Star Wars Battlefront had a lot of people to win over before heading into an open beta on October 8. The newest shooter from DICE has been eagerly anticipated for a while, but only had the curtain pulled back for at its gameplay and other modes earlier this year. However, there were still many questions about specifics regarding how the game would control and what fans could expect from a new entry in the much-loved series. The best way to show off Star Wars Battlefront was to put it right in the hands of the players.
The Star Wars Battlefront beta went live across all available platforms late last week, and was granted an extended run through October 13. In the gameplay demo, three modes are available for players to try out. Survival, the wave-based mission mode, takes place on Tatooine and encourages co-op play. Drop Zone introduces us to the barren planet of Sullust, and is focused on capturing objectives before the other team. The most popular mode, clearly, is Walker Assault: the 20 v 20 madness that mimics the opening of Empire on the ice planet Hoth.
Survival serves as a great introduction to the various weapons and mechanics available in Battlefront. As a lone rebel solider (or pair) on the run from Imperials, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with ion grenades, proximity mines and jump packs to survive. The first thing I did when launching the Beta was hop into a game of Survival to admire the gorgeous desert textures and test my skills on some AI enemies.
As for the online side, Drop Zone had some server woes initially that have more or less been smoothed out now. The objective is pretty simple, and makes for a fast-paced, exciting matchup of two smaller teams. Capturing and re-capturing drop pods in the allotted amounts of time is stressful and requires team coordination and good reflexes.
Walker Assault has tons of complex elements and feels like classic Star Wars in every way. This game mode really shows off what Battlefront has to offer, in ways that serve to both help and hurt confidence in the final product.
Everything on the presentation side of this new Battlefront game is absolute perfection. Playing this game feels like being dropped right in the middle of Star Wars. The attention to detail on the costumes, sets, and vehicles is sure to please any longtime fan as they pop with the game’s stunning visuals.
The sound design also goes a long way to make the player feel like they are on a battlefield in a galaxy far, far away. Shots from blasters whiz past your head as you’re running and TIE Fighters swoop in from the skies very frequently on Hoth. In Survival mode, Admiral Ackbar barks commands at you from a command ship and creates a sense of urgency in your action.
Of course while the game is great to look at and listen to, it is also fun as hell to play. Some fans were worried that Battlefront may have turned out to be Battlefield with a Star Wars paint job, but the game really feels like its own unique shooter. The weapons offered in the beta each feel distinct and fit perfectly with the Star Wars feel.
Matches are fast-paced and the respawn times are mercifully quick. You are also given the option to spawn at your partner’s location, which makes it even easier to hop back into the action. At each death, you are also given the option to swap around your weapon and power-ups you want to take into battle with you. There’s no real ‘Class’ system present in Battlefront, which makes matches feel like everyone starts on the same ground, but also brings up the issue of the game’s power-up system.
When playing Battlefront, one of the big underlying goals is to live iconic Star Wars moments. People picking this game up are going to want to pilot an X-Wing or mow down enemies as Darth Vader. The game definitely makes the opportunity available but at a random and unbalanced interval.
Power-ups appear at certain locations on the map at random times over the course of a match. When the game starts, you can run right up and get behind the controls of an AT-ST. However, when you trigger the power-up, the game essentially pauses and warps you to the vehicle you called in. Gone is the excitement and joy of hopping into a vehicle and taking off into the fray.
The flying mechanic needs a lot of work in Battlefront as well. On Hoth, the only map available in the Beta where players can launch vehicles, the aircraft move far too quickly to gain any real sense of control and often spiral and crash due to flying too low. Perhaps the controls are a bit too sensitive, but flying rarely felt strategic or skillful, just kind of awkwardly adjusting to the clunky controls.
Any player can run up and grab a power-up if they can see it, and it gives plenty of chances for players to be selfish and for the vehicles to not be used strategically. Heroes are launched in the same manner, so when game-changing boosts are given out so haphazardly, it tends to make some combat situations feel unbalanced.
The other big issue in the beta is directly related to this – how Walker Assault is insanely imbalanced towards the Imperial side. The spawn points for the Rebels are poorly placed and give players no chances to bunker down and fight back against the insurmountable strength of the Empire.
I witnessed a grand total of two Rebel victories in well over 40 games of Walker Assault, and they were due to the Snowspeeder power-up and the Orbital Strike, both of which are randomly obtained on the battlefield. The power-up system worries me when it comes to making sure the final game feels balanced and fun in every match.
While putting a serious amount of time in with Star Wars Battlefront assuaged a great number of my fears about the game, it did raise some new ones. The game totally feels unique, nothing like a Battlefield or Call of Duty clone. In an era where so-called ‘innovative’ FPS titles fail more often than not, I hope Battlefront can have a community as active as this beta when it launches.
The biggest concern I still have though, is the amount of content available when the game drops. Three game modes were available to us in the beta, and there were only a handful more blacked out. With no significant campaign, Battlefront doesn’t seem to have as much to offer that justifies that $60 price tag. The free Battle of Jakku DLC is coming fairly soon after launch and DICE has been denying rumors of micro-transactions or a season pass, but there will need to a great deal of compelling game modes if players are expected to keep returning for the thrill of Battlefront.