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Star Wars Battlefront

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA DICE
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2015 (US), Nov. 19, 2015 (EU)

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PS4 Preview - 'Star Wars Battlefront'

by Rainier on Oct. 7, 2015 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Star Wars Battlefront will deliver an incredibly authentic and immersive interactive entertainment experience featuring photo-realistic visuals and epic action in iconic Star Wars locations.

Published by LucasArts and developed by Pandemic, the original Star Wars: Battlefront and its sequel were considered by fans to be some of the best games set in the beloved universe. The games allowed players to participate in large battles that were set in some of the most iconic movie locations. The series never went beyond the PS2/Xbox era despite the high demand, and many believed that there would be no hope for a sequel after LucasArts folded. Things changed last year when it was revealed that EA would employ DICE to create the newest entry in the series, and a month before the game is set to come out, we have a playable demo.

There are actually three different modes that are very different from one another. The first you'll run into is Survival, which is set on a small part of Tatooine and can be played in single-player or co-op (either offline or online). Your objective is to survive six waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Things start with only a few Stormtroopers, but soon, you run into enemies that have better guns and resiliency, and you'll even have an AT-ST or two on your tail. Luckily, you have a few lives at your disposal and some weapons you can liberate from pods, including jetpacks, smart rocket launchers, and ion guns.


Drop Zone is one multiplayer mode, and there's a limit of 16 players per map, and it's set in what appears to be an almost volcanic wasteland filled with remnants of an air battle. Your job is to capture up to five escape pods per match before the enemy does the same. To claim a pod for your own, you need to go to it and hold down the Square button. Once that's done, it's your job to defend it until the timer expires, causing another pod to appear in a random part of the map. Aside from points, successfully defending a pod gets you bonus gear, like turrets and thermal bombs.

The old console versions of Battlefront had this same player limit, and those matches always felt like controlled chaos. This entry is no exception, as it may be small in area but is filled with lots of elevation changes and a few rocky pathways to provide some cover. The action is frantic, and both pod appearances and player spawning occur rather quickly, making the 10-minute time limit go by rather quickly. The pods are also placed in such a way that they're never too far from one another, so you don't feel like most of your time is spent traversing the field instead of fighting or defending.

The other multiplayer mode in the beta is Walker Assault, which is set on the snowy planet of Hoth. Most people will likely spend their time here during the beta period, since the player cap is 40. Your objectives are multi-tiered depending on your side. For the Rebels, this means trying to establish radar uplinks so Y-Wings can destroy the defenses of the approaching duo of AT-ATs. Once shields are down, everyone can start taking shots against the behemoths until they blow up. For the Imperial forces, your job is to make sure that the AT-AT walkers lumber across the snowy field until they're in range of their objective. To do that, you need to play defense by stopping the radar from being activated and shooting down any aircraft before the walkers become vulnerable.


As chaotic as Drop Zone felt, Walker Assault really drives home the feeling that you're in a "Star Wars" movie. Turrets litter the field while snowy trenches make for some intricate pathways to Rebel satellite posts. If you ever infiltrate the base, it can be explored, and the maze-like structure provides some good corridor fights. You can also pilot vehicles, and although they're fragile, you can easily call up TIE fighters and AT-STs and man the turrets of the AT-AT. On the rare chance that you take control of either Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, you'll feel rather invincible while deflecting blaster shots. Considering how difficult it can be to take them down, seeing any of them fall to blaster fire is elating, even if the game doesn't make a huge deal out of it.

Since the developer behind the Battlefield series is making this title, they could've taken the easy way out by adding a Star Wars skin to their latest game and calling it a day — but they didn't. Battlefront has a regenerative health system, so taking a breather in a secluded spot is all you need to get back into the fight. You always have a killcam view of whoever shot you, along with their loadout and the weapon used to kill you. Finishing matches earns you XP that levels you up and unlocks new weapons and equipment, which is governed by cooldown timers after every use.

What DICE did is really fit their gameplay style to the Star Wars mold instead of going the other way around, and the result is a game that feels classic despite the modern trappings. Sprinting, for example, doesn't come with meters, so you can run as long as you want without resting. Characters have some real weight, so using a jetpack is like doing a swift jump instead of a floaty one. There are also no classes here, so people can play any kind of role they'd like without restrictions.


Of all of the mechanics, two really stand out. The first is the lack of a zoom advantage. Unlike most games, where zooming in makes your shots more accurate, the zoom here simply gives you a better view and nothing more. Shooting from your scope gives you the same chances of hitting someone as shooting from the hip, especially since recoil and crosshair flexibility are completely absent. The second thing missing here is ammo. There is a weapon cooldown system in place, so you don't hold down the trigger button forever. There's even a way to speed up the cooldown via a button press in the right area of the cooldown arc, but there's no need to pick up ammo for your gun, and there's no reloading to worry about. With these two things combined, the game moves and shoots faster. It isn't a completely run-and-gun affair, and enemies still take a few hits to drop, but it doesn't feel like Battlefield at all.

As far as online performance goes, the good news is that the game performs rather flawlessly. It was very easy to get into a match despite it being the first unofficial day of the beta, and load times were minimal between matches. There was no lag, players didn't warp around the map, and movements didn't stutter. In essence, it was just like the Battlefield Hardline beta from last year and its retail release earlier this year. It sounds very promising, but this is Star Wars we're talking about, and the fan base is rabid and numerous. EA is still reeling from the launch performance of Battlefield 4, so there's speculation about whether things will hold for the open beta and the game's official launch. Here's hoping it continues to work as more people join.


Powered by DICE's Frostbite 3 engine, the game looks gorgeous. From the snow on Hoth to the fragile dirt of the volcano, everything looks realistic, and the lighting seems more natural than any game before it. Character models look fine considering that the Rebels are the only ones with faces, and particle effects look terrific. It all moves at a solid 60 frames without slowdown.

Though the game adheres to some of the visual style of the film, the sound adheres to it almost completely. Though music is played sparingly, mostly for the appearance of a major character or to signal a match is nearing its conclusion, the authentic John Williams score is being used. Blaster fire, lightsaber whooshes, and the sounds of TIE Fighters soaring overhead are all unmistakable re-creations of the original. The status calls of the announcers are also pretty spot-on in providing status updates. Only the banter of the troops on the field feels too free-form when compared to the source material, almost as if the actors were told to read lines for a modern military shooter.

Based on what we've seen in the beta so far, Star Wars Battlefront looks like it can fulfill fan expectations. The game looks brilliant with a very solid frame rate and an authentic presentation. The gameplay is always busy, the maps are fun, and the fundamentals are different enough to feel fresh despite having traits of classic games. Most importantly, it has the hooks necessary to keep players going for a while. Even if you're skeptical, give the beta a spin to see whether this meets your expectations.



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