With every new console generation we seem to take a step closer to the look, feel and scope of the most influential movies in the film industry. Although it has probably been said before in every preceding generation, anyone who experiences Battlefront will likely agree that videogames have finally reached a new plateau for Star Wars games, in capturing the authenticity of the film’s license.
We tried our hands on the Beta during the past weekend, and ended up playing a lot of it, despite the limited content. The game offered 3 different modes, each with its own separate map. The first was a singleplayer/co-operative mission were you defend against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. The second was an online mode, were both the Empire and the Rebel factions compete to capture drop pods in the map, and the last was Walker Assault Mode, which is definitely the meatiest mode of the three.
For those that fondly remember the third person action feel of the older Battlefront games, some might be initially dismayed it plays a lot more like modern first person shooters like Battlefield – which makes sense being developed by DICE – but for the majority this won’t be a problem, and its style of gameplay does work effectively well for the context of the game.
Being a Battlefield-like game, it does carry its typical frustrations, such as being stuck on the wrong end of a one sided match, where continuous deaths – including spawn deaths – occur frequently; or being stuck as a lowly vulnerable foot soldier for matches because of your greedy teammates always snatching up the cool vehicles. Then you always are forced to progress in ranks in order to unlock new items and abilities, and while initially doing so ungeared and underpowered, are pitted against already high leveled, geared opponents who mercilessly obliterate you faster than you can say “Utini!”
Regardless how exactly matches play out, it’s always exciting to be in the thick of action, as everything looks absolutely spectacular. From the crossfire of lasers, to the imposing Imperial Walkers trampling through the snow on Hoth, leaving massive footprints in their wake, or the blurred images of X-Wings or screeching TIE Fighters dog fighting above, everything looks impressively detailed, and based on the Walker Assault Mission on Hoth is set to be also massive in scope. It’s hard to recall even in the older Battlefront games so much going on at once in such visual fidelity. Being able to witness from ground view, squads of troops advance through snow trenches in a hail of blaster fire and vibrant explosions, as a snowspeeder tow-cables a giant four legged imperial walker to the ground – all in real-time – is quite the impressive spectacle. And during the Beta there wasn’t really any technical issues with the framrate either, it overall ran pretty smoothly despite of how much was occurring on-screen.
The weapons handle well, although the four primary laser guns that were available generally felt the same, with only slight differences in firing speed and power. None felt particularly powerful over another however, with the exception to the cycle rifle, which appropriately is an off-hand equippable item, that fires a single shot before going on cooldown. Interesting to note that all other items and gear don’t use a limited resource like ammo or fuel, but instead go on a cooldown timer, or in the case of the primary weapon temporary overheat after firing for too long, which is nice in a way, as it eliminates the potential frustration to restock supplies while stranded in the middle of a fight.
The vehicles are also fun to take control of, each with their own unique abilities and armaments. The Hoth map provided a variety of vehicles to try out including: X-Wings, Snowspeeders, TIE-Fighters, TIE-Interceptors, A-Wings, AT-STs and even the behemoth AT-ATs. And each vehicle handles slightly different, which is appropriate, but unfortunately also adds to the learning curve of the game. Fun as they are to control, it takes time to get adept at piloting them effectively, and during the Beta the only opportunity was during an online match, which needless to say, usually lead to tragic outcomes. The drawback to being in a vehicle is being larger, slower moving, usually less maneuverable, and stuck to the open areas of the environment, essentially making you an easy target to fire upon.
Flying the Unfriendly Skies. (Note: being cocky doesn’t make you a better pilot…)
There were also two playable heroes to control: Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, which are pretty neat to play as, and sure to put a smile on one’s face when they see their introduction cinematic when they first take control of them. However, for most players the excitement might end there, as they are complicated if not more complicated to control than the vehicles, and for balance sake are just as vulnerable too if focused on. The tactical approach is essential to use them effectively, otherwise you will witness your favorite hero be anti-climatically executed by nameless soldiers who took minimal effort to blast you down.
The biggest criticism to the game so far is how co-operative play is handled with buddies, although friends can click on your profile to join an online game you are in, you are only able to pair up with only one other person during the match. This is pretty baffling for a game centered around team oriented tactical play. What ever happened to being able to squad up to 4 or even 6 man squads like in the previous Battlefield games? Especially when Battlefront offers matches with up to 40 players at a time. It definitely would be nice if they gave the option, but it seems unlikely considering how late into development it is at this point.
Battlefront’s gameplay isn’t revolutionary by any means, but it’s really solid. What really sells it is the opportunity to fight in exotic locales and drive the awesome looking vehicles in a grand scale, based in the Star Wars universe, and in that regard, Battlefront promises to deliver.