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Game Review

When I walked out of the first Star Wars flick back in 1977, with the film's now-epic soundtrack still blasting behind me, I didn't have the slightest inkling that almost 40 years later the borderline campy spacecapade I just munched popcorn through would still be popular. But here we are with yet another wave of Star Wars films touching down in a galaxy far, far … well, in a movie house just down the street.

Of course, that means that along with scores of new action figures and toy sets, there also has to be a new video game hitting store shelves. The question is, can the new Star Wars: Battlefront still hold our interest as well as the movies somehow have? Let's face it, the whole lightsaber-swinging, Stormtrooper-blasting gameplay stuff is definitely as long in the tooth as Han, Luke and Leia are likely feeling. Can gamemakers keep the Force alive for seasoned players and newbies alike?

In answer, I'd bellow out a hearty Chewbacca uvula-honk … if I could do such a thing. Only, unlike that growl-to-the-point hairy fellow, I'd add a few caveats.

Use Your Weapon, You Will

First of all, you need to know that this title is designed as an online multiplayer game, pure and simple. There are a few campaign missions to help you get going, but there's no campaign story at all. For that matter, even calling them campaigns is a bit generous.

They're more like five short training levels that players can complete to get the hang of using the Force powers of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the like. The training bits also teach you to use the controls of an X-wing starfighter, a T-47 Airspeeder, an AT-ST and a speeder bike. Oh, and they quickly get you moving and shooting. Which is important because, quite frankly, that's what this game is: a shooter.

That fact alone could catch the average Star Wars-loving non-gamer by surprise. Why? Because if you've never strayed into the land of the online competitive first-person shooter, well, it can come as a shock. This is an unforgiving, hectic, constantly moving environment where teams of players face one another, and where you are always in someone's crosshairs.

These Are the Droids You're Looking For

There are nine multiplayer modes to shoot your way through, including: "Fighter Squadron," where two teams of 10 take to the air in X-wing/TIE fighter dogfights; "Hero Hunt," where a player is plunked down in the shoes of one of the game's six primaries (Luke, Han, Leia, Darth, Boba Fett, Emperor Palpatine) while the other players try to overpower him; "Heroes vs. Villains," which sets up two teams of six (three heroes and three troopers vs. three villains and three troopers); and "Droid Run," where three little droids toddle around a map as two teams of six try to blast each other and capture all three droids at once.

The most epic of the modes is "Walker Assault," in which two teams of 20 duke it out on a massive map. Rebels struggle to activate and defend a series of satellite uplinks while trying to take down two massive AT-ATs advancing across the map to a win-the-day objective.

Do … or Do Not. There Is No Try.

Now, if you're reading through those battle mode examples and thinking, "That doesn't sound too bad," I would have to say you're right. Star Wars: Battlefront it's not nearly as violent and deadly feeling as most online shooters. One could argue, though, that any kind of shooter is problematic. That killing should never feel casual or “tame” in any form. And I would agree with that argument.

It is undeniable, though, that playing Battlefront feels a lot more like playing a competitive-yet-friendly open sandbox game of laser tag than it does a vicious, blood-soaked melee. There is plenty of strategy at play, but very little gravity. And I mean that in both the literal and figurative sense.

In some other ways, too, this game is a breath of fresh air in the harsh vacuum of typical shooters. There is no bad language to suffer through. People keep their clothes on. And, truly, no buckets and mops are needed for cleaning up any gory, ahem, details. The issues of the Force are still a factor for families, of course.

Star Wars: Battlefront certainly pushes the nostalgia button. Hard. Maybe it's the John Williams-penned bombastic scores. Maybe it's the quirky sounds of screeching blasters or the sight of TIE fighters zipping overhead. Maybe it's 40 years of cultural history that's rooting for you to like this stuff.

So like it. But understand it, too. Help with that, this review can.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

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