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Star Wars Battlefront Impressions – A Force of Hope (PS4)

 Star Wars Battlefront is fast approaching its release date of November 17, and EA was kind enough to let us get our grubby paws on the game ahead of release at their studio in Redwood Shores in California. During our hands-on time with the game over the course of the past two days, we played every single mode. From Blast to Droid Run, Supremacy to Hero Battles, I played so much Battlefront over the past 48 hours, I started hearing blaster fire in real life when the headphones were off.

Learn by Doing

We started out playing some solo or co-op missions. These missions serve as extended tutorials, and will really help those of you who are struggling to fly a TIE fighter in any real capacity. They also serve as a genuine challenge, because each mission has a number of stars that you can earn for completing the missions in Hard and Master mode, the latter of which will truly test your skills. The difference between a Normal round of Survival and a Hard round is staggeringly large. There is an interesting mechanic whereby you have a certain amount of lives at the start of some missions. If you’re playing in co-op, if you die and your partner is still alive, you can watch (spectate) them instead of using a life. If your partner manages to clear a wave of enemies, you respawn without burning through a life. This isn’t a completely new tactic to co-op games, but is good to see as it adds to play strategy.

While playing in multiplayer maps, one thing that was obvious was that for all but the most long-range of shots, everyone was firing from the hip. Since these guns are blasters, there is no noticeable recoil, and wherever your crosshair is aiming is where your projectile will eventually hit. However, the projectiles appear to move more slowly than bullets. It’s hard to describe, but you had to aim ahead of the target you were aiming at, or else the projectile would take too long to arrive, and your target would most likely have moved in the meantime. That doesn’t sound much different than usual shooting tactics, but the movement of the projectiles was kind of slow even at short range. It doesn’t take too long to get the hang of Battlefront‘s blaster physics, and soon it’s a matter of dodging enemy fire better than other players to survive.

A Balanced Walker

Each mode that we played through was played on basically every map that will be available at the game’s launch. Walker Assault, for instance, is on several different planets, and not just Hoth as seen in the beta. This was great to see, because each battle plays differently depending on how cohesively both teams play. I can safely conclude that Walker Assault is not heavily biased towards the Empire — we witnessed multiple victories by the Rebels as well. Supremacy mode takes the Walkers out, and tasks both teams with securing control points. Those matches can either be long, drawn-out battles, or short skirmishes with complete domination by one team. It does not appear that there is any sort of automatic match balancing, which is something that can hopefully be rectified, otherwise players will routinely quit immediately after losing a round. Heroes can make or break some of these rounds, as well.

Some Heroes are surprisingly robust. During the Hero Hunt game mode, for instance, one player is randomly chosen at the beginning of the match to play as a Hero/Villian, and they are pitted against up to seven others who are tasked with taking the Hero down. If your attack is the one that takes the Hero’s last health point, you become a random Hero. Rinse and repeat until the timer expires and the player with the most kills wins. In one round, for instance, I managed to defeat the current Hero, and spawned away from the action as Princess Leia. With no previous experience playing as her, I was not sure of what to expect. However, by combining her portable energy shield and ability to spawn health pickups, I was able to obtain 22 kills of the opposing seven players, and that score was capable of carrying me to the victory.

Stunning Presentation

Star Wars Battlefront is the most awe-inspiring incarnation of the Star Wars universe to be found, anywhere. When we first approached our gaming station, for instance, each PS4 was at the title screen, which automatically loads a short animation using in-game models. One includes a recreation of C-3PO and R2-D2 in “conversation.” The detail on both of those models is impeccable. In action, scenery remains almost as detailed. Expect to see the lush overgrowth consistent with the forest moon of Endor, home of the Ewoks, as well as other iconic locations in wonderful detail. The game also maintains a solid performance throughout — I cannot recall seeing any stuttering, no matter how crazy onscreen action became.

Audio work is also top-notch, like the rest of Battlefront‘s presentation. Some of it you may not even notice until you join a lightly-populated server. While on the forest moon of Endor, for example, it was just myself and three or four other players, and in between skirmishes I would pause to take in my surroundings. You could hear distant Ewoks, and wildlife that added to immersion. On the flip side, when things are hectic, you can hear screaming TIE fighters, screaming Rebels, and the utterly epic implosion grenades. DICE has always been known for producing high-caliber audio in Battlefield, and they have put those chops to amazing use. It’s the kind of high quality sound effects that you won’t soon forget, dripping with nostalgia.

Light Customization

Then, there’s customization to consider. There are hundreds of unlockables to obtain, by leveling up your profile and spending in-game credits, which are earned by participating in battles and clearing missions. The unlockables include character models, Star Cards (see the whole list here), Trait Cards, and even emotes. Some Star Wars diehards are apparently upset that you can select to be a Stormtrooper without a helmet, but I welcome the customization. It adds an element of humanity to the up-until-now mostly faceless, authoritarian Galactic Empire, which may be the side effect that’s causing those few fans to rage so hard about the whole issue. Ultimately, customization in Battlefront boils down to which character model you want to use, and which Star Cards you want to assemble into hands (you can only take three cards into battle), alongside emotes and Trait Cards earned at a higher player level, which serve to enhance your character with traits such as faster health regeneration, resistance against explosive damage, and more. In other words, there are no decals to apply to a Stormtrooper’s helmet, or color choices, or any other options regularly associated with customization. This is likely due to restrictions in place to protect the intellectual property of Star Wars more than anything.

Star Wars Battlefront is everything a fan could ask for. Not the hardcore, canon-obeying fan, mind you, but for anyone who has longed to recreate the epic battles of the original trilogy that they remember so vividly, taking massive liberties with the story of course. It’s in those playful liberties that EA DICE gives the players the ability to simply enjoy the franchise. Where else in any instance of the Star Wars universe can you have Luke Skywalker, as a full-fledged Jedi, and Darth Vader clash right in front of an AT-AT Walker? The answer is, you can’t, and it’s something that’s just fun for the sake of being fun.

Stay tuned for our full Star Wars Battlefront review set to be published early next week once the embargo lifts.

Hands-on impressions conducted during a review event conducted by EA, with travel fare and hotel accommodations provided by the publisher. Reviewer was also given a disc to test the game at home in real world conditions.