Sunday, July 05, 2015
This year marked my seventh trip out to Los Angeles for the prestigious gaming behemoth that is E3. In seven years I’ve seen and played hundreds of games, but none left me with the same feeling that Star Wars: Battlefront did this year… and that’s a feeling of pure delight. From the moment I put down the controller to the moment I’m sat here writing this article, nothing has changed and my sentiment is still very much this: Star Wars: Battlefront might just be the best game I’ve ever played at an E3. Seriously.
Let me put this in perspective for a minute. Firstly, I’m not saying Battlefront is the best game ever (not yet anyway, ha!), what I am saying though is that nothing at E3 has left me feeling quite this elated after I had finished playing it – and this is coming from someone on the losing team as well! Secondly, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and the team at DICE has done a stunning job recreating that iconic Star Wars audio, marrying it to stellar gameplay and visuals. It’s the real deal. Anyway, I’ll stop waffling and get into the nitty gritty: my experiences with it.
The mode: Walker Assault. The map: Hoth. The film: Empire Strikes Back. The objective: being the Imperial scum. It was our goal to rock through the Rebel defences, protecting our AT-ATs to take down the power generator. As far as iconic Star Wars battles are concerned, they don’t get much more iconic than this.
Let’s get one thing very straight from the off: this isn’t just a Battlefield title with a Star Wars skin. It’s much more than that. Of course, it feels like a DICE developed shooter - no doubt because it's a Frostbite 3.0 game - but everything makes it feel like a fully-fledged Star Wars experience, whether it’s the screeching of the TIE fighters as they roar past or the music that rages as the battle unfolds amid the snowy plains of Hoth.
Only two loadouts were set up at E3, but DICE has assured us that it’s a mix and match affair when it comes to loadouts in the full game. Armed with a jetpack – which boosts quickly as opposed to slow ascents – an E11 blaster and thermal grenades, we ran through snow trenches, frozen tunnels and across vast plains of whiteness, shooting Rebel scum – we love the Rebels really! The trickiest thing for us to get a hold of though, was the blaster. Being a Star Wars weapon, it doesn’t need ammo – so conservation is out the window, as is reloading – what it does instead is overheats, so it’s key for players to keep an eye on that. Regardless of that, I still found myself trying to reload after every encounter. Habit is a bitch.
It’s definitely a more arcadey experience than traditional shooter fans will be used to, with very little to no recoil on the guns, and no ironsights. Do either of those detract from the experience? No. Actually, they enhance it and make Battlefront feel like its own beast. Throw in the option to switch to a third-person view on the fly and it definitely doesn’t feel like a Battlefield clone.
Instead of picking up vehicles and special weapons at various bases, in Walker Assault, players will have to pick up icons around the map to gain access to the vehicles, special weapons and, of course, the incredible hero characters. Throughout our hands-on time we jumped into AT-STs – which throw you oddly a little too far behind the frontline – used bubble shields we picked up to defend our Imperial allies, blew up loads of Rebels with the amazing Thermal Imploder grenades, chased down Snowspeeders in TIE fighters and generally just wreaked utter carnage.
Our only complaint? The TIE fighter flight handling. It’s easy enough to dart through crevices, in amongst the ridges and what not, but dog fighting isn’t really as simple as it should be… mainly because they have the turning circle of a bus. They’re not completely terrible, but they could definitely do with some fine-tuning. Other than that, everything from the whole experience was epic in nature, from pinging Snowspeeders out of the sky in an AT-ST, or getting behind enemy lines and blasting the shit out of the Rebel Alliance as they attempt to protect a series of shield generators that are impeding the AT-AT’s advances.
Our ultimate highlight though? No, it wasn’t dogfighting in a TIE fighter against Snowspeeders who were trying to spear one of our AT-ATs with tow cables to trip them up, it was our encounter with the Rebel hero character: Luke Skywalker. First up, yes, they’re random pick-ups, so anyone can be in with a chance of being one. Secondly, they’re badass and powerful.
In our specific instance, six of us surrounded Luke and he was still holding his own. As two or so people died, two more spawned and joined the battle against Luke, who was wielding his lightsaber and Force powers with supreme confidence. After a 3-minute encounter, it was a young Imperial trooper, armed with just thermal grenades, a grenade launcher and a blaster who dealt the final blow. That someone was me, of course… I hope I made the Emperor proud. Well, not too proud, as we eventually lost the match, having both of our AT-ATs grounded. What a match though. What. A. Match.
Arguably, the hard work for DICE still remains. I'm convinced that the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise is in great hands and the studio has done that by nailing the minute-to-minute gameplay. Its next job is to convince me that the game is not just a flash in the pan, but the definitive package, and that includes all the of right modes, enough maps and what not. Enough to keep the disc in the tray for more than a month. That is the real challenge. From what we’ve played though, we don’t doubt the gameplay one bit. Nope, not one iota… Okay, maybe the flight combat, but there’s still time to address that.
Star Wars: Battlefront is scheduled for a November 17th and November 20th release in North America and Europe respectively. Get more Star Wars: Battlefront info in our E3 video interview here.
Sunday, July 05, 2015 @ 07:37 PM
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