At this exact moment, Anaheim, CA is the place to be for Star Wars fans. The Annual Star Wars Celebration kicked off on April 16th and changes in the Force are being felt across the world. Obviously, all people can talk about now is that brand new trailer for The Force Awakens. As if the hype train couldn’t move any faster after the original teaser, this one brought it to an entirely new level with our first significant look at a grizzled Han Solo and Chewbacca. Perhaps it’s good we only got shots of Luke and Leia’s hands because nerds everywhere might have died if all three were shown at once. Ah who are we kidding, we’ve already gone to heaven. Yet while everyone is collectively freaking out over new scenes from the biggest film of 2015, Electronic Arts felt like adding fuel to the excitement fire. They unveiled the very first trailer for Star Wars: Battlefront one day later.
A little over two years ago, LucasArts tragically closed down when Disney bought the rights to all things Star Wars. Many, many people were laid off due to that restructuring. From a fan’s point of view, I openly wondered about the fate of future Star Wars video games, specifically Knights of the Old Republic and Battlefront. Neither of them had particularly bright futures after getting repeatedly pushed to the side by LucasArts. KotOR especially was permanently locked down with The Old Republic, never receiving a much sought after KotOR III. This all sucked, honestly. Things looked up when EA bought the rights to Battlefront shortly after LucasArts closed, but of course, no one could know if it would amount to anything. The recent trailer and November 17th release date have completely replaced worried trepidation with unbridled glee. A new Battlefront, a game that was basically a total myth, is definitely real. It looks amazing too.
The timing of Battlefront’s release is no accident. Fully connected to the new canonical universe created by Disney, this new installment is meant to focus on the original trilogy and the new trilogy. Already the planet Jakku, a completely new locale, is being featured as downloadable content. There really is no better series to get people ready for the new movies, honestly. Ever since the first game came back in December 2004, the Battlefront series has stood out by focusing on the all-encompassing galactic warfare of the franchise. It moved from the focus on main characters like Han, Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan, Vader, etc. and turned the regular grunts into the real stars. Finally, soldiers in the Empire, the Rebels, the Republic, and the CIS were displayed as the experts they were always meant to be and not the flailing bodies we watch in film. Sure, this did mean that a single soldier could defeat the all-powerful Darth Vader with enough blaster shots, but that’s just part of the appeal.
Each game regardless of system was able to accurately display the sense of scale we love about Star Wars. Major locales like Tatooine, Naboo, Kamino, and Hoth were available from the beginning with 2005’s Battlefront II adding in the likes of Mustafar and Utapau. Each game featured a story mode that brought you through a specific narrative focusing on the soldiers, but all people really cared about were being part of the epic assaults we all love. You could march on the Hoth base in an AT-AT to destroy the Rebel scum. Empire forces are closing in on Yavin IV and you must hold them back to keep the rebellion alive. The CIS want to take Naboo from your Republic hands. Your droid soldier has to stop the clone assault on Geonosis. The “good” and “bad” of the films was washed away. Whoever you fight is the enemy, regardless of affiliation.
The original Battlefront was an incredible game, boasting some of the best multiplayer currently available at the time. Yet as great as it was, Battlefront II definitely brought much more to the table in terms of content. First and foremost, Battlefront was released before Revenge of the Sith, so everything from that pivotal film was completely left out. As much as people still dislike the prequel films, they are integral to the narrative and belong in a game like Battlefront in complete form. So with that addition came a variety of settings and characters previously not seen. Battlefront II also improved on several basic gameplay elements and made entire regions feel like they were plucked directly from the films.
Battlefront II also brought on two major features: space battles and the ability to control heroes/villains. The former was completely absent from Battlefront despite how prominent they are, and the latter was previously only controlled by computers. Together these made Battlefront II the definitive experience of the series. Now you could play an entire level as a normal soldier and then get rewarded with major character control after succeeding. For a limited period of time, you could be Yoda, Vader, Boba Fett, Darth Maul, Han Solo, etc. and absolutely reign terror on your opponents. If you wanted to just play as these characters, there were a couple instant match levels with only the heroes/villains for super powered chaos. As for space battles, they were intergalactic dogfights between opposing ships. You can pilot your fighter to attack the enemy base on the outside, or fly in and sabotage everything by hand. It did have it’s flaws, but was still a ton of fun.
As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, it feels great to be so excited about the franchise’s future. 2015 already is shaping up to be a benchmark year. Not only is The Force Awakens coming in December, EA’s Battlefront is coming one month earlier. I am so excited, I’m actually angry it’s only April. A new Battlefront game is something I have wanted for almost ten years now. In fact, this new game is almost a full decade apart from Battlefront II, one of my favorite games ever. The trailer is everything I could want too. It looks unbelievable, fully utilizing the current generation consoles for gorgeous designs. Even though the trailer was basically several cutscenes with limited gameplay footage, it’s clear the groundwork is set for something amazing. AT-AT’s on planets that aren’t Hoth. Y-Wings being called in to drop bombs on the enemies. Freaking Boba Fett and Darth Vader showing people who’s boss. The inclusion of new worlds makes me very excited too. I absolutely cannot wait to experience this new trilogy both on film and in video game form.
There really is no better time for a brand new Battlefront. The Star Wars brand is bigger than ever (if that was even possible) and people are losing their shit with every bit of news. Now that all consoles are constantly connected to the internet and DLC is a regular thing, EA has a real chance to turn Battlefront into a live game. They won’t (or shouldn’t, at least) release a new installment with each film. They can just release low priced DLC or updates to bring the new locations to this singular game. Already the first DLC, Battle of Jakku, is coming free of charge. Battlefront can be all about the original films and The Force Awakens until Rouge One and Episode VIII come out. Then that material can come to consoles. In the interim, prequel events and characters can still come over. They might already be in the game, which would make sense. Bottom line, we’re in for one AWESOME holiday season and future. The potential a new Battlefront game has is practically limitless.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.