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Hands On: Star Wars Battlefront Beta

Five editors sat down with the SW:BF beta to give you their thoughts- and to hopefully have a good time.

Like all of you, the team here at Brutal Gamer enjoyed the chance to get our hands on the Star Wars Battlefront Beta this weekend.

Perhaps for some of us, “enjoyed” is too strong a word.

Here are just some editors’ thoughts on the Beta, and on Star Wars Battlefront itself.

Martin Segarra, Playstation Editor (US)

Platform: PS4

The first thing that I immediately noticed when I booted up the beta was just how amazing everything looked. DICE has managed to nail the style and feel of the Star Wars universe masterfully, making every match a joy to look at.  Sadly, I came to the realization that the more I played, the more flaws I discovered in what was, at first sight, a perfect game.

The two maps on offer here are nothing extraordinary. The capture-the-pod scenario is just a rehash of well-known game modes which offers nothing new in terms of gameplay elements. Instead, it heavily relies on players killing each other (yes, kills are what will get you in the top spot at the end of the day, which is odd, given that this is supposed to be an objective-driven affair) until one side manages to capture 5 of these pods or the time runs out. This mode serves mainly as a practice ground for what is the main course on offer, the Walker Assault scenario.

Here, the Empire is tasked with breaching the rebels’ defenses and blowing up the generators as seen in The Empire Strikes Back. Unsurprisingly, it played out much better in the film, since the rebels were supposed to lose the battle, when in the game, the victory is up for grabs, which means both teams have an equal shot at it, or so it would seem.

The issues come afloat when everyone realizes just how overpowered the Empire guys are, sporting huge AT-ATs and AT-STs in addition to the airships, and when you compare that to the rebels’ measly snowspeeders, you can’t help but laugh out loud.  Almost every match ended with a victory for the bad guys, except for the rare occasion where the rebels realized they can tie up the huge machines with a rope and make them trip for an instant takedown, which is a difficult task to do in and of itself without having everyone on the opposite team trying to shoot you down.

The unlocks are also tremendously boring, with every gun being a clone of the typical blaster and the personal traits relying on grenades and other tropes of the genre. There’s no exciting piece of equipment to strive towards and keep playing for, which is a bummer, since the game focuses so much on the multiplayer aspect.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are fun to control, but the clunky control scheme from Battlefront II returns in order to nerf them up a bit and prevent them from becoming gods of the battlefield. The fact that you don’t earn the ability to play as them based on your skills (everything, including vehicles, is obtained via powerups deployed on the field) makes it all the less satisfying.

To summarize, Star Wars: Battlefront is, at this stage, not much more than a pretty game masking horrendous balancing issues and uninspired unlocks. The decision to replace vehicle spawns with powerups is baffling, given how much it relies on luck rather than skill, and the multiplayer battles, while fun, can sometimes turn into a chaos of gunfire and explosions.

Michael Stebbins, Nintendo Editor

Version: PS4

I’ll say it plainly: I had a blast with Star Wars Battlefront this weekend.  While the partnering system is wonky, and the guns don’t feel all that different from each other, the moment to moment gameplay is so strong that I found these problems easy to forget.  Except the partner thing.  There’s a reason we partnered together, DICE, and it wasn’t to be partnered with someone else.

I spent the majority of my time on Hoth in the Walker Assault mode.  Initially, it felt overwhelmingly unbalanced towards the Empire- every match would generally end with the AT-AT blasting apart the rebel base, as soon as the machines made their way to a practically invisible end goal (it would often be a surprise when the match ended- a clearer indicator on the stage itself would be appreciated).

But as the weekend wore on, it seemed the Rebel Alliance pulled their stuff together and the matches started to be much more unpredictable.  At the same time, it’s not easy to forget how much less the Empire has to do: while the Rebels are capturing and defending points in order to lower the primary objectives’ shields (and subsequently focusing firepower on those AT-ATs), the Empire need only focus, really, on one thing: shoot the Rebels.  It makes being on the Empire team feel like a relaxing break compared to the amount of things you have to do on the Rebel team.

And yet the Rebels still managed to garner a significant number on wins in my lobbies.  Mostly it came down to a combination of factors, not the least of which was air superiority.  While in my initial matches the Tie Fighters and A-Wings didn’t seem to do much of anything, by the end matches were won or lost based on the Empire’s ability to stop the Airspeeder from dropping the AT-ATs to their knees, or to stop the A-Wings from dealing an easy thirty percent damage to the AT-ATs with each shield drop.  The ships controlled like a dream, and it was much easier to drop opposing forces with lasers or rockets than in a game like, say, Battlefield.

The comparisons to which rarely felt apt.  Yes, Battlefront is made by DICE, and there do exist similarities in gun-handling, and both games are beautiful to behold, but the moment to moment gameplay and the general feel of the matches are quite different, to a point where Battlefront didn’t seem like Battlefield at all (nor, to a greater extent, like Call of Duty).

I’m eager to return to Battlefront this November for my review, and likely the months following until Battlefield 5 comes out.  Oh, and getting to play as Luke Skywalker is the best.

Ted Stokes, Entertainment Editor

Version: PC

When playing this modern Battlefront game from EA my thoughts are often elsewhere. “Wouldn’t it be nice to run to up a vehicle and be able to enter it?” or “How about spawning in a large battleship, getting in a fighter, flying through a dogfight in space then land on a planet below for an infantry skirmish without a loading screen?” While Battlefront 2015 may be more than playable for a Star Wars franchise entry what older, more seasoned gamers will find their thoughts go back to older games where both and more were possible. In Battlefield, Battlefront’s modern sister franchise, the vehicles you get into are on the map, there for all to see and play with and have fun launching. There are character classes, medics to revive fallen players, the need for team mechanics, all of which are absent (besides attaching yourself to a random player to use as a badly located mobile spawn point).

For the latter memory in the prior Battlefront release a decade ago it was possible to traverse incredible distances and do what you wanted without a loading screen. It made the experience more complete and the same with the universe. Now the scope is smaller: what’s here works as random action, but lacks any inspiration or big thinking. The PC version of the beta has hardly changed this gamer’s perception and with more announcements of bad news or issues of concern, what will help this game can only be its exclusive interactions with the new movie.

Playing the new Battlefront is a ‘What if?” With the beta maps, the invisible walls were very apparent and easily felt in a vehicle, the combat however is flawed at its core. Why? Because of the control scheme which won’t work for PC or console play. The four weapon keys (buttons 1-4 on a keyboard) by their placement on the screen are obviously aimed at appealing to console button play, which brings us to the gameplay problem.

Aiming from entering many stationary turrets to shoot infantry solders is easily done for the most kills using a PC mouse and keyboard to make minor aiming adjustments at distance. However, dogfighting fighter vs fighter requires a console controller. Trying to fly on PC without a controller requires swiping the mouse about the desk multiple times in the same direction to really turn, if sensitivity is increased as required in the options menu, it effects both in and out of vehicle movement with a single slider option running everything. Which makes infantry play impossible. With mere moments between in and out of vehicle action there’s no time or ability to hot-swap setups so everyone will lose in one way or another.

This may seem like a minor issue now, but when the full game is out and players have to decide which PC or console to purchase and play on it’ll soon become a bigger issue. With the newly announced but expected increase in price by adding a season pass with new map packs there are other questions to also have. For example, given playing key moments from the movies is seen as a big selling point which iconic moments will be removed from the initial release to get people to spend more money down the line? Will the Death Star be DLC only, and since when do Stormtroopers use Gungan energy shields? Yes, we know where that idea came from – Halo, the console gamers franchise. As that sure wasn’t in the original trilogy.

Rick Brown, Xbox Editor

Platform: Xbox One

What is there to say about the Star Wars Battlefront Beta that hasn’t already been said? The graphics look gorgeous. The gameplay design is good, but has some kinks to work out. The level designs are good and provide enough variety within a level to keep the gameplay fresh. Being an older gamer, I have fond memories of Battlefronts 1 and 2. I played both of these games for hours and hours. So I had high expectations for Battlefront 3 when it was announced.

When Battlefront 3 was first announced, there were rumors of giant maps with battlefields of up to 40 players battling it out during famous battles in the Star Wars universe. Other rumors talked about a two-fold battlefield taking place, one on the ground and one in space. Soldiers would battle each other on the surface of a planet and when they were ready, could hop in a space ship and join the battle taking place overhead. An earlier demo showcased these amazing feat, but alas, when the beta came out, this all too cool of a feature was not included. The lack of the feature was a giant disappointment for me. The world has seen this amazing feat performed on hardware for the Xbox 360, yet the new hardware were not able to “handle” the giant requirements to provide this type of gameplay.

I hope for more exciting content. I miss the rainy levels of Kamino from the Clone War era. The B1 robot soldiers replying, “ROGER, ROGER” anytime I gave them an order. Now fast forward a few years to Battlefront 3. Now the game is about the end of the Empire and instead of a droid army, it is only Stormtroopers and rebels. Instead of a variety of different troops, we get star cards for different weapons and perks as a way to distinguished between sniper, assault and support troops.

I don’t believe I will be preordering Battlefront 3. I may purchase at a later date and wait to see the reviews. Or if I were to receive the game as a holiday gift, (hint, hint), I would not be upset. Dice and Electronic Arts have taken steps in the right general direction to capture that Star Wars feeling, but I am not completely sold on this particular product. I believe EA is set to do something stupid with the season pass, because when have they ever nailed a good season pass?

Rick Rozenberg, EU Staff Writer

Platform: PC

I have played my fair share of shooters, all with their own qualities. Battlefront plays as a game with an identity crisis, it is not a Battlefield game because the vehicular warfare is sorely missing. Spawning into an a-wing midair makes for a very boring feeling from what it could’ve been. Where the previous Battlefront had epic 64 player battles, in the current game it is scaled down to 40. No campaign, because apparently anno 2015 we don’t care about stories anymore. Space battles won’t be needed, because who wants to be immersed in total silence anyway. The game also has some free-to-play quirks. Instead of regularly unlocking weapons as in your average shooter, it makes you earn money to pay for your upgrades. Which sounds the same in theory, but I noticed how much of a chore it feels when you see you need to earn 300 more to afford that new weapon.

The average player couldn’t care less about this though, so onto the stuff that matters while you play the game. I have had no issues with the mechanics, it all works smoothly. You play in first person and third person, though third person is the way to go if you want to play as optimally as possible. Every enemy also has their own health bar, so you can neatly keep track of the easy targets. The weapons do not vary a lot, some change in fire-rate and damage, but not to an overpowered extent. Since you can customize your kit, everyone runs with a sniper as their secondary weapon. It can be a bit annoying to get hit by a sniper rifle to 1/8 of your hp, but at least you are also able to do that.

The game looks and sounds great. I caught myself multiple times really getting into the game when a certain piece of music was played, so at least it succeeded in capturing Star Wars in all its glory.

 

Images from Battlefront Site

About Michael

Brutal Gamer's Nintendo Editor began his gaming life a little late- at five years old. But he's made up for it in the two decades since, gaming and writing about gaming with the same passion, fervor, and unrelenting love as his five-year old self.

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