Look, being a games writer isn’t always the easiest job. A lot of it involves staring down the barrel of a deadline with a blank page in front of you and some game you’ve never heard of sitting resentfully in your Steam List. Other times it means sitting in a stuffy meeting room without AC surrounded by forty other people and the unique smell that only comes with energy drink sweat.
With all that being said, it’s still a difficult thing to complain about when you get to do things like play Star Wars: Battlefront with 39 other players, for free, all linked up in a beautifully lag-less LAN.
That’s just what I got to do at EGX this weekend and let me tell you, it was worth every minute of the three-hour line.
First, a disclaimer: I love me some Star Wars. You can actually hear about just how much I love it on this episode of the podcast, so this is a game that I was always predisposed to like. However, to counter that bit of bias I also should tell you that I suck at Battlefield. Like, I’m really bad guys. So bad that I just flat out gave up after ten minutes of Battlefield 4. So there’s that.
Now to the game. It should go without saying that it looks absolutely beautiful. I mean this is a flagship title from EA and, while the evil empire might do alot of things wrong, no one has ever argued that they don’t know how to make things look pretty. More then that though, the feel of this game is perfect. The weapons and vehicles all look, sound, and feel like they should, and it makes it an actual pleasure for a Star Wars fan to enter this world.
It goes beyond just the simple mechanics though, and it can get hard to describe without seeing for yourself. But what EA has done with this game is capture the atmosphere of the original trilogy. Blaster bolts fly convincingly in every direction, and the explosions have that same almost digitised appearance that fills the classic films. Quite frankly, the battlefield quickly descends into chaos but it is a strangely beautiful kind of chaos.
That extends through to the gameplay too, however it’s here I need to add a note of caution. As I mentioned before, I am pretty terrible at the traditional Battlefield games, and much of what I liked about Battlefronts gameplay was that it felt very different to the recent Battlefields. Now that is great for me, but I can understand why it may put off some longtime fans who were hoping for essentially Battlefield 4: Now we have lasers!
While the action is still fast paced, the level design and much longer range of all the weapons lend themselves to a more open and flowing style of fight than the tense twitch-fests that I sometimes found Battlefield to be. I found that, while still dying a lot, I was actually racking up a couple of kills on each playthrough and none of my deaths had the “what the heck just happened?” quality of previous games. If I was going to compare it to another title, Halo probably comes closest, or possibly the severly underrated Homefront multiplayer modes.
One thing that Battlefront seems to have over its rivals is an interesting mission structure. The battle I played (Hoth from the trailers) saw the Empire trying to advance their AT-AT walkers forward and take out the power generators of the rebel base. The rebels meanwhile had to hold several relay stations in order to co-ordinate Y-Wing bombing runs that could disable the walkers shields and allow all the ground troops to damage them. While the slow pace of the AT-ATs seems to give the rebels the advantage, they’re far from defenceless as they possess both powerful cannons and the ability to call in Orbital Strikes all at the fingertips of a player inside the cockpit.
The battle essentially unfolded in three phases (each one marked by a bombing run and a short window where the AT-ATs were vulnerable to fire) and there was some real tension building as the Imperials inched closer to their goal. It was a fun, dynamic way of building a multiplayer mission, and I’m looking forward to see what else EA has up their sleeve in the full game.
Sadly, my time with the game was soon over, however with a valiant last-minute effort we managed to take down the last of the walkers. The Rebels win! Oh, and yours truly is number four on the scoreboard. Like I said, this definitely is a different beast from Battlefield.
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