DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront is the latest installment in the Battlefront series. It is the first title in the series to appear on the Xbox One and Playstation 4. The game will also be available on PC. On October 8th, players on all platforms were invited to take part in a completely open beta test. The beta consisted of a single-player or co-op survival mode and two multiplayer maps. The Battlefront series lives and dies by its large-scale multiplayer fps experience, and so I expect most players to give the two multiplayer maps their full attention. The beta offers both positive and negative. In either case, there’s lots to talk about, so let’s dive right in.
Let me start by going over some of the things this game does well. The most obvious boon of Star Wars Battlefront is its presentation. The game is absolutely gorgeous. It’s powered by DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine, and is a sheer delight to look at. The characters are detailed, the animations are fluid and the AT-ATs freaking rock. The sound design is equally strong and equally important to the game’s immersive experience. Blasters make that unmistakeable ‘pew-pew’ as they are fired. The sounds of an epic space battle raging on echo is your peripheral hearing. All in all, the game definitely makes you feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe.
Where the game falls flat for me is nearly everywhere else. The shooting mechanics themselves leave me puzzled. Apparently, in a galaxy far far away, soldiers don’t aim down iron-sights. Instead, holding the aim button will bring up a zoomed view with a snazzy futuristic hud and the same reticles you would have without pressing the button. Your accuracy does not improve while zooming in. In fact, movement of any kind, whether it be running, jumping, jet-packing or crouching doesn’t seem to have any affect whatsoever on your weapon’s accuracy. Can anyone name me another modern shooter that shares this peculiarity? Additionally, zooming in slows your character’s move speed! I can’t think of a single reason why you shouldn’t be hip-firing. And that just feels odd.
The progression system is typical modern fps affair. You gain experience and level up. Along the way, you’ll unlock more weapons, gadgets and perks. You have three perk slots. Sound familiar? The system doesn’t seem bad, per se, but for some reason DICE has opted to allow you to equip some perks into several of the three slots. Unlike Call of Duty, for instance, there does not exist the same opportunity cost per slot. I think a level of depth is lost in implementing the mechanic as such.
Okay, if the shooting mechanics are such a bust, how about I just play as a dedicated pilot? I’ll snag the X-wings and TIE fighters from the hanger each game and reign death and destruction from above! Nope. Can’t do that, either. You see, in order to pilot a vehicle in Battlefront, you must find a power-up on the map. Thats right, you run around until you see a glowy video game thingy, pick it up, and press a button to instantly spawn inside of your ship. Are you as confused as I was? Playing as some of the heroes such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker is achieved in the same manner: random powerups.
The powerup mechanic is indicative of the overall feel of the game: arcade-y entertainment. This is not a competitive shooter. Star Wars Battlefront is a light-hearted romp in the Star Wars universe, infinitely accessible to players new to the shooter genre, and not to be taken seriously whatsoever. I don’t think that makes the game a failure, but I also don’t think it makes for a very good shooter. If you’re a Star Wars enthusiast or just someone who would delight in experiencing a beautifully presented universe, by all means play this game. Unfortunately, this was not the Star Wars shooter I was looking for.