We live in a world where communal gaming has transitioned into a global experience thanks to the advent of robust networks and broadband technologies, which are vastly different compared to the old days where gaming with friends required everyone to be in the same room. Both styles of gaming have their pros and cons, but there’s something nostalgic and charming about playing a game with another person sitting in the same room as you. Not many titles offer this experience anymore, which is a shame for the younger generation of gamers who haven’t been able to witness the fun that can be had while gaming without the need of an Internet connection.
One of my personal favorite styles of local co-op gaming is an FPS with split screen, and not the vertical split screen style, but rather the horizontal type. Playing through the original Halo for the first time with another friend in split screen will always be a special memory of mine, so I was pleased to find out at E3 2015 that Star Wars: Battlefront sports this feature, and after going hands-on with it (PS4 version), I can report back that it functions supremely well while offering an old school feel in a very modern looking video game.
The demo took place on Tatooine, which looked phenomenal, even on just half of a screen. Lighting, textures, and character models all look pristine, so much so it felt like I was part of the Star Wars universe that molded me into the geek that I am today. The sound design also oozes Star Wars, with everything from blaster fire to comm-chatter sounding just like they do in the movies. DICE’s extensive time spent at the Lucasfilm archives has definitely paid off, both in terms of the game’s visuals and sound, so I think Star Wars fans will appreciate the world that has been crafted in Battlefront.
The gameplay is pretty stellar as well, and I greatly enjoyed the Survive game mode that we played in split screen. Survive is essentially a horde type of mode, with waves of varying enemies and objectives awaiting your blaster bolts and special attacks. My partner and I faced six waves in total, and they were a mix of killing a set number of enemies or defending a crashed escape pod from more dangerous enemies like an AT-ST chicken walker.
You and your partner can pick up extra lives, which can be used if one of you die to get right back into the action, but if you don’t have extra lives and you die, you must wait until your partner clears the active wave. If you’re partner dies while you’re waiting to respawn the match ends, so there are many compelling reasons to work together to ensure victory.
Battlefront features many standard shooter tropes, such as having multiple guns that can be switched with the triangle button, special abilities tied to the two shoulder buttons, and another defensive (or offensive) based power move that can be kicked off by holding the triangle button. My loadout featured a rocket pack, which works very well to quickly cover large distances, or to get the hell out of dodge if your health hits a critical state. I also used a cluster bomb attack, as well as an Ion bomb attack for my super duper power move. The cluster bomb works great to clear large groupings of enemies, while the Ion attack offers a devastating blast from the ships orbiting the planet you’re fighting on.
Gunplay is slick and very responsive, both in third and first person views, which can easily be toggled holding the down arrow on the d-pad. Blasting waves of Stormtroopers felt fantastic, giving me confidence in my sometimes lacking shooter skills in my older age. In general the shooting didn’t feel as twitchy as other shooters, so I appreciated its slightly slower pace and more methodical feel over say a COD title. I also found it very easy to aim, find targets, and navigate the map even in split screen, so the controls are legit and work flawlessly on a half screen.
Star Wars: Battlefront is definitely shaping up to be the wet dream many of us die hard fans of the franchise have been wanting. Its visuals and sound design are impeccable, making it very easy to lose yourself in its gameplay. The split screen functionality is a treat, and offers a very sound experience that provides an old school communal gaming feel in this modern era of predominantly online-only gaming. If you live in a dorm, have roommates, or gamer siblings, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll appreciate Battlefront’s local split screen mode, so make sure to not miss out on the old school feel of split screen in a very modern looking game, and get your copy pre-ordered today.
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