As one of the most anticipated game releases of the year Star Wars: Battlefront has a lot of expectations to meet. Not only are the developers having to face the high expectations of Star Wars fans, but also those that are remembering the nostalgia of the original Battlefront game releases. Fortunately, the beta which officially begins tomorrow and runs until October 12 gives a preview of the gameplay we can expect from the upcoming release.
The beta features two multiplayer game modes including drop zone and walker assault. Drop zone functions as more closed-quarter combat with up to 16 players that revolve around completing a single objective. Walker assault includes up to 40 players along with vehicle spawns on large maps that focus around either defending or assaulting the massive and slow moving AT-AT's. Players also have access to the missions game mode with a survival match that can either be played solo or cooperatively with a friend. Map locations include the volcanic planet of Sullust, snow-covered plains of Hoth, and the deserts of Tatooine.
Players should know the beta offers a pretty limited view of the game modes as many of the other ones are locked until the full version comes out. For the ones that are offered I walked away impressed with the game's visuals and sounds and unimpressed with the actual gameplay experience. The question on most minds is if Battlefront is simply Battlefield with a Star Wars skin and in many aspects it does feel that away. The ways in which it's different though are what makes it a often worse experience than the Battlefield series.
The futuristic weapons featured in the game nearly all function as effective long range killers when you factor in near pinpoint accuracy and no recoil. Many times I would die with the kill cam focusing on a character halfway across the map which to me looked like a dot in the distance. While players can earn experience and credits to unlock additional weapons and abilities, it often felt unnecessary as the starter weapons already had effective scopes and accuracy. The film series joke of stormtroopers not being able to hit anything definitely doesn't apply to Battlefront.
A major highlight of past Battlefront games, not to mention the Battlefield series as well, are the vehicles. The Star Wars films have always featured spectacular vehicle designs that were a joy to experience in a video game. Vehicle spawns have been significantly tweaked in Battlefront in that they can only be acquired running over a random spawning icon on the map, which then magically transports you to a vehicle. The lack of places for vehicles to spawn on the map just feel odd and makes the vehicles feel less important and merely a special ability that can be used from time to time. Even worse is the fact the vehicles can only take a few enemy hits before they explode. It's disappointing as the vehicles look fantastic in cockpit view, but feel more like secondary add-ons to maps instead of a primary focus along with the ground combat.
Special character spawns function similar to vehicles in that they're randomly acquired by running over their icon on the map. I will admit that getting to run around maps as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker feels great, even if all the enemy players are trying to instantly kill you upon spawn. Both their health and spawn time is limited so players will want to quickly take advantage of their powers before their time is up.
My biggest issue with the gameplay experience is that it feels like a generic shooter. Even the Star Wars setting and high presentation quality can't do much to keep me from getting bored from the multiplayer matches. It doesn't help either that the balance of units and weapons often felt uneven. Nothing on display in the beta attempts to reinvent the genre, which is disappointing considering the source material.
The best aspect of Battlefront is undoubtedly the visuals and sound, which perfectly create the atmosphere of the movies. Running around in Hoth's snow trenches while stopping to look up at a towering AT-AT truly give the right Star Wars vibes. From the laser blasts zooming across maps to the epic John Williams scores that kick in during important events represent some of the highest quality representations of Star Wars content seen in a video game.
It's still difficult to judge what we can truly expect with the full release as they'll likely be many adjustments to gameplay and balance, not to mention all the additional content we're not seeing in the beta. While the actual gameplay experience feels less than impressive considering the source material, fortunately the Star Wars visuals and sounds have been represented perfectly which might be enough for those dedicated fans.
Star Wars: Battlefront will be available on November 17.