With online-only games rising in popularity, players must be wary of not getting enough value for their money.
The latest generation of video game consoles has seen a rise in “online-only” video games that have no story or campaign mode, produced mostly to reduce the costs of video game development, but also because publishers have seen where the majority of players spend their hours playing. Games like Titanfall and Evolve have already come and gone to much critical acclaim but less than positive public reception. For $60 USD, games are an investment of hard earned money…and time. Single-player games – like Fallout 4 - haven’t gone extinct. But this holiday season, two AAA “online-only” games are vying for the public’s attention: Star Wars: Battlefront and Rainbow Six: Siege. Both games come from established franchises that have had a strong single-player presence in the past.
Graphical presentation, audio clarity and accuracy are staples in both Battlefront and Rainbow Six: Siege. The developer of Star Wars: Battlefront (DICE) replicated the look and sounds of Star Wars. From the screams and whines of the TIE Fighter to the sparkling glint of the snow on the ice-planet Hoth, Star Wars: Battlefront leaks sci-fi nostalgia across the four planets (five with the free Battle of Jakku DLC). Each of the 12 multiplayer maps in Star Wars: Battlefront vary in size across the 9 modes but do get tedious because they’re on the same four detailed planets of Tattoine’s Deserts, the lush forests of Endor’s Moon and Sullust’s rivers of molten lava. The 9 modes usually amount to eliminating the enemy team, with Walker Assault and Fighter Squadron being noticeable standouts that include rebels focusing on Imperial AT-AT walkers and flying over the planet defending/attacking objectives.
Rainbow Six: Siege (from Ubisoft) specializes in 11 multiplayer maps of modern settings of homes and schools. However, it allows the player to blast and shoot through walls for advantages against the enemy team, across both the standard multiplayer mode of 5v5 combat and player vs. computer called Terrorist Hunt. Siege pops and explodes with gunfire and explosions but also has tension in silence when your team is prepping by setting up barricades and putting down razor wire. The contrast, combined with one-life per round, establishes an atmosphere similar to that of real world combat: quiet boredom punctuated by quick moments of combat. In this way, Rainbow Six: Siege separates itself from the bombastic status quo of shooters.
Star Wars: Battlefront has an abundance of guns and weapons for murdering other players - some have never been seen in a Star Wars film before. These include laser weapon equivalents of: shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, etc., with standouts such as the crossbow Chewbacca uses. Battlefront uses a card system that gives the player two items, such as a grenade or jetpack with the third option being a special ability. Littered around the maps are random bonuses such as a more powerful grenade or a turret that targets infantry. These bonuses also allow players to take to the skies until death or pilot the AT-AT Imperial Walkers for one minute. Players have already been able to discover where the powerful items spawn so Battlefront has been exploited in this respect by more knowledgeable players.
The level of options that you can mix and match with is impressive but the gameplay is roughly the same. There’s little variation on how the player behaves in the Star Wars world, just what they are equipped with. What little variation there is comes in the form of the 6 hero characters – 3 for each faction – that don’t drastically shift the tide in battle but can make for the great spectacle of charging through a crowd of Imperial troopers as Han Solo or force choking a rebel soldier as Darth Vader.
Rainbow Six: Siege offers much more variety in how a player interacts with the game through what are called operators. There are a total of 20 operators split evenly between attackers and defenders. Each one has a unique trait or ability that allows for unique situations. For example, Fuze can fire grenades into a room from outside of a wall with Sledge living up to his namesake. Only one can be chosen per player so obvious favorites will emerge. But this divvying up of player abilities makes each standard encounter of simply entering a room feel edgy and exciting. These differing abilities change how a situation is approached - you might not want to stay in a room if Fuze is firing grenades from the outside-in.
Star Wars: Battlefront and Rainbow Six: Siege revel in the macro and micro chaos that comes from combat. Battlefront excels in epic scale combat like no other game can, from the soldier call-outs to the multiple explosions that litter the battlefield. There aren’t as many circumstantial environmental occurrences as were found in their previous outing Battlefield 4 with “Levolution,” where buildings would topple with players inside or a massive aircraft carrier would be beached amidst a massive typhoon. The extent of DICE’s “levolution” is a few small trees falling on Endor’s Moon. It’s disappointing to see a massive Super Star Destroyer crash on Jakku only to have a spectacular explosion be the result, other than, say, a massive sandstorm kick-up.
Much of the chaos can be mediated by the communication between players and in this respect Rainbow Six: Siege overthrows Battlefront. Teamwork and communication are vital to a successful match in Siege and other players are more receptive towards calling out where enemies are and functioning like a SWAT team. In my time with the two games, I made more companions in Siege because in successes and failures, there was an intimate bond established from round to round. Making friends in a game can inadvertently add to a game’s longevity and Rainbow Six: Siege delivers. You will occasionally get the non-communicative lone-wolf type of player yet Siege is quick to eliminate such fool-hearty attempts at individual victories and instead focuses on the team effort.
Though Star Wars: Battlefront and Rainbow Six: Siege are diametrically opposed aesthetically and with regards to their gameplay, their longevity is called into question because both games focus solely on the online component. The classes in Rainbow Six: Siege adds more depth to the gameplay, while Battlefront focuses on the epic scale and momentous nostalgic thrill that comes associated with the Star Wars franchise. As “online-only” games become more popular and relevant, players must become more diligent regarding which titles offer the most value for the money.
Spencer Fawcett is a screenwriter who also does production work for NBC/Universal. He has written for Parade Magazine and ASUs The State Press. Twitter: Whizbang813