Blaster fire all around. Surrounded by corpses. I looked to the right and watched Luke get gunned down by a plethora of Snowtroopers. I looked to the left and saw Vader slicing down soldier after soldier, their bodies flying in the air like ragdolls.
Fifteen seconds remained until the AT-AT would be in range of our shield generator.
In a last ditch effort, we managed to call one last Y-Wing assault to disable the walker temporarily. I saw my partner flying overhead in a snowspeeder in a vain attempt at stopping the walker. The Y-Wings quickly disabled the walker, which still had about three-quarters of its armor intact. Over the comm, I hear my partner struggling to figure out how to use the tow cable on his speeder to bring down the walker.
Eight seconds remained.
My friend crashed right into the walker, fatally wounding it. All the remaining rebel troops focused all fire on the walker.
Three seconds remained.
BOOM. The walker went up in flames. The Rebels won against impossible odds. Loud cheers over the comm channels. VICTORY.
These are the sort of moments I experienced with my friend, as we played through the beta together for a while. We managed to spend some time in all three modes that were available in the beta for Star Wars Battlefront. I went into the beta expecting a complete mess and a very dull game. I changed my opinion quickly upon jumping into the game. To begin with, the game is actually beautiful. The ugly gameplay videos I had seen did not do the game justice at all. Not only is the game absolutely gorgeous, but there is an active backdrop that really pulls you into the mood (starships in dogfights, crashing Star Destroyers, etc.). There is a lot of detail to the landscape as well as the weapons, and the animations are pretty solid as well. The thing that pulls you into the experience the most, though, are the sounds. The unmistakable Star Wars feel is present in the sound and music design, flawlessly, I might add.
I began by playing around in Drop Pod mode (Sullust was the only available map.) first. In this mode, a drop pod falls onto the battlefield and you have to fight for control of the pod as the Empire or Rebel Alliance. This works similarly to King of the Hill, except that the pods are physical objects that drop onto the battlefield randomly in a set of pre-designated spots. Once the pod is captured, it drops some items for use. The first team to reach 5 captures, wins the game (or whoever has the most once the time is up). This mode is extremely fast paced and jarring. This is the kind of mode that’s going to pull in the Call of Duty player. It’s simple and quick to pick up, and extremely satisfying.
Mission mode was the next thing I tackled (on Tatooine). This mode launches waves of Imperials at you in increasing difficulties as you try and survive with a partner. The beta only allowed for the first 5 (of 15, if I’m not mistaken) waves before ending the match. Sometimes, the waves will involve defending a drop pod to access important equipment. Vehicles will appear as well, such as the AT-ST that is in the beta. This is the kind of mode that will pull in the Gears of War Horde Mode type of player.
The final mode I tackled was the Walker Assault. This is essentially the Battle of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back. This was easily my favorite mode. This reminded me a lot of Battlefield 2142, in the sense that you are working toward an ultimate object that will result in and epic win (or loss). As the Imperials, you need to defend your AT-AT walkers at all costs, as they slowly push toward the Rebel’s shield generator. As the Rebels, you need to constantly try and hold data uplink stations. Each time a timer tick happens, you set a Y-Wing into your queue. There are three assault opportunities throughout the match, at which time these queued up Y-Wings will disable the walkers for a short time. The more Y-Wings you have, the longer this time will be. When the walkers are disabled, the rebels need to assault the walkers with everything they have to try and destroy them. While I’ve read a lot about other players complaining about how overpowered the Empire is, I’d like to point out that I won 7 of the 8 matches I played as the Rebels. All it takes is a little bit of coordination and understanding of how the mode works in order to win.
The map is fairly large. The initial assault happens in open snow, the second part happens within the rebel base (about half within, and half without) and the final assault happens within a set of snow trenches. Throughout the map there are infantry and vehicle turrets set up by the rebels that can be used by both sides and can be destroyed as well (Though usually used by the rebels. Due to the direction they face and their placement, they aren’t easily accessible by the imperials until the next assault, at which time they are useless.). Both sides also have access to vehicles. The Imperials can use AT-STs, TIE Fighters, TIE Interceptors and also they can control the attacks of the AT-ATs temporarily. The rebels have access to A-Wings (highly maneuverable, low defenses), X-Wings (high defenses, but slower than A-Wings) and snowspeeders (Relatively slow and not very maneuverable, but can be used to single-handedly bring down the AT-ATs when they are disabled using the tow cables. Not an easy feat.). As far as heroes, the Imperials have access to Darth Vader (who is relatively slow, but has great defense and can cut down troops with ease) and the Rebels have access to Luke Skywalker (faster and more agile than Vader, but more vulnerable). I never got to use the heroes much, because I would get gunned down immediately, but I did have a lot of fun with all the vehicles.
While the Empire looked to have the advantage, I felt like both sides were reasonably balanced. Most matched I played were pretty close, and were an absolute blast. The vehicles and special weapons are item pickups that you can use in the map, rather than physical objects on the battlefield. As you level up, you get these ‘cards’ which you can add to your ‘hand’ of three. These cards make up your loadout (along with your selected primary weapon). You can have things such as Thermal Detonators, one-shot sniper rifles or jetpacks. All of these have unlimited ‘ammo’, but they have a cooldown every time you use them. There weren’t too many customization options available in the beta, but if the full game expands on this with a lot more options, then it could create a very personalized experience without the need to have overly complex loadouts as with Battlefield.
I had the pleasure of playing the beta on all three available platforms. The PC is hands down the most gorgeous, and is my ultimate platform of choice. It provides the most accurate control scheme. The down side is that in order to take full advantage, you’ll need a fairly hefty computer and if you prefer to play with a controller, you’ll be left at an advantage due to the higher precision of the keyboard and mouse players. The PlayStation 4 version holds its own fairly well. Despite being at a 900p resolution (PC can push up to 4k), it still looks fairly detailed, runs smooth and handles well. I had no problems playing the game with the Dual Shock 4, which happens to be my least favorite controller of this generation. That’s saying something. Finally, we have the Xbox One. This version is definitely the weakest link. Running at a low, last-generation 720p, the game is noticeably blurry and less detailed. The effects and texture detail are a little lacking as well. It was quite jarring, to be quite honest. Visuals aside, the game still handled great, and ran smoothly as well. If given a choice, I’d highly recommend getting the game for the PS4 or PC, but if you choose the Xbox One don’t worry, you’ll still get a fun game.
That brings me to my final point. Besides getting stuck in the environment once (I got stuck in a rock on Sullust.), I didn’t run into any huge bugs or glitches while playing. Sometimes I saw some collision problems or hit detection issues, but these were mostly minor. For a beta, it ran relatively smooth and was fun.
Despite the relative lack of features in comparison with the series as a whole, the game is extremely fun and looks to be full of a decent amount of things to do. If they iron out the (mostly) minor kinks, and deliver on the content (and perhaps more) that they promised, then this could turn out to be one of the most fun Star Wars games we’ve had in a while. I’ve got my copy pre-ordered, do you?
Official Site: http://starwars.ea.com/starwars/battlefront