I purchased the original Star Wars: Battlefront when it came out more than a decade ago and I can clearly remember the first round I played on it. Playing as a member of the Rebellion on Bespin, flying an X-Wing around, and trying to oust the Empire from the planet, I decided that a game couldn’t get any cooler. I didn’t have a way to play online back then, but my friends and I would spend hours and days playing split screen, passing the controller back and forth. I bought Battlefront 2 on release day and played it even more than I played the first, which was no small feat.
I waited patiently for Battlefront 3 to come out, but it never did. I played the PlayStation Portable releases, which were fun, but couldn’t capture the feel of the first two. When Battlefront 3 was cancelled I wrote the series off as a good memory and stopped hoping for a new entry in the series.
When the new Battlefront was announced at E3 two years ago, I let myself get excited again. Having the chance to play one of my favorite games on a souped up next-generation system, and being able to play it online, was what I had been waiting for since Battlefront 2’s release. I finally got that chance this weekend but found myself disappointed. The game looks and sound beautiful, and its game play is fun, but it isn’t Battlefront.
Graphics and Audio
Battlefront takes advantage of every ounce of power available to it, and it shows. The game looks as good as any game I’ve ever played. On occasion I had trouble telling the difference between what was game and what was cinematic. Whether you are on Tatooine, Hoth, or Sullust the attention to detail is clear, and you really feel the difference between the planets.
The sound is another place where the game shines. Thermal detonator explosions, blaster fire, and the hum of a light saber sound just like they do in the movies. They also blend together to make the battle feel chaotic without being overwhelming.
From an audio/visual standpoint, Battlefront is nearly flawless and is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played.
Despite my excitement for Battlefront I have managed to avoid reading much about it, watching videos, or doing anything else that could spoil details about the game before I had a chance to play it. Going into the beta for the first time I had no idea what to expect beyond knowing that the game was developed by DICE and that the Battlefield series would likely influence the way the game played.
The game handles like a cross between Call of Duty and Battlefield. You are dropped into the fight in first person view, though the classic Battlefront third person view is available. Movement and aiming is smooth and actually firing your weapon feels satisfying. You have to lead your shots, but combat happens at short enough ranges that it doesn’t feel like you have to do calculus in your head to know where to aim. If you’ve ever played a shooter before you should be able to pick it up within your first round of actual gun play. I loaded up the game, got into a match, and expected to be greeted by this.
Instead, I was greeted by this screen.
Battlefront no longer has different classes with preset load outs for players to select. Much like the Call of Duty games, you gain experience and credits upon completing matches. Once you have reached the requisite level and have enough credits, you can purchase new cards for your hand. These cards can be anything from thermal detonators, to jet packs, to short term boosts to your damage. While some players may like the flexibility, I missed being able to identify an enemy’s capabilities by sight, and having to decide which class, with all its strengths and weaknesses, would suit the current situation of the battle.
The weapons and abilities granted by the cards are quite fun, and, for the most part operate on a cool down system rather than an ammo system. Gone are the days of spamming thermal detonators while standing next to an ammo droid. Instead, you throw one, wait eight seconds, and can throw another. Ammo for guns is also a thing of the past, with every primary weapon using an overheating mechanic to limit your ability to fire continuously. Similarly, health regenerates after a short period of taking no damage. I greatly appreciated these changes because they streamline the experience and remove the need to take yourself out of the fight by falling back to look for pickups or a health/ammo droid.
Pickups are not entirely gone however. Pickups on the battlefield take the form of charges for your most powerful card weapons/abilities, turrets that can be placed, and if you’re lucky, the chance to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.
Playing as a Jedi is a lot of fun in the Battlefront beta and much more satisfying than it was in previous games. You feel the power without feeling overpowered. Playing as a foot soldier, the best option when encountering a Luke or Vader often to simply run away, but a coordinated group or a well placed grenade go a long way towards taking them down.
The beta came with two multiplayer game modes available, Walker Assault and Drop Zone. This disappointed me because I had been looking forward to the classic Battlefront control point and reinforcements game-play. Thankfully, that mode will appear in the final version of the game under the title Supremacy.
Drop Zone is a king of the hill style game where you fight the other team for control of crashed escape pods. When a team captures one a new one appears and the first team to capture five is the victor. Walker Assault takes place on Hoth and features a massive forty person battle. The Rebellion must destroy the Empire’s AT-ATs before they can reach their shield generators. the classic snow-speeder tow cable option is available, but most of the combat happens on foot with the two sides fighting over data up-links that the Rebels can use to call in air strikes.
Of the two game modes, I enjoys Drop Zone more, but in both modes the randomized re-spawns and lack of control points made the game feel more like a Call of Duty than Battlefront.
There is also a single player Survival mode where you face increasingly difficult waves of enemies. The first missions was easy enough (and long enough) that I didn’t bother playing that mode any further. It is a good way for new people to get used to the controls and to try out a few of the higher level cards though.
The Battlefront beta looks and sounds exactly like a Star Wars game should. Its gun-play is tight and the different accessories give players a lot of options on the battlefield. Where it may fall short for fans of the series is its distinctly different feel. If you went into the beta looking for a direct sequel to the PlayStation 2 games you will likely leave a little disappointed. If you went in looking for a new Star Wars game that is just plain fun, the beta delivered on all fronts.