We here at HardwareZone rarely cover games. We do some of the big ones, like our Halo 5 beta coverage, but other than that, we leave most of the gaming stuff to our friends at GameAxis. For Star Wars Battlefront though, we're going to make an exception because we really, really, really love Star Wars.
Much has been said about the new Star Wars Battlefront. There’s been a lot of talk about the massive 40 player battle modes; about how there’ll be A.I. characters, hero characters and even survival modes. While the lack of true space combat, transitions between ground and space and even a campaign mode have left many a fan scratching their heads, some are cautiously optimistic about the game. We weren't, at least until we played the beta on the PS4.
The beta doesn’t have a lot of content and your leveling is restricted to Level 5 but it does offer a taste of what can be expected of the full game.
First off, the game’s separated into Multiplayer (which take top billing) and Missions. Multiplayer are your online modes and where the bulk of the game is. Missions are what the game calls its offline modes. These are broken down into Training (which introduces you to the game’s mechanics), Battles (which lets you fight against a friend or AI) and Survival (where you need to survive waves of enemies while confined to a small area). In the demo, only Survival is available, and only the Tatooine stage of the mode is selectable.
Survival is pretty much what you’d expect from a Horde mode game type. The demo has 6 waves (15 in the full version) and each wave tasks you to eliminate all the enemies while not dying. Sometimes, there’s a drop pod which you must guard for a specific time. If successful, you get bonus equipment. You don’t fail if the enemies capture it though. In one of the waves, an AT-ST (the chicken walker) will drop and it’ll serve as a boss battle of sorts.
Other than the killing and shooting, Survival is pretty basic. There doesn’t seem to be any levelling in play (there might be in the full version), so you’re always stuck with the two different loadout the demo offers. You can’t increase the number of waves in the beta or change the difficulty though you can play either split-screen or invite a friend to join in online.
The most noteworthy aspect of the survival mode is that players will have access to the jetpack, which allows limited flight. Don’t be too excited though, the flight is more akin to short leaps forward than true free flight. While it does make traversing the canyons easier, some of the higher nooks and crannies of the map are tantalizing out of reach due to the jetpack not having sufficient power to reach that height.
Multiplayer is where the bulk of the beta is. It has two open modes in the beta; Drop Zone, set on Sullust (home of the Sullustans, like Nien Nunb, Lando’s co-pilot in Return of the Jedi) and Walker Assault, set on Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back.
Drop Zone is a 16 player (two teams of eight, Rebels versus Imperials), King of the Hill game type. A drop pod will drop from the sky and teams have to capture and hold them for a specific amount of time. Once held, the pod will open, giving bonus items and triggering another pod to drop, where the cycle continues.
This is our first look at Sullust from the new Disney Star Wars. While Sullust has existed before in games like Rogue Squadron and in books from the Expanded Universe, this is the first time the new (Disney has rebooted everything the ‘old’ Star Wars EU established) Sullust has opened to the public.
Sullust is much like Tatooine, though it seems to have sulfur (or at the very least hot water) pits that you can fall in to. These pits drain your health as long as you’re inside, but other than that, Sullust is like Tatooine, with its valleys and long sight lines if you're brave enough to climb.
The mode itself isn't innovative or new but it is fun. Running around to capture (or reclaim) fallen drop pods is hectic and frenetic and heated firefights are incredible common as the two sides fight for the prize. While we'd have preferred a bigger map (or at least one with more varied geometry), Sullust looks to be a fun, if somewhat boring, place to play in Star Wars Battlefront.
The final mode in the beta is Walker Assault set on Hoth. Aiming to replicate the Empire's assault on the hidden shield generators that protect Echo Base on Hoth, the mode sees 40 players (20 for the Rebellion, 20 for the Empire) battling on the icy cold surface of Hoth.
The Rebels are tasked with activating and holding two control points so that Y-Wings can target the two AT-ATs slowly marching towards the shield generators. Once the Y-Wings are called in, they'll blast the walkers with ion cannons, letting everybody else damage them with whatever weaponry they can manage. The AT-ATs recover after a certain amount of time passes and the circle continues again.
The battle's divided into three different sections, with two control points each for the Rebels to hold. As soon as the AT-AT makes it past a certain distance, the Rebels have to fall back to the next set of control points. If the AT-ATs manage to pass the last two control points, the Imperials win and the shield generators are destroyed.
To aid the Rebels, they have access to the the X-wing in the early going of the fight and later A-Wings and Snowspeeders as the match progresses.The fighters are primarily used to attack the AT-AT when they've been stunned by the computer controlled Y-Wings, though they can also provide air cover. Sadly, the draw distance on the PS4 means targeting ground targets is frustrating as they won't be rendered until you're nearly on top of them. Even the relatively large (compared to humans) AT-STs are a bit troublesome to spot from the air.
Once in a while, if you're lucky, you'll get a Hero Power up. If you get these, you can activate it to play as Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker. Setting aside that he's out of place on Hoth (why couldn't Dice just use Han or Chewie?), Luke is a killing machine when he goes up against Imperial troopers. He can Force Push enemies to knock them down, do a dashing slash and even deflect blaster fire with his lightsaber. Against a good player, even the best Imperial player will get decimated. To balance things out, Luke's health is always in falling, though killing an enemy adds a small amount back. Eventually, no matter how good a player the one controlling Luke is, his health will get so low that a single hit will kill him.
For the Imperials, things are much more fun. They just have to make sure the Rebels don't have control of the points, they don't even need to defend them. If a control point's activated, an Imperial soldier can just run in to turn the transmitter off to delay the countdown, which makes things much easier for the Imperials. Apart from making sure the control points aren't activated, the point of being an Imperial soldier is to cause as much damage as possible.
To that effect, the Imperials have a lot more hardware to play around with. They can nab power-ups that allow you to not only use an AT-ST but also man the guns of the lumbering AT-ATs for a limited time. The AT-ATs can fire turbolasers that can decimate the Rebels in a couple of hits though they are inaccurate and don't have a large field of fire. AT-AT players can also call down an orbital strike, which bombards a designated area with turbolaser fire from orbiting Star Destroyers. Unlike the guns, the orbital strike power has a cooldown period after every activation.
While the AT-ATs are fun, it's the AT-STs that are the ones that can cause the most havoc. As players can control these manually, they can go pretty much anywhere on the map (except inside the Rebel base) Their lasers can kill in a few hits and they also pack in grenade launchers to boot. At low levels, there isn't much a player can do to counter these machines, though a few good shots from the turrets scattered around the battlefield can take them down quick.
While the Rebels have a pretty decent array of aircraft, the Imperials only have the TIE Fighter and TIE Interceptor. The TIE Fighter is pretty much the Empire's version of the A-Wing, with the TIE Interceptor, the perfect foil to an X-Wing. They're not only identical in handling but also have the same durability. TIE Fighters get shot down pretty fast in the beta (though we feel it should be faster seeing as how they don't have shields), just like the A-Wings and the Interceptors pack a punch, just like the X-Wings.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out who the hero character for the Imperials are. Vader is menacing but we can't help but laugh at how corny his Force Jump power is. Instead of looking like a dangerous Sith Lord, he looks like a bouncing black bunny as he jumps (it's the fastest method of movement for both Luke and Vader) from point to point. Once up close, Vader is no joke though. He has a Force Choke power, a saber throw and a wicked slash that can decimate anybody nearby. Other than the moves, Vader is identical to Luke, which means his health also constantly declines until a single hit will kill.
After having played a few games in all the multiplayer modes, we found that Battlefront is a much more forgiving game than other shooters, at least with the early weapons. Enemies take a lot more shots to take down than in other shooters, which is jarring, especially since we're used to killing in the blink of an eye like in Halo and Call of Duty. It’s only like this in the multiplayer mode though, as Survival mode has enemies that are much more mortal.
You can also only bring one main weapon into battle, secondary weapons like a thermal detonator and a sniper rifle in the demo, need to be unlocked and equipped and although you can use them an unlimited number of times, each can only be used once before needing a recharge. There’s also a special ability you can equip, though these are triggered with charges you can nab in the maps themselves. Jetpacks, once unlocked for use in the Multiplayer, actually opens up a vertical element to the game. You can easily bound around the maps and even reach areas you wouldn't be able to get to without them. It of course helps with sniping, but also as shortcuts and for ambushes.
Interestingly, none of the weapons require reloads in the game. While we're not sure if this applies to all the weapons in the game, the blaster rifles and pistols in the beta certainly never run out of shots. They overheat after continuous fire (pressing Square at the right moment can hasten the cooling) but if you watch your fire, you’ll never have a problem. There’s also barely any recoil from firing the guns, which can seem strange until you get used to it.
Even with experience in playing just a few different modes, the game’s looking much better than we expected. Not only do the visuals look great, but the gameplay seems fun as well.
While we're still iffy about the reduced lethality of the guns, the gunplay itself is spot on and feels right. That alone alleviates most of our fears that DICE might’ve bitten off too much. Despite being miffed that there’s no Campaign mode in the final game, at the very least the action in the game is competent enough and looks to be deep enough that playing it (even for a while as a stopgap till other games hit) should make it enjoyable enough when the retail version hits on November 17th for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.