If you’re an owner of a PS4, Xbox One or a half decent PC like myself then you may have noticed that Stormtrooper helmet icon lingering on the Playstation Store/Xbox Live Marketplace/Origin. Landing for just a weekend and extended by a day for the players, DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront has made quite the impression on gamers both skeptical and optimistic alike.
If you didn’t manage to get your hands on the beta you only missed out on what seemed to be a small portion of the game. With three maps, two multiplayer battles and one single-player mission, the beta teased some of what we can expect come November, and gave players a glimpse of much more to come through the unavailable game modes displayed.
Offering a choice selection of maps, players could fight across Hoth, Sullust and Tatooine as either the Rebellion or the Empire. As far as maps go, each was stunning with its own distinctions and rhythm to it. Sullust is quite tight and chaotic as you race through a maze of rock and vapours to capture escape pods. The canyons of Tatooine are dynamic and vertical with wide spaces and sharp corners as you solo squads of Stormtroopers through Tusken territory. Hoth is the main event, larger than Sullust and Tatooine combined, with three areas to the map as enormous AT-ATs erode through the rebel lines. Each map is varied and requires a different approach to each. While Tatooine is single-player and a rampage in almost every sense, Hoth is a war of attrition and requires co-ordination to either destroy two AT-ATs or protect them from Rebel attack both on the ground and above.
It goes without saying that the game is beautiful. Even though I ran the beta on medium settings on my PC the detail shone through and the environments were amazing. The three maps are detailed down to the last rock and snowflake, with destructible elements and multiple avenues of attack to explore and strategise around. From the detail on a Tusken hut or escape pod to the background battles raging in the sky above. There’s a wealth of detail to pick out when you’re not getting shot at.
Despite their distinctions and different battle-types, each map shares a common thread in that the attention to detail is second to none. From your own blaster rifle to the gears on an AT-ST or the screech of a TIE fighter as it dives past a firefight; the culmination of perfected details that stay true to the Original Trilogy craft an incredible Star Wars experience. Even the explosions are peculiarly Star Wars, abandoning any pretense at heavy smokes and bursts of flame, DICE have honoured the spray of sparks from a blaster hit or explosion that we know from the films.
I thought it sacrosanct to play a Battlefront game in first person, the original games were at their best when taking out rebels in third person. But after a full day of tearing through Hoth in first person (because I didn’t realise you could toggle views) I was of a different mind. The game handles tremendously in first person, and seems to be the best option for racking up the most kills. It’s the expected blend of modern shooter aspects with Battlefront but that’s clearly no bad thing. Within the first five minutes, any worries I had of it being to akin to the Battlefield series were swept away. Theres no heavy trudge to the players movement or focus on realism. The focus in Battlefront is Star Wars, and it feels like Star Wars, from how players move, to blaster fire and detonator explosions, it feels like Star Wars in a way no other game has.
Battlefront is shaping up to be an almost entirely different beast from the original games, while capturing a fast paced an intense Star Wars experience, it doesn’t seem to have held onto the past much and has driven forward with several new ideas and features. I’m onboard with the power-up system, leaving bonuses like fighter piloting and ground assault vehicles to whoever is lucky enough to run to the holographic symbols littered across the map. The days of selecting a defined class are gone, instead DICE has included the “hand” feature, where players are given three slots to fill with weapons, explosives and gear of their choosing, as well as a blaster from their arsenal. It shakes things up and kept me on my toes throughout, where one set of enemies would employ mostly detonators and personal shields, others would opt for ion blasts and cycler rifles.
Despite being an almost inexhaustibly good time, the beta has raised an eyebrow or two at what we could expect for the full game. So far, despite my hopes being high and excitement fueled, the game looks to be the first Battlefront from two console generations past, but for current gen. It’s hitting the marks of the original but with far more meat and refined detail, it’s disappointing that it can’t match Battlefront II in terms of scope and variety, but I’m hopeful that will come in due time. the map selection screen has two obvious spaces left open, one for Jakku and the other presumably being for DLC that EA has lined up for us in the near future. It’s an inevitability of current gaming but if the content to come can match that of what we’ve been given in the beta it might soften the sting of the ridiculous onslaught of DLC that is surely incoming.
What the Battlefront beta has delivered is exhilarating for any Star Wars fan and leaves me hopeful for November 17, but with no single-player campaign and a limited amount of maps coming our way, is it to be a fulfilling return to an era of Star Wars games or something lesser and confined tinted by nostalgia for Star Wars? I’m not convinced either way.
Fun but not enough yet to be the new hope we’re looking for