It’s been a week since the Star Wars Battlefront beta ended and it has given gamers a lot to think about. Is DICE’s take like the Battlefront games of old? What’s it like without a dedicated campaign? Is it another Battlefield in disguise? While there were few surprises, you cannot deny DICE put on a good show – delivering arguably one of the most immersive first-person shooter experiences of the year.
It’s no secret that Star Wars Battlefront already looks stunning, and the snowy surroundings of Hoth with Imperial Star Destroyers overhead present in the demo were particularly impressive. DICE has taken full advantage of the LucasArts sound archive, using the mechanical thud of an approaching Imperial Walker and the undeniable sound of those Star Wars blasters to great effect. There’s a great ambiance before combat and the well-constructed weapon models made this a very visually impressive beta; it’s probably the most authentic game I’ve ever played.
The wide variety of useful abilities on offer was also especially enjoyable. Thermal detonators, sniper rifles and the jetpack were just some of the useful unlocks I picked up on my way to the Level 5 beta cap. Your experience from each match is calculated into in-game credits, which go towards purchasing more weapons and in the form of cards. Each rank unlocks more cards and players bring four cards into every battle: a primary firearm, a sidearm and two abilities. For instance, you can use a potent pistol and high-powered rifle mixed with a thermal detonator as well as an EMP buff for your weapons, the latter of which are more effective against enemy vehicles.
The beta had a more ‘arcade’ feel to it than what I was expecting. Guns don’t contain any ammunition; they overheat instead. Also noticeable was the fact what aiming down the sights of your chosen weapon doesn’t increase its accuracy – instead yielding the same effect as firing from the hip – something DICE would be crucified for if this was a Battlefield title.
Vehicles are not stationed at the beginning of a team’s spawn point. Instead, they are piloted by collecting hovering blue pick-ups on the battlefield. This gives any player the chance to try out Battlefront’s vehicular combat, whether it be in a Tie Fighter, X-Wing, or Snowspeeder. Though the vehicles are powerful, they aren’t overpowered due to their handling and the lack of a basic tutorial section for newcomers. So, needless to say, learning to pilot a vehicle or control a Hero had to be done on the fly.
Getting the Hero ability was a highlight of the beta. Leaping around the battlefield and deflecting incoming shots as Luke Skywalker gave me an additional shot of adrenaline. A lightsaber duel with Darth Vader, though epic in theory, provided one of the areas in need of improvement. Despite my victory, both Vader and Luke ended up just swiping at one another. It was definitely a strange bit of gameplay, and was a far cry from the gameplay integration I was expecting.
I also experienced a lot of flaws when playing with friends, which was one of the beta’s most significant downsides. One of us had get into a match in order to invite the rest of the party in, and even then there was a very high probability we wouldn’t even be on the same team. Furthermore, I was unable to change my squad mate in the ‘Partner’ system in either Walker Assault or Drop Zone, which made for some very frustrating matches.
As troublesome as partying up was, the most annoying thing DICE failed to address was the spawning upon death. Over half of my deaths in both game modes were from randomly spawning in front of, or next to, a group of enemy players. This displeasure was only aggravated by Drop Zone, which shares a lot of similarities with Battlefield’s Rush game mode by bringing small and frenetic combat areas into play. Hopefully in the full release, DICE will consider implementing their combat-free ‘buffer’ zones in order to address these spawning issues.
As you can see, the amount of positives for the beta are also met with caution and uncertainty. The Battlefront beta really emphasized the lack of a story-based game. Even though there was still stacks of locked content, if the game’s entirety is based around what was offered in the beta – a stock-standard multiplayer-only experience – then its retail price has to be questioned. Even something similar to what Titanfall did, with lots of multiplayer missions containing numerous linings of story, would be enough. Hopefully this game – an everyday shooter in a shiny, gorgeous Star Wars skin – has a lot of more depth upon full release.
Power Up Gaming has already covered Star Wars Battlefront extensively at both Gamescom and EGX2015. The question isn’t if Battlefront will be popular or not – that much is clear already – but rather, if we’ll still be talking about it six months or twelve months down the track, well after that ‘new game smell’ has worn off.