Star Wars Battlefront hands-on preview: The Force is mild with this one

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Star Wars Battlefront has left us in a strange position. Like the majority of the world, we love Star Wars, and we love videogames, and the Star Wars Battlefront games have been great in the past.

But before we could even get the Beta downloaded we began reading stories of the huge list of missing features, and the worry began to set in. Concerned, but undeterred, we got into the public Beta of the game and tried to keep an open mind.

Star Wars Battlefront – Presentation

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Visually speaking Star Wars Battlefront is immediately striking; this game is beautiful and every frame of the game is as lovely as the last. Despite the rather steep system requirements and the fact that it runs below-par on console, it looks good consistently.

If you’re a Star Wars obsessive, Battlefront also has you covered, as it faithfully recreates every inch of galaxy far, far away; from the Imperial Shuttles to the hulking AT-AT Walkers, everything looks and sounds like it should. Every note on he soundtrack is instantly recognisable to long time fans. Our favourite is the Thermal Imploder, which fans have taken to calling the “Dubstep Grenade”, and for good reason.

Star Wars Battlefront – Gunplay and mobility

Battlefront, like Bethesda’s Fallout and The Elder Scrolls games, allows players to toggle between third and first-person-POV. It’s all down to personal preference, but we found your field of vision is bigger if you play the game as an TPS.

A lot of the weapons in Star Wars Battlefront are laser guns, which require no reloading and have absolutely no recoil. This means that they more accurate than your standard bullet-flinging firearms, although they’re not nearly as satisfying to use. There’s very little skill or nuance to shooting lasers aside from making sure your gun doesn’t overheat at a critical moment.

Whether you choose to hip fire or aim down the sites – even if your character is moving – make no difference. The laser beams are always accurate – and this has been confirmed by the developers. Firefights end up feeling like laser tag matches with no impact or consequence. Only the explosive-based weaponry offers any punch.

The way players assign equipment to their avatar is needlessly fiddly and restrictive. Every player gets a blaster as standard issue and a “hand” (or three equipment slots) into which they place three “Star Cards” (or piece of equipment). These Star Cards range from grenade launchers to jetpacks (called Jump Packs here) to shields and every last one of them comes with a catch. For example a shield requires the player to run over a power-up in order to activate, while a grenade launcher or Jump Packs require cooling periods.

 

The Jump Pack, incidentally, has become an integral part of a dominant style of play that’s emerging in the Battlefront Beta. Players that include it in their ‘hand’ and bunny hop around the map become difficult targets to hit, so the Jump Pack is a highly popular Star Card to play. There may be weapons and equipment that aren’t in the Beta that may negate its advantages (like, say, a smartgun), but right now this piece equipment feels like it’s baked into the core of the game.

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Star Wars Battlefront – Gunplay and mobility

The first hint of game diversity is in the only single-player (or co-op) present mode available to play in the Beta: Survival in which players are tasked with surviving six waves of Imperial forces.

Storm Troopers are easy to dispatch, until the AT-STs show up. These bi-pedal walkers take little damage from laser weapons and fighting them feels like a game of hide-and-seek until your explosive-weapon recharges.

The two match types offered in the Beta are Drop Zone and Walker Assault.

Drop Zone pits eight Rebels against an equal number of Storm Troopers to capture pods that drop from the sky. The first team to capture five wins. This mode is devoid of any vehicular combat and is a straight up infantry fragfest.  The pods will drop powerups like a turrets and orbital strikes, and there are power-ups to activate those Star Cards.

After a match is complete you will be awarded with experience which is turned into currency. The currency can be used to buy guns, Star Cards, player customization and toys called dioramas (although the last two aren't in the Beta).

Walker Assault is a 20-versus-20 PVP recreation of the battle on Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. One team play the Imperial forces trying to destroy the Rebel base using AT-ATs and if they manage to route their opponents, they win. The Rebels need to capture uplinks that will bomb the walkers before they’re overrun.

This mode is a mess. Even the most coordinated teams that know how to play the objective (and ultimately win) will have to face terrible spawn locations that lead to instant death, wide opens spaces they need to cross, which effectively mean they’re exposed in a killzone and a wildly unbalanced mix of powerups.

In Walker Assault new power-ups grant the ability to operate certain vehicles and even play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.

The Imperial ground vehicles consist of an AT-ST and the AT-AT. The AT-ST functions much like a third-person character, albeit slower and more powerful, while the AT-AT is effectively a rail-shooter.

The flying vehicles are much better. Rebels get Y-Wings, A-Wings and Snowspeeders while Imperials only have TIE fighters. The ships give players the freedom to partake in dog fights, strafe the battlefield or (if you’re rebel scum) attack the AT-ATs.

It should be mentioned here that the mouse and keyboard controls for flying vehicles are appalling. We tried over and over with many settings to try get something resembling control, but to no avail. Using a controller solves this to a degree, but it still remains a problem.

Not shown: us physically fighting the controls.
The other huge problem plaguing Battlefront is the lag. If your connection isn’t up to snuff the game becomes a stupid uphill battle. Killing enemies takes twice as long, being killed is instantaneous and finally becoming a Luke or Darth is a letdown due to lag hampering your progress.

Star Wars Battlefront – Conclusion

While Star Wars Battlefront is the closest player will get right now to fighting for either the Empire or the Rebel Alliance, unfortunately they’ll have to suffer through disappointing laser tag gameplay, frustrating mechanics and (unless the Force is strong with their connection) hampering lag. Look out for our review of the full game when it’s out for the final say as to whether Star Wars Battlefront is worth buying.

Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of htxt.africa.

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