Over the past few days I spent a little while playing the Beta for the brand new Star Wars Battlefront (on the PS4), a reboot of an older and much-beloved series of games. Battlefront 2 was actually a game I, along with many others, enjoyed immensely and so naturally everyone was very disappointed that LucasArts never really seemed to want to develop another one. Sure every couple of years there would be rumours of another Battlefront in the works, but nothing ever really came to light until Disney bought the rights to Star Wars a couple of years back and instantly EA announced that they would be using one of their many minions (in this case DICE, of Battlefield fame) to make a new Battlefront. Naturally everyone immediately creamed their pants before remembering EA’s track record with things like this but we could only sit patiently and hope for the best.
Now, before I actually get into the meat of the Beta and provide you with a preview and thoughts on what is already there, I want to finally get a few things off my chest. I’ve had a few quiet rants about the new Battlefront before but nothing public and so I want to take this opportunity to moan about them now. These are things which I always believed to be integral to the Battlefront experience but the new game will not be including (no matter how much feedback we send DICE, that ship has sailed). Even better, the folks over at Reddit actually compiled a handy chart which shows exactly what the new game will be missing.
So the very first issue is rather obviously that the new game will be based around loadouts, much like the standard of Spunkgargleweewee instead of the old class system. A system which I, and many others, thought to be an absolute staple of the Battlefront games. It is actually probably this which is why they aren’t including any content from the Clone Wars era and just the Rebellion era. Without the option of choosing to play as a destroyer droid or just playing as a generic clone trooper, really the differences would all be cosmetic, and that seems like a lot of unnecessary work (especially if it would involve splitting the player base in half of those who wanted to play in each era). While I did love flying around in a Clone Gunship, I will admit that other than that, there isn’t much difference between an AC-130 and an X-wing except the looks. It is because of this that I can forgive the absence of any Clone Wars material, but the absence of the class system has always been a big blow (and is something we may come back to).
Like above, many of the other big issues and complaints can actually be tied back to one other one. The absence of Galactic Conquest, any form of Campaign, the absence of many heroes, instant action and even the ability to play with bots. I think absolutely all of these can be tied to the simple and soul-crushing fact that Battlefront will be an only online experience. There is no singleplayer planned whatsoever. It’s just the latest in a long run of Titanfalls and Evolves which just make me want to bash my head off a wall. And so many of these features seem so important… Admittedly the campaign in Battlefront was always just playing an instant action battle in the order they appeared in the films, but the lack of any single player whatsoever… Just, why?
I also want to make a special mention of the Space Battles. Slightly controversial because I am aware not everyone enjoyed them, but I fucking loved the Space Battles and their absence is also something I will sorely miss.
Now, like I said, all of this has been public knowledge for months, and so we no longer really have any hope for any of the above appearing at a later stage (although we all know how much EA like their paid DLCs). So for now, let us focus on the Beta itself. Examining the game they have actually provided us may well allow us to make it at least a little closer to the game we are all hoping it will be.
At the most simple level, I have to admit, New Battlefront DOES look pretty spectacular. I cannot express how much I loved seeing the AT-ATs walking around in the Hoth map as lasers blasted to and fro from the weapons of Stormtroopers and X-wings clashed with Tie fighters overhead. It was awesome, there isn’t a single part of me which could deny that. DICE did an excellent job.
I think that the gunplay is also really good. The lack of any deliberate cover-based shooting feels very much in the spirit of the Battlefront games, and I also think they really nailed how the blasters feel and sound. I also think, despite having heard some people complaining about how quickly one can get killed in the game, that it feels a lot less reactionary than your classic Spunkgargleweewees, where he who sees first, gets the kill. It feels more like Halo, and indeed the old Battlefronts, where you take damage for sure, but if you are quick then you can avoid death and turn the tables.
Unfortunately, my praise for the game stops there, because after that there were a lot of flaws I could not help but notice.
Admittedly there are quite a few problems with the looks and design of the game, specifically things like the voice-acting, Darth Vader’s cloak spazzing out, the hero death animations and the card system for your loadouts. However, these were all things I only noticed after someone else had pointed them out to me, and I’d actually recommend you go check out this video here for a bit more information on them because the guy covers it fairly well and in a nice, unbiased manner.
Incidentally, which fucking mouth-breather had the idea of making the loadouts a card based system? Wow, how fucking Star Wars is that? I can really picture all the Stormtroopers sitting around in a Star Destroyer, picking out which cards they will be carrying down into battle. Just because everyone likes card games now doesn’t mean every game should have cards in it. Morons…
There are other problems as well though. My first issue is that the game currently feels very shallow. There are four blasters available and 7 different gadgets to equip (as stupid cards). The blasters seem only very superficially different and some of the cards are essentially literally better than the other ones. The Cycler rifle for example is a sniper with unlimited usage and something like a 7-second cooldown, meaning that one can get a lot of instant one-headshot kills constantly. It also takes of a massive meaty chunk of health even if you miss the headshot, so it is clearly vastly overpowered. The same is also said of the personal shield.
Admittedly, and Tim was one to point this out to me, this is only a Beta. Balance issues will be those which are easiest to fix, and obviously they aren’t going to have all the available guns and gadgets out just for the taster. However, if the limited variety here (and apparently superficial variety in terms of the guns) is any indication of what will actually be in the game, then it seems very unlikely that we will have any hope of a particularly varied game.
There are other things to be used though, one can get “power-ups” which provide you with a number of one-shot pieces of equipment for when the going gets tough. While some of these are pretty cool, an orbital strike, a deployable turret, a rocket launcher, it also seems rather arbitrary when they appear. As well as that, I just can’t get over the fact that you get POWER-UPS in a Battlefront game. It just felt so out of place. I’d have been much happier with actual physical pick-ups instead of magical glowy things.
It is also via these power-ups that one can get into vehicles or take control of a hero. Now while I understand the necessity of doing this for the heroes, I cannot express how infuriated I was that when you collect a ship power-up you essentially call in a fighter and then spawn behind the wheel of it, already in the air. There is no getting into a physical ship, no take-off, no chance of accidentally imploding against the ceiling for the third time in a row. It jarred me so much of out of the game, and worse it just feels shit, like something they couldn’t be bothered to implement. What an absolute waste.
It’s also worth mentioning that the fighters are damned impossible to fly. With all their movement guided to just one analogue stick it feels ridiculously hard to direct them. This may well be to allow the PC Mustard Race to be happy with controlling them with a mouse, but it made flying them with a controller feel exceptionally clunky.
The maps are a bit of a disgrace as well, Hoth in particular. Hoth was always my favourite map in Battlefront 2 because of its vast openness, and the way it actually felt like a large and spread-out battle. Now however, it simply feels like two corridors running side by side, which the rebels retreat up, while the AT-ATs advance slowly up their rails (because you can’t control them). It is, quite simply, enclosed and boring.
Also, the closed nature of the map is probably also why the spawn points seem so limited. And don’t get me started on how irritating it is that you can’t actually CHOOSE where to spawn. You either spawn in a random location or on ONE squad-mate “buddy”. There really ought to be more choice here for a better game.
It also feels extremely biased in favour of the Imperials. While that was okay in Battlefront 2, because you were fighting against AIs, when fighting an online only game, it definitely is not okay that one side has an advantage. That said, Tim also was quick to point out that the current loss rate of the Rebels is also primarily due to people not really sticking to their objectives and just running around like headless chickens.
On a directly contradictory note, do you know how frustrated I am by the fact that the rebels are actually capable of damaging not just AT-STs but freaking AT-ATs with their hand-held blasters? Sure the shields on the massive, supposedly indestructible, walker are down, so I guess that means if you shoot a tank with a rifle enough then you can kill that too? It’s retarded. Not in a gameplay sense, but in a betraying of Star Wars sense.
Of course Tim, again, was quick to point out that removing this would make a map already biased in favour of the Imperials even harder for the Rebels, but there WOULD have been a simple fix if some things had not been removed… See, a dedicated rocket class would be perfect for dealing with those pesky ground-assault vehicles. At best what we might be able to hope for here is that they will provide pick-ups for the Rebels at opportune times of one-shot rocket launchers, or perhaps they will provide a Rebel-only, Hoth-only, rocket gadget for when the going gets tough. I could also suggest that they do what they did in Battlefront 2, where the Rebels had the snowspeeders for air support and the Imperials had AT-STs and AT-ATs for ground dominance, allowing a balance between the two (especially as it’s really fucking hard to strafe in a fighter).
At its core the game could be fun if even a few of the balance issues were addressed and the game was provided with more variation. In my heart though, I know it’s not the game we were hoping for, and it never will be. And worse, I just really don’t think there’s much we can do to save it at this stage.