Over the last couple of days I’ve had a chance to sit down with the Beta for the upcoming revival of the much-adored Star Wars Battlefront series. With the palpable fervor of excitement surrounding the release of Star Wars Episode VII later this year, Battlefront is almost guaranteed to sell like space-hotcakes. But is it any good?
The short answer in my opinion, is yes. Yes it is. Let’s start with the basics. In the beta there are three different maps and modes available to you. There’s a horde-mode map on Tatooine, where you have to fend off waves of Stormtroopers and activate drop pods in the name of the Rebellion. There’s the multiplayer equivalent of this mode with two teams of 8 players on the planet Sullust (which is apparently mentioned in passing, but never actually visualised in the films). Finally, and most substantially, is the Walker Assault on Hoth. The latter is of course the meat and potatoes of this particular beta.
The visuals across all three maps are simply incredible. Swedish developers DICE have used Photogrammetry, a relatively new technique in game development, to bring an almost photo-realistic quality to some of Sci-Fi’s most famous planets. You can read more about this technique and how it’s been applied to Battlefront here. The results are very impressive, with rocky outcroppings, banks of snow and steaming mud pits all looking absolutely superb. This level of quality and detail also extends to the character models, weapons, vehicles, turrets, shields and of course lightsabers.
The one aspect that has me the most impressed however has been the sound design. DICE are well-known for their great sound but they’ve outdone themselves with Battlefront. Blaster fire searing overhead, thermal detonators and AT-AT/AT-ST cannons going off all around you, the shouts and screams of Stormtroopers and Rebels alike. All of it is fantastic and feels 100% Star Wars. The sound of the special pickup grenade imploding is just so good. Something that’s definitely worth mentioning is the random chance upon spawning for your character to be female. At least, it’s random in the beta. Hearing a female voice coming out of a Stormtroopers helmet was a great surprise.
In around five hours of playing I have only won the Walker Assault map on Hoth once as the Rebels. In its current state the map is heavily skewed towards the Empire. They are able to periodically control AT-ATs and AT-STs, but the main offender seems to be their ability to control stationary Rebel turrets, turning them 180 degrees to fire on the defenders, often right into their spawn zone. Add in the general effectiveness of orbital strikes, sniper rifles, TIE Fighters, Interceptors and of course Darth Vader occasionally popping in to say hello, you’ve got an easy victory for the Empire almost every match. I expect (hope) that Walker Assault will get some significant balance changes before release.
The other glaring issue is the party system. A couple of friends and I tried to get a party going and join a match together with very limited success. I managed to join one of my friend’s games, but the third was left out of the loop. When he clicked on our avatar the option to ‘join game’ was missing, despite it being there for me and the server having slots available. There were a bunch of other issues like invites not going through, load screen crashes etc. Expected beta stuff basically.
If anything this beta has proven that Battlefront will be more than a mere reskin of Battlefield in the Star Wars universe. It’s a lot of fun and DICE’s dedication to being as true to the films as possible is clear. What I think will determine Battlefront’s longevity as an online multiplayer shooter will be its map/mode variety, as well as how it will handle its DLC/Expansions. Battlefield Premium’s value is debatable, especially here in Australia, and if some classic Battlefront modes (ahem Space Battles ahem) are put behind a paywall, many people will be upset. Or they’ll lap it up regardless of the price because, you know, it’s Star Wars.
Star Wars Battlefront is scheduled to release on November 19, 2015 in Australia for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.