Regen” 10 times (Regeneration is the Titanfall version of Call of Duty’s Prestige leveling system). All I know is that Titanfall was shelved about a week after release. That's not to say I didn't like it, as I spent a good 20 hours playing through it to hit level 50, and the first 8-10 hours were a rather enjoyable experience. However, once the gimmick of calling down a Titan and wreaking havoc wore off, my interest did as well. It felt like a grind as I made my way up the ladder, trying to hit level 50 before the end of launch month just to complete a challenge. It didn't help that most of my friends either didn’t have an Xbox One, or had no interest in Titanfall given its lackluster content offering for the $60 price point, leaving me to essentially experience this game all by my lonesome.
With this experience fresh in my mind, and hearing that Battlefront is likely to launch with a seemingly similar amount of content, I just find it hard to want to relive this mistake. With only 4 planets and likely a dozen maps shipping on disc, I just don't see the value in picking this game up. Will it give me the Star Wars high that I want? Possibly, but comparing that $60 to the $60 I could spend on say Black Ops 3, which will no doubt have an entertaining campaign in addition to more of the franchise’s renowned multiplayer, the value just doesn't compare.
Being a multiplayer only game, I expect that at some point we'll see a beta (With Sony’s partnership with EA in regards to marketing Battlefront, I’m thinking we’ll see something similar to Destiny, where PS4 owners get access to the beta early, while Xbox One owners, who are also EA Access members, can still take advantage of a 10 hour demo a week or so before launch). Should there be a beta, I'll give it a go, but I just have a sinking feeling that, much like Titanfall, the beta will be the extent of what to expect when the final game launches in mid-November. I normally try to have at least some enthusiasm for games I’ve yet to play, but given EA's immaculate track record for leaving me feeling ripped off and taken advantage of, I'm going to stand my ground and resist having any interest in this game currently.
Then there’s EA's past blunders surrounding DICE launches still lingering in my mind, and at least a part of me fears Battlefront will suffer a similar fate. Sure, Battlefield: Hardline seemingly launched without any issues, but I also call into question how that game fared in comparison to its predecessor. While it’s true that Battlefield: Hardline was the top selling game for the month of March, are millions upon millions of people hitting the servers as hard as they were when Battlefield 4 launched? I don’t know, but I have my doubts, as Battlefield 4 may have soured thousands of fans and tarnished the Battlefield brand.
I’d also like to note that Destiny has indirectly shown us what a multiplayer only title should contain. I know the story was weak as hell and, yes, it's the same missions over and over again, but Bungie has clearly found a way to keep the game feeling fun and just as exciting nearly 110 hours later. The EA published Titanfall was unable to produce that kind of magic for me, so I remain unconvinced that Battlefront will be any different. EA didn't win the “Worst Company in America” award 2 years in a row for nothing. They have a track record of being anti-consumer in their methods and I fear Battlefront will be no exception. It's a game that — let's face it — is going to sell just on the name alone, so I expect very little effort from EA as they rake in millions on what I expect to be nothing more than a Battlefield re-skin. While I am clearly going to be hard to sway on Battlefront, I remain confident that the Sith lords at EA will publish an excellent Star Wars game down the road. Here's hoping that Amy Hennig and the super talented team at Visceral Games are allowed to make the incredible, story-driven Star Wars game we (and likely they as well) have always wanted. EA has produced some great games before, and they can do it again. After all, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare was a diamond in the EA rough when it launched early last year. Believe it or not, far beneath all of my cynical logic surrounding Battlefront lies a faint hope that EA will be due for another gem-of-a-title around the time we see Visceral’s Hennig-penned Star Wars title!
So, what do you guys think? Am I being irrational, or do you feel that my reasons justify my refusal to hop on this hype train? Either way, comment below or hit me up on Twitter @Vyprstryke and let me know!
Frankie loves pizza, video games, and controversial opinions. Follow his gaming exploits on Twitter @Vyprstryke.