Star Wars Battlefront for me has always been about experiencing a franchise that thousands know and love first-hand. Part of what made the PS2-era shooters so engrossing was the fact that they got battles just right. Scores of rebels and stormtroopers all flocking into epic firefights, accompanied by hulking AT-ST Walkers and the occasional swing of a lightsaber. Battlefront created its own brand of multiplayer that was equal parts fun and competitive to play.
And it’s what EA and DICE have seemingly managed to emulate with their upcoming reboot.
I’ve poured more hours than I thought I would into the Battlefront Beta this weekend, trying to wrap my head around a game I wasn’t even too sure I was going to play. Battlefront is an online experience for the most part, and I’m not the biggest fan of competitive multiplayer shooters. Sure there’s the co-operative missions (with the one in the beta being a small, rather insignificant look at what is hopefully a bigger picture), but most of the time you’re going to be hopping into online lobbies, choosing a side and hearing that laser fire ring out all around you. And for the most part, it’s incredibly fun.
Your rebel or imperial drone of choice comes with an assortment of gear. After levelling up a bit and saving some credits (which are earned after every match) you’ll soon be swapping between different starting blasters, cards and eventually cosmetic armour pieces(which wasn’t in the beta). Of the four blasters available in the beta, they all seemed to serve different purpose. The single-handed pistol was perfect for closer quarters encounters thanks to its high-fire rate, while the standard issue imperial blaster worked wonders from medium range (thanks to it’s insane damage output).
But when not blasting away enemies with your traditional weapons, you have cards. You’ll start with three of them, with the off-hand cards on the left and right cycling through cooldowns before you can use them. These ranged from an extremely powerful sniper rifle, to a thermal detonator and eventually a jet pack which served as a great way to get around maps. The centre card is reserved for something more powerful (like ION shots that could damage vehicles) and hence required power pickups that are littered across the maps.
The fourth slot is reserved for anything you pick up on the Battlefield, including calls to commandeer AT-STs, AT-ATs, X-Wings, TIE Fighters and more. On smaller maps these were replaced with Smart Rockets, automated sentries and mountable gun placements, which could really swing the tide of the battle. It’s a very different system to modern killstreak rewards that give all the fancy toys to the best players. But like old Battlefronts before it, you’re going to need to scour the battlefield as well as keep your head down to succeed.
It also lends itself heavily to making Battlefront more fun to play. It’s a weird balance to explain because at its core Battlefront is still trying to be a competitive shooter. But it’s clear that this isn’t trying to go up with the likes of Battlefield or Call of Duty in a truly competitive sphere. Battlefront encourages you to win, but it’s also more about ensuring everyone has fun while doing it too. I don’t engage with online shooters much because I’m not as competitively inclined as most players, but Battlefront felt like a game I could always return for a few quick rounds without worrying about any prolonged absence.
The strongest element that plays into this is in the way weapons work. Blasters overheat instead of running out of ammo (and even have a neat active reload similar to Gears of War), and hardly recoil when compared to nearly any other shooter you’ve played. This makes first-person play somewhat pointless, so I stuck to a third-person view nearly 99% of the time. It offers a greater field of view, a better sense of combat awareness and offers no penalty to accuracy. It often doesn’t even feel like you need to take aim down the sights, unless that stormtrooper helmet is merely a speck on the horizon.
It goes against so many traditional competitive shooter tropes that it’s hard not to admit that DICE is doing this intentionally. For months now they’ve been dodging allegations that Battlefront is merely Battlefield in a Star Wars skin, but only after playing can you really believe it. Although it does come across as a little confusing in modes like Walker Assault, where the slightest unfocused team play usually meant an easy victory for the Empire. Thankfully the more point focused Drop Zone was a bit easier on the strategy (and the most fun I’ve had in the limited beta by far).
There are certainly some big problems with the game still, which is a little worrying this close to launch. Walker Assault is still wildly unbalanced, and throughout the weekend I didn’t experience a single Rebel win (although I did have conversations with people who said the opposite). Respawn points are a mess (but being addressed already), card cooldowns are often too short, and taking control of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker was a clunky, uninteresting burst of gameplay that should’ve been the climax. At the very least the fantastic netcode kept things smooth – good considering the lack of a server browser.
It would also be ignorant to ignore the massive divide this seems to have caused between players, with it being very apparent that beta participants have either loved or loathed the experience. Being dressed in Star Wars plays a big part in this, and I’m under no illusions that fans of the mega-franchise will inadvertently be inclined to see more of the good in Battlefront than the bad.
But after spending a lot more time with the beta than I thought it would manage to keep me hooked for, there is something underlying here that is more than just fan service. Hearing the iconic roar of a TIE ION engine can only give you goosebumps for so long, and eventually the game has to sustain a player’s interest far beyond its gorgeous aesthetic. Battlefront’s beta convinced me that DICE has done exactly that, and with a little fine tuning this could really be the game that fans of the shooter franchise have long been waiting for.
Not everybody loves it though. Here’s what Gavin thinks about Battlefront.
Last Updated: October 12, 2015