If there’s one thing you can rely on DICE for, it’s superb post-release support. It’s what helped the hobbled Battlefield 4 back on its feet, pushing it towards greater strides that eventually saw it become one of the finest multiplayer shooters available on console (that single-player campaign, of course, was always going to be well beyond repair), and it’s what’s kept me sticking around with Battlefront, the slick Star Wars tie-in that was perhaps a little too streamlined upon its launch late last year.
What’s changed since then? The fundamentals are still the same – this remains a stripped-back shooter, aiming for arcade simplicity over more complex thrills, but it’s been bolstered by some fine-tuning and a couple of generous expansions, dishing out the superb 40-player mode Turning Point and a handful of maps gratis, including the wonderfully intricate, heart-stoppingly beautiful full-scale effort Survivors on Endor.
There’s been a consistent trickle of new things to do, and while it’s probably not enough to win back any put off by the relative shallowness of this particular brand of Battlefront, the spectacle it offers hasn’t dimmed in the slightest; it’s only become that little bit broader. The first significant DLC as part of Star Wars Battlefront, however, doesn’t add that much for those who’ve bought the season pass. After some of DICE’s generosity shown elsewhere, it can feel like something of a disappointment.
What do you get with the Outer Rim DLC? Essentially it’s four new maps, a new game mode and a smattering of new items – some of which have been made free to other players of vanilla Battlefront, some of them exclusive to the DLC owners. First those maps, then, and first the biggest disappointment of it all – they’re all mid-sized offerings for 16 players, completely forgoing the 40 player skirmishes that many believe show Battlefront at its best.
I’m not wholly convinced that’s the case, and Battlefront’s lighter touch scales down well, as evidenced in the all-new Extraction mode where one team looks to activate and escort cargo across the map, while the other works to stop them in their tracks. It’s a chaos of a very different order than that seen in modes such as Walker Assault and Supremacy, with aggressive choke points on the new maps resulting in breathtaking clashes painted in dazzling sparks and laser fire.
What a stunning looking game Battlefront can be, and the Outer Rim maps are no exception. The Sorosuub Refinery, a factory full of tricky corridors and a fiery central area, looks resplendent in its red-hot light. Elsewhere, Jabba’s Palace is full of the detail that makes Battlefront sing: head down to the basement and you can see the recently felled Rancor, while upstairs Jabba’s throne has been captured perfectly. Yet again, Battlefront proves it’s absolutely exemplary as a piece of Star Wars merchandise, and as an endearingly obsessive snapshot of this much-loved universe.
A shame, then, that all-new environments haven’t found their way into the first pack – for that, we’ll have to wait for the next drop which introduces The Empire Strikes Back’s Cloud City of Bespin. We’ll have to wait then, too, for some more inspired hero selections – Nien Nunb and Greedo form the Outer Rim’s offering, but many players will have already unlocked the Sullustan and Rodian skins on which their models are based.
Good job, then, that they’re slightly more inspired to play as. Nien Nunb in particular is a treat, his abilities giving him access to a turret that makes him play like a devious engineer, while Greedo’s quickfire targeting ability is enough to establish who really shot first in that Tatooine bar. Greedo also comes packing a poison gas spewing Dioxis grenade, something also available to other players via an all-new star card.
The DLC gadgets and weapons are a mixed bag, too. There’s a new blaster pistol in the shape of the DL-18, a quickfire beast that doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the DL-44 but compensates by the speed of its flurry. The DLT-19X, meanwhile, is the first real sniper gun available in the game – one shot overheats it, making it absolutely useless in the close quarter combat of the Outer Rim maps, but making it more than welcome elsewhere in the game. Both those guns, though, are free to all players – and the DT-12 pistol that’s exclusive to the DLC feels less inspired than its counterparts, making the rapid-fire Relby V-10 the only real prize for those who’ve coughed up.
The Outer Rim presents a decent enough addition to Battlefront, but it’s not quite substantial or varied enough to pull lapsed players back in, and it’s not quite the spectacular start to the DLC many had hoped for after waiting so long for the first drop. After only an evening’s play I found myself bouncing back to the vanilla game, with little desire to return to the Outer Rim anytime soon.
Back there, in the expanses of Battlefront’s lightly bolstered map selection, DICE’s shooter still shines – it’s a slightly vacuous blend of action, but it’s a mindless entertainment that’s still a joy to get lost in. DICE has done enough to the vanilla Star Wars Battlefront to make the package easier to recommend, but its Season Pass and the first batch of DLC remains a much harder sell. Here’s hoping that there’s a new hope to be found up in the clouds of Bespin for the next batch of new maps.