Star Wars: Battlefront - Multiplayer Beta Impressions
I recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with Star Wars: Battlefront’s recently released multiplayer beta and have come away with some pretty strong impressions on how I feel the product is shaping up thus far.
As a disclaimer, I am not familiar with any of the prior Star Wars video games or DICE’s previous work on the Battlefield series, so these opinions have been derived solely from my experience with this beta and are not referenced against any prior titles or expectations.
An Authentic Star Wars Experience
Star Wars: Battlefront is, above all, an obvious fan service to the millions of Star Wars fans that enjoy the medium of video games. A significant effort has been placed here on making every object in the game feel authentic to the Star Wars universe, and this objective has been met down to every individual component of the Battlefront experience. Everything from the weapon fire effects, vehicular designs, and even the visual makeup of each level displays a stunning level of authenticity.
The Frostbite engine is in full force here with some especially impressive lighting and particle effects. While the visual presentation isn’t as consistently impressive as some of the promotional footage would lead you to believe, the product is very impressive and meets every measure of a next-gen title in 2015.
Also deserving of praise is how successfully Battlefront replicates the feeling of being in the Star Wars universe. Battles rage across large landscapes, and each map contains an abundance of depth and verticality through the use of mountain ranges, trenches, valleys, and indoor bases to consistently change the play experience.
The beta's competitive game modes make perfect use of this variation by constantly shifting the set of objectives for each team, forcing soldiers and vehicles to cover large swaths of terrain and making the experience feel like a moving war.
Not All Is Well With The Force
With all this being said, it comes as a surprise that Star Wars: Battlefront’s minute-to-minute gameplay feels constricted in a way that belies its huge battlegrounds and large player count. The game’s mechanics are solid and yet entirely unremarkable. Characters move with plenty of pace, yet it seems impossible to ever evade incoming fire, especially from AT-AT walkers and turrets capable of killing your character before you can even blink.
Guns react exactly how you would expect from their Star Wars heritage, and yet none feel varied or powerful enough to provide any effective strategies other than just closing the gap on an enemy and shooting straight ahead. It’s as though the adherence to keeping the game mechanics faithful to the source material has prohibited DICE from adding in the creative weaponry and movement mechanics that would liven up the combat options.
Other design choices that authenticate the Star Wars license seem to inhibit the game’s natural rhythm. Take for instance the beta's oddly-appropriated soundtrack. For most of each battle music is absent, whilst completing certain battle objectives trigger in interludes of familiar Star Wars melodies. These insertions are consistently jarring due to their brevity, and each song is simply too recognizable to compliment the otherwise fresh experience of playing this new title.
A persistent soundtrack with more originality in the compositions would go a long way towards improving the product in its final release.
Star Wars: Battlefront is a fun and frantic title that will more than likely appeal to fans of large-scale multiplayer shooters and Star Wars aficionados. While the absence of a true single-player campaign in the final release will be disappointing due to the obvious craftsmanship of its multiplayer component, the beta hints at an experience that will provide at least some level of lasting appeal to fans of its play experience.
Whether it warrants a full-price purchase is a decision that each player will have to make for themselves, but regardless, EA and DICE have provided a polished and mostly glitch-free multiplayer beta that will provide a fun weekend of play if not a pre-order or full purchase in the future.