Dan has played the Star Wars Battlefront BETA non-stop since its release. Here are his almost exhaustive thoughts on the game.
Star Wars Battlefront has landed – in beta form – and the consensus amongst the video gaming intelligentsia is pretty mixed. Though buggy and at times loaded with glitches you have to keep in mind that this is just that: a beta. The open beta began on the 8th October and will run until the 13th giving four full days of action across three maps and three game modes on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. But with release slated for early November the team will have just over half a month to fix the various problems gamers are reporting.
On the surface Battlefront is presented as a polished and minimalist piece with very little need to investigate the options; the menu is a crisp white background with the golden Battlefront logo featuring several loading screens where we’re treated to high-res concepts of the heroes and vehicles that have earned themselves a place in sci-fi legend. To someone as fussed about first impressions as myself this was a good start, though it’s hard not to be disappointed at the lack of variety in terms of game-modes and maps but I am sure this will all be resolved come November. Nevertheless after a hefty 11GB download and a three hour wait I jumped headfirst into the singleplayer missions to get familiar with the game.
The missions will offer a series of singleplayer or co-op survival modes where up to two players can play online, or locally on a console via splitscreen, against waves of AI enemies whilst completing various objectives. Given that DICE confirmed there will be no revival of the epic 501st campaign or anything similar from Battlefront 2, this comes as a sort of olive branch. The one we’re allowed to play is set on Tatooine. Two rebel soldiers have escaped from a Correllian Blockade Runner that is shortly destroyed by an Imperial Star Destroyer. Admiral Ackbar radios in to tell us that help
is on the way but we must hold off against increasingly difficult waves of Imperial Stormtroopers and AT-STs whilst securing drop pods to unlock power ups such as anti-vehicle weapons and extra lives. This mode allows the player to mess about with some of the unlockable weapons in the multiplayer, currently limited to four: a standard blaster for both the Rebels and Imperials as well as a blaster pistol and a heavy repeating blaster – each with their own stats for damage, accuracy, range and cooldown time. This I found pretty neat, given that in past Battlefront games every blaster pretty much acted the same. I’ve found myself keen to use the Imperial E-11 as opposed to the Rebel A280 purely for damage value and accuracy. Alongside these base weapons are player cards: unlockable power-ups that the player keeps in their ‘hand’ as a secondary weapon or utility. These range from grenades to shields and jetpacks, to sniper rifles and rocket launchers. Which, once used, have a cooldown timer which denotes when they can be used again. As for ammunition all weapons now have the possibility of overheating if used too much and if that happens a cooldown timer is displayed in which the player can press a button to negate this and get straight back into the blasting. The missions are short, sweet and seemingly designed to get people to grips with the new gameplay and to figure out a preferred play style.
The real action is in the multiplayer which I was quick to jump into. The beta gives us two game modes to choose from; Drop Zone set on Sullust, where smaller teams fight to secure drop pods
of supplies which is akin to Capture the Flag in other first person shooters, and the much-hyped Walker Assault set on Hoth, where teams of twenty both fight to protect or prevent the advance of Imperial Walkers towards the Rebel base. Being a total Empire Strikes Back fanboy I instantly chose the latter. After tweaking my graphical settings to deal with the enormity of what was going on, I jumped straight into the action for the Galactic Empire. Starting from scratch gives you no power-ups or cards and only the base faction blaster rifle. However, DICE have implemented a buddy system which pairs you with a random player whose power-ups you can borrow for that round. Also, sticking close to your buddy and helping them secure objectives gives bonus points at the end of the match, resulting in quicker levelling as well as providing a mobile spawn point to jump back into the thick of it should you get pummelled by one of the infamous dubstep grenades being lobbed around. The immediate change is that not all the players start in one location and there’s no scramble for the vehicles as per the Battlefield series and past Battlefronts, instead vehicles are power-ups to be collected alongside mounted guns and orbital strikes on the battlefield. Having dashed straight for a TIE Fighter I was swept away into the skies via an old-school Star Wars swipe transition and felt immensely comforted by the sweet screech of Imperial air superiority. Hats off to the developers, the sound in this game is immense, and well worth playing with a decent set of speakers. Even from the ground the roaring engines overhead and the smash of orbital strikes sending soldiers flying sounds sublime. I found controlling the Starfighters surprisingly intuitive even with a mouse and keyboard. Playing on a console, it’s very similar to the space battles in Halo Reach whereby joysticks control thrust and direction whilst the triggers control aiming and firing. And that’s it, the knack comes in figuring out how to dodge and time your missiles right, but it’s never been more fun to fly in a Battlefront game which makes me incredibly excited for the full game featuring a Starfighter only game mode.
The battle rages down below and I’m back in the fight after promptly being harassed into a mountain by an angsty A-Wing pilot. And I figure it’s about time I should figure out the game mode basics as well. Walker Assault involves the Rebels trying to secure a series of uplink capture points with the Imperials trying to deactivate them and push the enemy back. When two uplinks are controlled for long enough the Rebels call in a bombing run which weakens the Imperial Walkers enough to be damaged by any conventional weapons. In this short window the Rebels must concentrate all their fire on a walker to make any effort to damage it, as the round normally only gives a few short windows for the Rebels if they’re doing well. The Imperials have to stop this from happening at all costs, which happens a lot because three stages of uplinks and two very powerful Imperial Walkers make it a challenge for the Rebels ever to win a round. This is a major balancing issue that DICE will have to solve, perhaps by reducing the health of the walkers or giving the Rebels more of an opening to inflict damage. The key is co-ordination, there have been rare occasions where the Rebels have concentrated enough firepower to bring down at least one walker. A lot of negative press surrounded Walker Assault in its announcement mainly due to AT-ATs are not fully controllable. They’re more like a power-up where the player can take a short spell in the turret and unleash hell on unsuspecting rebels below, but apart from that the walkers move on a preset course at a set pace. Although in my opinion, this prevents any more unfair advantage for the Imperials and keeps the overpowered nature of the walkers in check.
Another downside is the heroes; gameplay that ultimately made Battlefront 2 one of the best Playstation games at the time. Everyone remembers the hero battles on Tatooine, right? Well in Battlefront the heroes still seem mid-2000’s level clunky. Lightsaber animations are slow and have been described as puppet-like but the abilities look much better. My favourite is Luke Skywalker’s force push for dislodging a group of arrogant Stormtroopers. But the elegant swordplay we came to expect just doesn’t work well. This may be due to the fact that heroes tend to rush headlong into combat and become the focus of every blaster on the battlefield for a short five seconds before they’re finished after which their body seems to just kneel and abruptly disappear. This makes one-on-one encounters between Jedi and Sith quite rare and when they do it seems to play out pretty quickly and rarely as graceful as anything we saw in the previous entries in the series or the trailer. And don’t get me started on Vader’s voice acting, one brilliant line being; “Nothing can stop my lightsaber” – eesh. I’m hoping above all else that’s just a placeholder whilst they get James Earl Jones on retainer.
Star Wars Battlefront is sometimes a polished awe-inspiring piece of kit and sometimes a clunky demo in need of some serious elbow grease. But it has the capacity to be an addictive thrill-ride of an action game. For all its’ flaws I’ve found it to be one of the most entertaining shooters I’ve played in a long time that might prove to be more than just brief filler before the release of Fallout 4. With DLC to come there’s the opportunity for more maps and gamemodes, and whilst many seasoned Battlefront players will be whinging at the lack of variety in maps keep in mind that modern shooters ship with only a few maps before adding more in through downloadable content. The player cards and power-ups serve as a nice break from having to create intricate player presets with infinite amounts of killstreaks, weapon modifications and perks which have saturated the market since Call of Duty‘s success. It’s also beautiful enough to warrant replaying your favourite Star Wars battles in glorious HD which is something the series has been in dire need of since the sadly unheard of Star Wars mod for Battlefield 2142. Much more is still to come in the main release including the ability to customise your player model featuring both male and female variations for both factions each with their own well-crafted battle chatter and dialogue, but the jury is still out on how well the final product will be received. Do keep in mind that this a beta though. You should sign up for free, give it a try, and submit any criticism to the team to help the final release be that little bit better.