Since Star Wars premiered, people have dreamed about replicating the epic scenes of the combat depicted. As a kid of the arcade age, I wanted nothing more than to jump into the cockpit of an X-Wing, and Star Wars has been synonymous with gaming from the getgo, having inspired thousands of video games, laser tag, and so much more. They’ve been a mixed bag to be sure; attacking the Death Star II or AT-ATs on my Atari 2600 wasn’t particularly compelling, but sitting down in a Star Wars environmental arcade machine was the closest thing to heaven on earth for a kid like me.
As years went by, games in the Star Wars series have varied in quality. For every Knights of the Old Republic or Dark Forces II, we’ve have exponentially more Masters of Teras Kasi, Yoda Adventures, and Flight of the Falcon. One group of games, however, the Battlefront series, has always been particularly popular. The precursor to games like Battlefield, Battlefront and its sequel were wildly popular, pitting groups of players against each other in multiplayer mayhem in the Star Wars prequel universe. When Battlefront III was cancelled and presumed dead, it was as if millions of gamers suddenly cried out in anguish.
Star Wars Battlefront, now back from the dead, was one of the most anticipated games of 2015. Gamers at major gaming conventions like E3 were amazed by the Battlefront concept brought to life on new generation hardware. For fans of Star Wars games, Battlefront couldn’t be released soon enough. Then came the open beta which, as gorgeous as it was, was a laggy, unbalanced affair, that put fear into gamers better than a Death Star.
In typical fashion these days, there is an embargo on reviews, with EA banning reviews until midnight on the 17th for people who received assets (a.k.a. an early copy of the game from EA). However, thanks to the EA Access program, which gives me unlimited access to certain games in the EA Vault, I got the opportunity to play ten hours of Battlefront over the weekend, even though my pre-ordered digital copy won’t be officially available until Tuesday.
Seeing as how EA didn’t send us a press kit for the game, which would likely include embargo instructions along with the game, I guess any embargo doesn’t apply to us. That being said, here’s everything you wanted to know about Star Wars Battlefront, but can’t ask major gaming publications until tomorrow.
1.Never Has the Star Wars Universe Been More Beautiful
The open beta focused on the frigid Hoth system, and even that looked gorgeous. The level of detail was incredible and the maps beyond expansive. If you were able to live long enough, exploring Echo Base was like stepping onto the sets of Empire. It looked as if it had been recreated meticulously. There were even what looked to be thousands of textures for snow…SNOW!
That being said, out of all of the environments featured in Battlefront, EA picked the more boring, bland environment for the open beta, likely to capitalize on the fan’s love of Imperial Walkers. That’s not supposed to be an insult to the Hoth map, but rather a compliment to the other maps, particularly Endor. The environments are breathtakingly gorgeous, and interactive to a point, like the real working Sarlaac pit on Tatooine and the numerous turrets dotting the landscape of Hoth. The Star Wars fan in me wishes EA would add a mode that allowed you to explore the maps in peace, just so I could spend some time looking at the amazing graphics without having to dodge torrents of blaster fire.
It’s not just the environments that are amazing. The characters are incredibly detailed, particularly the “Hero” characters like Han Solo or Emperor Palpatine. Even the blasters look as good as props from the movies. The first “next-gen” Star Wars game has set the bar high for future games in the series, with enough eye candy to put you into diabetic ketoacidosis.
2. You Will Become One With The Force…A Lot
The easiest thing to do in the game is die. The smaller the map, the more likely you’ll survive for more than thirty seconds, but on the enormous, 40 player scenarios, you’ll spent a ton of time respawning. I highly recommend starting off in smaller missions, otherwise you’ll be ready to release your anger on your controller rather quickly. Even the smaller maps can become frustrating quickly if you’re playing against more experienced opponents.
The fact that this is a Star Wars license, in likely the biggest year for the series, is going to bring a multitude of new players to the shooter genre, players who could be easily frustrated by the difficulty of the game. My Star Wars uber-fan kids were quickly sent packing from multiplayer after a few pitiless shellackings, heading over instead to the training and limited single player sections. Needless to say, the AI Stormtroopers behave much more closely to their movie counterparts.
3. Jedi (or Rather, John Williams) Rocks
The use of John Williams’ iconic score is very careful in Battlefront. While the menus are full of music, the majority of the game is silent, aside from the cacophony of battle. Instead of a full-time score, music will pipe in when something important happens in game. Take out an AT-AT and you’ll hear a triumphant fanfare; rout the Rebellion from a control point and the Imperial March will play.
Honestly, in a lot of the Star Wars games, the music is overused and incredibly repetitive. By going with contextual music rather than a loop of “Dual of the Fates”, the soundtrack is much more powerful. Every time you hear it, you’ll know you, or you opponents have accomplished something, and it’s incredibly exciting.
They’ve also made the smart move of sticking with music from the original holy trilogy, rather than including music from the prequels as well. Honestly, I’ve had enough of the prequel music in video games to last a lifetime. Whether they included music from The Force Awakens remains to be seen, though it would likely show up in the forthcoming Battle of Jakku.
4. What a Piece of Junk!
I was most excited to jump into the cockpit of a vehicle in Star Wars Battlefront, but sadly vehicular combat is a mixed bag. As my Twitter handle would indicate, I’ve spent countless hours playing games in the Ace Combat series, so needless to say I’m a little bit spoiled when it comes to arcade-style air-to-air combat. Sadly, the feel of Star Wars Battlefront vehicular combat (at least air-to-air vehicular combat) is one part Rogue Squadron, one part mediocre arcade shooter.
The biggest complaint I have with vehicular combat in Star Wars Battlefront is the control scheme. EA opted for something similar to the Battlefield series, in which vehicles are very easy to control for novices, yet are almost too simple for anyone with any flight simulator experience. In the ten hours that I’ve had playing the game, I have not seen the option to select a more simulator like control scheme, similar to the Ace Combat series, at least with the starfighters. In my rush to experience all the game had to offer before my time ran out, I could very well have missed it, but if the setting exists, it’s not in plain sight. I was, however, able to invert my flight controls, so I guess that’s something. On the other hand, driving an AT-AT or AT-ST is exactly as fun as it sounds. The ground vehicle controls are simple to master, intuitive, and driving either walker is a hell of a lot of fun.
Vehicles are available in many different game modes. In larger scale battles, they exist as a power-up on field which, when activated, respawn you above the battlefield in your starfighter or other vehicle. It’s hard to determine the usefulness of the starfighters in the larger maps. The effectiveness of the fighters, especially when attempting to strafe ground targets like characters, is somewhat limited due to the controls, and often ends with you plunging your spacecraft into the ground. Often you’re wandering aimlessly, looking for an air target to appear or the AT-AT’s shields to drop. On the other hand, the Fighter Squadron mode is a beautiful ballet of chaos as dozens of human and computer controlled starfighters tear it up in a glorious furball. It’s incredibly fun, though the thing that is missing from the Fighter Squadron mode is space battles – for some reason, they decided to leave the star out of Star Wars. While engaging in ship to ship combat above planets is fun, pesky things like gravity and mountains can certainly impede in your quest for wanton destruction.
One of the best vehicle experiences in the game is riding the Speeder Bikes on Endor. As depicted in the film, they are nearly impossible to control (it’s like strapping an ACME Rocket Cycle between your legs), and are blazingly fast. In fact, out of all of the vehicles in the game, the speeder bikes seem to be the most authentic, as they evoke the same feelings of blistering speed and danger they did in Return of the Jedi.
5. Hero Worship
One of the highlights of the game, at least in previews, was the ability to deploy one of the series’ heroes or villains onto the field of battle. This could have been just an easy tug at fanboys heartstrings; the ability to control one of their childhood heroes in the game would appeal to any Star Wars fan. Thankfully it’s as cool as it sounds. For the Rebels, you have the ability to deploy Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or Princess Leia; the Dark Side is represented by Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, and Boba Fett. These characters are exactly what you would expect; overpowered, flashy, and totally cool.
At some point people are going to complain that the hero characters are incredibly overpowered, but the point is they’re supposed to be. Seeing the character of Darth Vader on the field should invoke immediate terror in anyone on the opposite team. Players should have two choices when encountering the Dark Lord of the Sith or other “heroes” – run or die. Thankfully, in order to bring a certain level of balance to the game, large-scale battles only allow the hero characters to be deployed for a limited amount of time, time that is diminished with every point of damage they take. It is possible to defeat one of these characters; it’s just going to take a lot of luck, concentrated fire, or your manning an AT-AT when you see them.
With the price of a season pass and EA’s DLC history, it’s painfully apparent that in the future we are not only going to be getting additional maps, but additional hero characters. That being said, don’t be surprised to see other fan favorites join the fray.
Three of the most important Star Wars worlds are well represented in Battlefront. Endor, Tatooine, and Hoth are almost shot for shot replicated from the film footage. Thankfully, they decided to include some worlds we’ve only heard of in the films, books, and other media. Initially, the game includes battles on the lava world of Sullust, with impending DLC taking place on Jakku, a world that seems pivotal in the new Star Wars film. It appears that aside from the book Lost Stars, Battlefront will be our first look at the second pivotal desert planet in the Star Wars universe, and will perhaps offer some much needed insight into the forthcoming film.
I am hopeful that we will see a continuation of non-standard worlds included in Battlefront. It would be simple for game developers to include worlds such as Naboo and Coruscant, but the prospect of seeing some of the other famous Star Wars planets that I’ve only read about is even more enticing to my fanboy senses.
A fan of video games and science fiction from the moment he discovered his father's Atari 2600 and Star Wars, Jason Helton has been contributing to The Robot's Voice since 2011. Prior, he wrote for the UK's Den of Geek and was the producer and host of Iron Otaku Radio on XM's UPOP 29 channel. A die-hard fan of Battlestar Galactica (both old and new), Doctor Who, and pinball, you can follow him on Twitter @Razgriz1138.