With a new entry in the Star Wars movie saga finally getting a new chapter later this December, EA snatched up the rights to make games based on the Star Wars brand. While the publisher could have chucked shovelware and slapped the Star Wars name on it to make a quick buck, it decided to give DICE — the studio most famously known for making the Battlefield shooter franchise — a chance to make the first good Star Wars game in years.
Set to come out this November 17, Star Wars Battlefront is a reboot of the franchise and is poised to go head-to-head with this year’s Call of Duty (Black Ops 3) in November. How is Star Wars Battlefront shaping up so far? Read on to find out in our early access impression from the Star Wars Battlefront beta.
Hooked on a Feeling
Immediately after entering a match (Drop Zone for me since there’s apparently not enough people playing when I tried Walker Assault to start a match), you’ll see and hear how close to the source material Battlefront is. It just feels like Star Wars; from the the sound of blasters, the iconic music kicking in whenever Darth Vader or Luke enters the battlefield, this is definitely a Star Wars game.
Remember that awesome looking reveal trailer EA released that we all assumed was nowhere near close to how the PlayStation 4 version looked? Well, while it might not be as awesome as that, it definitely comes close. Running at a silky smooth 60 frames-per-second, the frame-rate never faltered even when there were numerous soldiers on screen at once with AT-ATs and explosions happening all over the place. Make no mistake about it: Star Wars Battlefront is a technical marvel on the PS4, and is a good game to play when showcasing the console’s graphical prowess to your friends.
I remember telling our Managing Editor Mack Ashworth that the game brought the “Star Wars feels” after playing a few rounds, and he agreed. Needless to say, if you’re a Star Wars fan and ever wanted to take part in one of the movies’ skirmishes, Battlefront will bring that feeling.
DICE is known for its excellent gunplay in the Battlefield franchise and I’m happy to say that continues in Battlefront. While the blasters available in the game don’t have magazines, or fire bullets, they still feel like proper
guns blasters. In the beta, there are four available guns, but all of them fire lasers instead of bullets. They overheat instead of needing a reload (more on this in a bit), and there’s little recoil compared to how guns behave in most games. That said, I can’t imagine how hard it is to balance weapons that don’t exist, all the while using lasers for bullets.
Speaking of bullets, in almost every shooter, a gun needs to reload at some point before you can continue shooting lead, right? A similar mechanic is used in Battlefront. DICE borrowed Gears of War’s Active Reload system wherein once your gun overheats, a button prompt will show up in your crosshair that when pressed at the right time, will allow you to continue firing. It’s a nice addition and adds another element into how each blaster behaves.
Taking the place of your standard equipment in Battlefield and Perks in Call of Duty are Battlefront’s “Star Cards.” These cards run the range from different types of grenades, a jump pack, weapons with cooldowns and more. Players are allowed to carry three Star Cards with them in battle with the items mapped to L1, triangle button, and R1. I haven’t unlocked every Star Card in the beta, but my favorite so far is the jump pack. As expected, it gives the player a quick jump boost that they can use to either attack or retreat. But don’t think about spamming it, though, as there’s a 15-second cooldown after every jump pack boost. The jump packs don’t behave the same way as Exo suits in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. You won’t be wallrunning or doing crazy acrobatic stuff while in the air. Nope. Battlefront’s jump pack are violent, and in a way, clumsy…but in a “grounded” realistic way. If ever jump packs become a thing in real life, I expect this is how they’ll behave.
In the beta, the available competitive multiplayer modes are Drop Zone and Walker Assault. I’ve honestly spent more time in Drop Zone since it’s easier to start games even if there’s less than 10 of you in a match. Drop Zone is like Conquest (or Domination for Call of Duty fans), but the flags move. It’s a capture and hold game mode with each pod (that acts like a flag) being dropped at random places in the map while the match is happening. The team with the most secured pods wins the match.
Walker Assault, which based on DICE’s trailers, is the “main” mode of Battlefront, feels like Battlefield’s Rush. Unfortunately though, there’s some serious balance issues with the mode. Presently, it’s very, very hard to win as the Rebels in Walker Assault. Rebels have to activate to uplink stations in order to damage the AT-ATs, but the Hoth map is so wide open that it’s easy for those on the Empire side to pick out Rebels trying to attack the objective. Add in the TIE Fighters, AT-STs, AT-ATs and infantry all gunning for you, and well, you get the idea. I’m not sure if it’s due to the map, but I wouldn’t be surprised if DICE takes a look at the beta data and reworks how the mode is played. It’s like being the attackers in Rush, but with the added threat of a big ass AT-AT looming at all times.
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
Of course, one of the big hooks in any Star Wars game is being able to play as the iconic characters we all know and love, and Battlefront is no different. In the beta, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker can be played on Hoth in the Walker Assault mode. Players can play as the Heroes by picking up powerups that are randomly scattered all throughout the map.
So, just how was it playing as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker? Granted, I’ve only played as Luke twice, and Vader once, but destroying foes with Force powers and one-hitting them with lightsaber swipes was extremely satisfying. The animations might need a bit of work though. Check out the video below to see Mack Ashworth lay waste to his enemies as a Hero.
With that all out of the way, it’s not all roses and ewoks though. While most multiplayer shooters give an advantage to high level players by giving them access to better guns, gears and whatnot, that’s more pronounced in Battlefront. Equipment (Star Cards) can be unlocked by in-game currency that players earn after each round. Got the in-game cash? Good. Spend it on items that give you a fairly large advantage over your enemies who are underleveled. Again, it’s a familiar crutch in most multiplayer shooters, but for some reason, it felt more obvious in Battlefront.
Also of note is the progression system. The familiar multiplayer system of leveling up, unlocking gear, guns, etc. found in most multiplayer shooters is back in Battlefront. Now, I’m not sure if it’s just me but it felt like leveling your character and unlocking stuff is a little too easy. Couple that with the sparse gun choices (it doesn’t mention or show how many guns will be in the final game) and Star Cards, and well, don’t be surprised if you can “max out” Battlefront quicker than most shooters you’ve played.
Another question that still lingers in my head is just how much depth there is in the game? Will it provide hundreds of hours of gameplay and still feel fresh like Battlefield and Call of Duty? Or will we lose interest after performing the same Force Choke for the umpteenth time? I honestly can’t answer those questions until I’ve had my hands on the final game, but I can say that what I’ve played pleasantly surprised me. And as I’ve mentioned before, the gunplay feels so tight that it’s just fun taking out enemies and the Star Wars layer does help a lot.
There’s quite a few more in-game details that I’ve yet to discuss like powerups, vehicles (I drive like poo) and all that. But I’ll leave that for you to discover for yourself when the beta becomes available to everyone tomorrow, October 8.
Star Wars Battlefront beta early access code provided by EA.