It's finally here. Star Wars Battlefront is one of gaming's most hyped releases and thankfully looks every part the game to kickstart a month or two of Star Wars frenzy.
It is the most spectacular looking Star Wars game we've ever had – indeed, it could even be the most impressive looking game, full stop. Developer Dice has thrown every ounce of its mastery with the Frostbite engine into Battlefront and the end result is a sumptuous visual feast.
The soundtrack and audio effects too are so accurately rendered that it transports you into the Star Wars universe in an instance.
However, while we and the rest of the mammoth Star Wars fanbase will find much to love about it – adore even – the game itself won't appeal to all. By creating something that is designed to attract a wider audience, it alienates a section of hardcore first-person shooter enthusiasts who seek a far greater challenge. Is this the Star Wars game you're looking for?
Star Wars Battlefront review: Short bursts
Battlefront is fun, frenetic and fizzing with energy in short bursts. And we love the fact that you can pick it up and just play a few battles when you don't have much time on your hands. But for the very same reasons, that's exactly why it won't be everyone's cup of Sapir tea.
To be honest, we've been waiting for a Star Wars game that doesn't focus on pod racing, trade disputes or Jar Jar blinking Binks for ages. We wanted to fight on the battlegrounds of the original trilogy again and that's what we've got here. In spades.
Star Wars Battlefront is a remake of the original Battlefront games in name alone. Instead, Dice has used the experience with its Battlefield series to inspire much of the action. For a start, when controlling a humanoid character and fighting on the ground, it is much easier to play in first- rather than third-person.
The opposite is true when you take control of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter, but for all intents and purposes, this is an first-person shooter, while the original Battlefronts were third-person fight fests.
Star Wars Battlefront review: Solo missions
Also like the Battlefield games on the whole, the most fun to be had in Battlefront is during multiplayer skirmishes.
Indeed, Star Wars Battlefront's single and co-operative missions seem simply tacked on, offering light, almost barren experiences in comparison. And while only a few are labelled as training missions, all of that side of Battlefront feels like it merely exists to prepare you for online fisticuffs.
There's no campaign mode, which is not really surprising as EA and Dice have been honest from the get-go about the game's intentions, but save for the chance to play as some of the biggest Star Wars heroes and villains without having to earn them in multiplayer you'll probably never gravitate back to the solo and co-op side of the game that often.
Survival mode is interesting, where you are faced with wave after wave of increasingly more powerful enemies, but even that falls down when you play by yourself. It fares better with a friend in co-op, especially using split-screen for in-the-same-room banter, but there's still a vastness to the locations that makes you feel a little lonely amongst artificial intelligence companions.
Star Wars Battlefront review: Multiplayer
Thankfully, multiplayer takes up all the slack. We'll reiterate that there might not be enough complexity for experienced Call of Duty players, for example, but Battlefront is therefore one of the most accessible games out there. In some respects, it reminds us of Titanfall in that way, stripping the gameplay down to its core and giving you few barriers to get into the thick of the action.
On launch, there are nine multiplayer match styles to choose from, with maps based on four planets that appeared in the movies: Hoth, Tatooine, Endor and Sullust. Each is represented with large, sprawling playgrounds and, as we've already mentioned, they each look stunning. Dice visited the original shooting locations in order to accurately render them – while also scanning props and costumes from Lucasfilm's archives – and every inch of every map looks the part; almost real in fact.
Our favourite mode actually takes place in the skies above the scenery, with Fighter Squadron giving you control of a starfighter from either the Rebel Alliance or Empire and plunging you head-first into aerial dogfights. We love them. They let us fly TIE Fighters. And the Millennium Falcon. Oh yes.
Each side is also joined by computer-controlled craft, so matches can be epic and look every bit like the massive space battles in the movies, even if fights are limited to 10 versus 10 online players. There are also player limits for the other modes too, from six-a-side match-ups in Droid Run (where each team must protect GNK Power Droids) to massive 20 versus 20 fights in Supremacy and Walker Assault.
The latter is particularly memorable as it features the Hoth battle from Empire Strikes Back, with one side aiding AT-AT Walkers in their assault on the Rebel base, and the other trying to stop them on foot and in Snowspeeders. It's quite spectacular.
Star Wars Battlefront review: The Force Awakens
And beyond the limitations of single-player that's where Star Wars Battlefront succeeds. During the biggest matches, it really does feel like you are in the heart of one of the movies. And while some will bemoan the simplified controls and gameplay – you only get one blaster, for example, and can only add three other weapons or abilities once earned – there's no doubting that they help keep you in the moment rather than ask you to scroll through your load-out to find the right tool.
You'll still respawn time and time again when faced with better players, but you have more of a fighting chance than with most first-person titles as Battlefront relies less on controller dexterity and more on sheer enthusiasm. It's also a lot more family friendly than most, with as little blood spilled here as in the movies, so you can expect a younger audience to be involved too – another excuse for Dice to keep things simple.
So the crunch really comes down to what type of player you are and what you really want from a game. We'd say that the Battlefront we've been delivered is not the one we expected. But that doesn't necessarily disappoint us.
Instead, we see it as a fun and easy game to get into that is brilliant for a few matches at a time. It will only be the most die-hard fans that we expect to sit on servers all day, playing battle after battle in order to level-up and claim bragging rights.
It's a shame that Battlefront's single-player options are underserved, but competitive play is more fun with others anyway. And when something looks and sounds this good, you'd rather share the experience.
In all, this is the game every Star Wars fan was looking for, just not the one first-person nuts were expecting.