There have been about 100 “Star Wars” video games released since 1977. You can count the great ones on one hand; many more have been junky cash-ins.
Still, you can slap the “Star Wars” logo on something like “Angry Birds” and it will make money. And kid-oriented games like “Lego Star Wars” and “Disney Infinity 3.0” provide lighthearted high jinks. Meanwhile, adult fans of honest-to-goodness space opera have more satisfying options like “Starcraft” and “Mass Effect.”
After Electronic Arts made a deal with Disney to produce more grown-up “Star Wars” games, some felt a new hope for their future. Alas, “Star Wars Battlefront” (for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, $59.95) will disappoint all but the most die-hard Jedi wannabes with its uninspired recycling of scenarios we’ve already replayed too many times to count.
Want to fly an X-Wing through the canyons of Tatooine, or race a speeder bike through the forests of Endor? How about a chance to relive that famous battle on the ice planet Hoth — you know, the one with those giant four-legged robots? The planets look gorgeous — this is the prettiest “Star Wars” game ever — but there’s an inescapable been-there-done-that feeling.
“Battlefront” eases you into the action with missions on each of these planets (plus the volcanic Sullust), which you can play solo or cooperatively. But the real action is in online competition for up to 40 players, with nine multiplayer modes and 13 maps built in. Only one of those modes — Walker Assault, where the Empire has those big, lumbering robots — is remotely innovative.
You can choose whether to fight for the Dark Side or the Light Side, and some scenarios let you play as a “hero”: the Empire’s Darth Vader, Boba Fett or Emperor Palpatine, or the Rebels’ Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or Princess Leia. Any spoilers for “The Force Awakens” have been reserved for downloadable add-ons closer to the movie’s release.
The battlefields do have an impressive scope, and there are moments of shock and awe as X-Wings and TIE Fighters crisscross the skies while Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers plow through hapless rebels. But your goals are the same as in so many other online shooters — collect kills, capture and defend map points — and all that beauty ultimately seems shallow. The foundations of a solid online combat franchise are here, but “Star Wars Battlefront” doesn’t deliver the depth of more established shooters like “Call of Duty.”
DICE, the Swedish studio behind “Battlefront,” is best known for its “Battlefield” series of earthbound war games. And while that experience would seem to make it ideal for this franchise — it is “Star Wars,” after all, not “Star Diplomacy” — its first trip to this galaxy feels half-finished. One star out of four.
Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter @lkesten