star_wars_battlefront_vader_1200After months of hints and promises, the much hoped for off-line mission mode (dubbed Skirmish) has finally arrived for Star Wars: Battlefront and, thankfully, it turns out to have been worth the wait.

Until now, those who wanted to play against a friend sitting the the same room were confined to a few training missions and head to head shooter levels. All the big missions, such as the game’s signature Walker Assault, were restricted to those who play online.

But, after countless customer complaints, developers EA Games have finally made two mission modes – Walker Assault and space combat mode Fighter Squadron – available offline and via network head-to-head.

This means you can now play split-screen against the mate sitting on the sofa next to you, take on a friend playing from the comfort of their own home, or face down a team comprised entirely of AI-controlled opponents.

This is a welcome and overdue addition which drastically increases the game’s appeal.

Between them the two modes give players the full suite of add-ons: heroes, X-Wings, Tie Fighters, AT-STs, plus various weapon upgrades, many of which they’d struggle to access when playing online because of the sheer number of players all wanting to play as Vader or Han Solo.

Now, instead of finding yourself constantly being out-raced for that must have power-up, you can enjoy first dibs on any thing you desire. Suddenly one of the biggest frustrations of Battlefront is swept away and the game becomes far more enjoyable.

There are a few bugs – on some maps I found hero power-ups would vanish just as you reached their location. Move back a few metres and the icon would re-appear, close in and it vanished once again. Others have encountered the same issue.

Just about every update EA has released seems to have contained some bug or other and Skirmish is no different.

Another downside is that you’re restricted to only two sets of preselected secondary weapons and equipment and you can’t pick your character’s look.

If there’s some legitimate reason not to allow access to those items unlocked in the online game, EA could have at least offered more pre-mixed selections.

Some extra modes would also be welcome – especially ‘Blast’ – as would the ability for opposing AI players to pick up hero power-ups so that Luke and Vader could slog it out on Hoth.

But setting aside these ‘nice to haves’ and despite the bugs which need addressing, Skirmish is a welcome addition which should answer the wants and complaints of many disappointed players.

EA has inflicted months of criticism on itself by not having this mode ready for day one, and along the way it’s undoubtably put off many players from buying the franchise’s next instalment.

And that’s a real shame because the end product is one which finally makes the game worth every penny of its original asking price.