The Force Unleashed wasn’t the only Star Wars thing to drop a trailer in Anaheim this weekend. It was, however, the most impressive, for while the new Star Wars: Battlefront (not to be confused with 2004's Star Wars: Battlefront) looks pretty, it appears to play very similarly to 2004's Star Wars: Battlefront (not to be confused with Star Wars: Battlefront).
These games have always had their roots in the Battlefield series, and while EA have gone to great lengths to verbally distance Battlefront from their modern-warfare franchise, it's still cut from the same cloth. You’ve got your running and driving around getting all shooty; your capturing checkpoints while remaining all shooty; and your occasional jump to controlling named hero characters, whose shootiness varies. (The first-announced characters are Darth Vader and Boba Fett, because Darth Vader and Boba Fett are cool). One new feature is a sort of buddy system, where you and a friend can play together and share your character progression and unlocks. I like that, philosophically, even though it does suggest that Battlefront will be yet another multiplayer shooter where newcomers get stomped on by higher-level players.
Most of the maps will be drawn from the original trilogy of films, with a handful of prequel scenarios sprinkled in. One map that will raise many an eyebrow is the Battle of Jakku map, which will be available as free DLC in advance of The Force Awakens’ opening date. That’s the battle that downed the Star Destroyers and X-Wings seen in the new trailer - and it’s a fine example of Lucasfilm’s new approach to canon. Though it seems unlikely that books and/or comics won’t cover said Battle, Battlefront’s depiction of it will technically be canon - and like all big-universe storytelling, it'll lend extra context to the wreck-strewn dunes of Jakku we’ll see in the film.
As another first for the series (and maybe for this whole category of shooter?), it seems you’ll be able to choose your gender when you spawn in - whether you’re a Rebel or a stormtrooper. There seem to be race/species options, too, given the presence of a Sullustan in the trailer, but it’s unclear how that will work - previous Battlefronts tied species to class, but it’d be cool to see gender, species, and class treated as separate options.
I’ll be honest: that the first game out of the gate under the new Lucasfilm regime should be a competitive online shooter is kind of disappointing. Many great games have been made under the Star Wars license, from sprawling RPGs to narrative action games to even racing games. The first Battlefront is among them, but as far as making the most of the license goes, it’s only a few steps above the likes of Republic Commando. Sure, you get to relive the major battles from the films - and who isn’t into that? - but it doesn’t really capture the wonder and breadth that this universe contains. There are only so many times you can tie an AT-AT’s legs together before it gets old, is what I’m saying, and the Battle of Hoth is only one of many oft-repeated skirmishes that will likely find its way into Battlefront.
But who am I kidding? Everyone’s going to play this - the first new AAA Star Wars game for some years - and I’ll be among them. The game looks gorgeous (at least, its engine does - in no way is that trailer actual gameplay footage), and movie-accurate to a fault. I look forward to playing through all its maps and then gradually losing interest in it, as I do all multiplayer shooters.