This weekend’s Beta test of EA’s upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront title has proven a few things to those who took the time to play the game. First of all, Battlefront feels like you’re in the Star Wars universe: from the rich desert landscape of Tatooine down to the “Lucas-swipes” used in-between scenes and kill cams. Also, Star Wars: Battlefront is an extremely pretty game, which shouldn’t be surprising given the track record of the Frostbite 3 Engine. Lastly, the game modes available showcase a rich diversity in how you can play the game, from the more “arena” stylings of “Drop Zone” to the masterful set piece that is “Walker Assault.”
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: Star Wars: Battlefront also shows the growing disparity between platforms, with DICE’s vision of the Star Wars universe rendering at only 900p on PS4, while the Xbox One once again lags behind at at last-gen 720p. Meanwhile, the PC version offers resolutions as high as your rig can handle, with downsampling from 4K easily attainable if your hardware is up to the task. All versions are set to run at 60 frames-per-second, though the console versions lag behind in this area as well. Digital Foundry has analyzed the beta gameplay and found that both versions are not quite stable at 60fps, with the Xbox One version even dipping into the 40s. Having played all three versions extensively this weekend, regardless of the platform, you’re in for a fun ride. However, the differences between platforms need to be detailed. It’s another example of DICE’s engine being hindered by hardware, especially in the case of the Xbox One, giving players on console a lesser image of Battlefront than their PC counterparts.
However, once you get into the game, if you’re not looking for those metrics, you’ll likely still have a great time. Personally, I am playing mostly on PC, but it’s not specifically because of the differences listed above, but rather for friends and control scheme. Star Wars: Battlefront feels amazing with a keyboard and mouse, and being able to switch to gamepad while piloting a X-Wing or TIE-Fighter is a great addition.
Gameplay-wise, the game as it stands right now is a great first course to the full games release in November. Each game mode feels distinct and offers a unique way to experience Battlefront. Survival on Tatooine places you against waves of Stormtroopers and AT-STs as you wait for Admiral Akbar to come to your rescue. Playing this mode with a friend is fun as well, but much easier since it doesn’t seem as though the waves are bolstered with the addition of a second person in your survival party. In fact, the hectic feeling you experience while taking these AT-STs on solo is lost when you’ve a partner, and a few times my buddy and I took out the Imperial Walker in Wave 3 before our drop pod was even fully defended.
Speaking of Drop Pods, Star Wars: Battlefront mode on Sullust called “Drop Zone” is your classic objective-based deathmatch. Teams vie for control of drop pods as they come crashing down to the craggy planet’s surface. The first team to successfully grab five of these pods wins the match. All the while each team is obliterating the other with countless blasters, grenades, smart rockets, rifles and so on.
However, it’s Star Wars: Battlefront’s vision of the Hoth battle we see in the opening of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back that EA’s game is on full display. Many claim that the map mode is horribly unbalanced, and in fact EA has acknowledged that and is planning on balancing the mode before release. Others, including myself, feel it’s more an issue with not using enough teamwork on the Rebel side.
Bit of background, Battlefront’s “Walker Assault” mode pits the Rebel Alliance against the Imperials as the AT-ATs attack the Rebel base on Hoth. Star Wars: Battlefront showcases the snowy landscape of Hoth exquisitely, down the the sunlight interacting with the snow. The sound design is equally exquisite, such as the vacuum of sound that preempts the explosion of a thermal imploder nearby instilling fear that you might’ve been too close. However, it’s the level of intricate work each team must do in order to prevail, and in the beginning the Imperials definitely do have the advantage. However, if Battlefront players can work together on the Rebel side, you’ll find that it’s actually rather easy to take out the AT-ATs before they can destroy the generators at the far end of the map.
While the massive battles are taking place on the ground, in the air players are combating for air superiority. Flying an X-Wing or TIE-Fighter brought me back to the days of playing, well, X-Wing vs TIE-Fighter on my PC in the ’90s. And keeping your enemy out of the air plays a major role in either taking out the AT-ATs or keeping them alive on your respective side.
Among the power-ups littering the Hoth landscape are Hero cards, allowing you to take control of either Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. Nothing is as satisfying as force choking your friends as Darth, and the rare occasions where Luke and Vader clash on the map fulfill every childhood fantasy most playing this game will have experienced.
All in all, Star Wars: Battlefront has proven in its beta that this isn’t just Battlefield reskinned. DICE’s efforts to recreate the massive battles from the Star Wars universe is fully realized in the beta, meaning we have more to look forward to with the full release coming November 17. Regardless of platform, the game is shaping up to be great, and with further optimizations to come, Star Wars: Battlefront may just be one of this year’s best shooters, assuming the full game is as good as the modes playable through the weekend.
Playing Star Wars: Battlefront this weekend? Sound off below with your experience, and may the force be with you!
[Images via Star Wars: Battlefront, EA]