“It looks, sounds and feels like Star Wars – what more can you ask for than that?”
I am a crazily big Star Wars fan, not to mention an enthusiastic veteran of the traditional Star Wars Battlefront games. The Star Wars universe, both what remains canon and what is now classed as “Legends”, enthrals me and the Battlefront games are some of my all-time favourite video game titles, as well as some of my most played. Needleless to say, the beta testing dates for DICE and EA’s revamp of the series had been on my calendar for some time…
Prior to my brief experience of the game at Eurogamer Expo this year, I like many others feared that the game would turn out to be just a Star Wars-skinned Battlefield game with DICE at the head of it. It turned out that these fears were heavily unfounded. Whilst the game takes clear inspiration from DICE’s previous works, it is also very evident that it has taken a vast amount from the older Battlefront games and the Star Wars movies themselves as well. Once you happily expel these previously worrying expectation, the real fun begins!
The first thing you will notice about the game is just how good it looks, both in video game terms and based on the fact that a lot of care has gone into making it look like Star Wars. I kicked things off by having a go at the Survival Mode demo on Tattooine, and was amazed by how real the landscape looked. The brightness of the two suns, the colour of the rocks, the expanses of empty desert… It really does make you want to run around screaming “hey Mum, look at me, I’m in Star Wars!” If you are able to refrain from doing so long enough for the Stormtroopers to show up, you will also appreciate just how perfect these character models look in the game as well.
Survival mode in Star Wars Battlefront plays similarly to the old Firefight mode in the Halo series. Increasingly challenging waves of enemies file in to take you down, and your job is to hold them off for as long as possible. You can also collect helpful escape pod drops along the way which will provide you with more powerful tools to aid your cause. It is possible to play Survival on your own or with a friend, with the mode offering a split-screen co-op experience too. This will delight any fan of the original Battlefront games. It is hard to say how challenging this mode will turn out to be though, as the beta only offered a taster of the first few round played on an easy difficulty. The structure itself however is exciting, dynamic and something out of a Star Wars fan’s dreams.
Two other game modes were included in the beta as well, the first of which was called Drop Zone. This mode takes place on the previously unseen (to my recollection) planet of Sullust. Of course, we have seen the inhabitants of this world in the Star Wars movies before, but this is the first high-profile depiction of their home world that we have been offered. Much like the Tattooine map, this one too looked incredible, with a very distinct personality and style which let you know exactly where you were in the galaxy. Drop Zone is a game mode in which you and your team must fight the enemy in order to take control of falling (or dropping) escape pods around the map. The first team to take control of five pods takes the victory. Capturing a pod offers the added bonus of special power-ups, which range from squad shields to orbital strikes, and can easily sway the tide of battle. These power-ups can be collected across the game’s other game modes as well by some means or other. Drop Zone is a fun mode reminiscent of the traditional King of the Hill variant in similar games and indeed of the command post-capturing calamity of the older Battlefront titles. Above and beyond the King of the Hill similarity however, the Star Wars twist naturally makes it even more of a joy to play.
The most unique game mode which we have seen so far was the final one on offer; Walker Assault on Hoth. Much like in the movies, Hoth is very… White. It is also huge in terms of map size, and the terrain and indoor elements make it a challenge to traverse. The basic idea of this game mode is that the Rebel team must take out the dreaded Imperial Walkers before they can reach and destroy the Rebel base’s power generator. The Imperial team must protect the walkers by disabling Rebel homing beacons which if activated will call in periodic air strikes from Y-Wing bombers. It is madness in this 20 vs 20 deathmatch, but the action never stops nor ceases to inspire awe. The added bonuses of pilotable ships and the ability to play as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader complete the experience, each of which appears to have been a well crafted playable experience and well integrated too.
There are numerous features worthy of mention which the beta showcased across each of the game modes. Most prominent is the new loadout system, which fans of the older Battlefront games will be as-yet unfamiliar with. Rather than choosing a generic trooper to play as, you can now decide on what weapons, power-ups, grenades and equipment they will enter the battle with. The game also suggests that a character customisation option will be present at launch. This loadout system allows players to form their perfect soldier; however a level-based system for gaining the greatest arsenal may leave some players feeling at a distinct disadvantage during their early gameplay experience.
Another feature present is one that fans shouted loudly that they wanted in the game, and that is 3rd person gameplay. Not only has this been included, but it is also possible to select which viewpoint you start the game in, and seamless switching during the battle lets you play exactly like you want to, adapting your style on the fly. The ability to fly ships during land battles makes a welcome return too, however the tokens which activate these ships and other vehicles, rather than them simply being spread around the map, does take something away from the immersion. On the subject of things that are not present, there is also no Galactic Conquest mode or equivalent, which made up a major part of the older Battlefront games and were something of a fan favourite. Closed, specific game modes on specific maps have made this seem impossible, and this is pretty disappointing.
Despite these final gripes which I had with the Star Wars Battlefront beta, I was extremely impressed with the experience. It looks, sounds and feels like Star Wars – what more can you ask for than that? The variety in game modes which will accompany the full release of the game will be a very welcome expansion to those which we were offered during the testing period, and announcements to date make them sound just as exciting too. At this stage, Stat Wars Battlefront looks nothing less than on-point and I for one now have a greatly amplified faith in this upcoming epic of a game!