After pumping over 60 hours into DICE's Star Wars Battlefront, I should finally admit that I've quite enjoyed this wilfully simple brand of multiplayer shooting, dressed up with all the bells and whistles and thwomping lasers you'd expect of a premium licensed product. Sometimes, it's just lovely to play something that's positively mindless, especially when it does such a grand job of swaddling you in nostalgia with its handsomely realised dioramas and sumptuous aesthetic. Battlefront's not a great game - far from it - but it's a perfectly good one.
As is to be expected from a DICE joint, it's a much better one now than at launch too. The patch that accompanied yesterday's DLC drop marks the most significant step forward yet, and it marks a slight philosophical change in how Battlefront's played - and it's totally for the better.
At launch, Battlefront had moved away from the squads that were at the heart of DICE's Battlefield, restricting squad size to two players and not doing much to encourage co-operative play. You're still limited to playing in pairs, but after yesterday's patch there's now an active reason to work together - sticking close to your partner will reduce the cooldown on your Star Cards, while enemies that slay your teammate are outlined briefly in red allowing you to rush in for a revenge kill.
On top of that, Battlefront's now much more pro-active in partnering players, and ensuring they stick together with team respawns now placed that little bit closer together. Elsewhere, assists now pay out as much as kills, which helps spread the love a little. They're small changes that make a big difference, the sense of camaraderie that's powered DICE's best shooters reemphasised in Battlefront. In short, it's made playing Battlefront that little bit more fun.
As for the maps introduced as part of the Bespin DLC? I'm not totally convinced just yet. There's a new mode, Sabotage, that's introduced, and it's where much introduced in the new pack really shines. Rebels are tasked with charging three detonators, and if they're successful they then move to defend an extraction point, calling for a battle that moves fluidly across the map and one that makes the most of the open courtyards, walkways and enclosed halls on Cloud City.
It's a very different feel for the game, far removed from the expanses of Hoth and Endor in the base game or the close-quarters maps of Outer Rim. Player count sits at 32 across the five maps introduced in the Bespin DLC - a little short of the 40 seen in mainline Battlefront, but well above the 12 seen in Outer Rim and pushing it towards big skirmish status. Playing a game of Drop Zone with a bigger crowd is an awful lot of fun, and it's a new brand of chaos that's more than welcome.
When it comes to the big team modes that are Battlefront's trademark, Bespin's maps can feel like a slightly awkward fit. Seeing an Imperial Walker tear through streets reminiscent of a freshly bleached Welwyn Garden City is an odd sight; like seeing a show horse clattering its way through your kitchen. What's most disappointing about the new maps, though, is how they lack the spectacle seen elsewhere in Battlefront.
Perhaps it's something about Bespin itself - a fittingly mournful setting for the The Empire Strikes Back's powerful final act, but missing the grand vistas found elsewhere in the Star Wars universe. In Battlefront, Bespin looks best when you're in the clouds - Fighter Squadron presents a spectacle, and is bolstered by the addition of the Cloud Car, an all-new vehicle that's a little too cumbersome to be properly effective - but on foot it's all a bit drab.
Remove the spectacle from Star Wars Battlefront and you're left with a multiplayer game that's quietly unremarkable. It's not bad, and there's more than enough here to warrant getting involved - you can pick it up fairly cheap, and on PlayStation 4 at least it's easy enough to dive into a fully populated game. I'm not sure, though, that there's enough meat to keep people playing beyond the next significant DLC drop, this autumn's Death Star pack. By that point, DICE's star player Battlefield will be on the cusp of its return, and I think I'll be more than ready to move on.
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