E3 2015: Star Wars Battlefront Might Actually Live up to the Hype – Hands-On Preview
Star Wars Battlefront was easily one of the more impressive games that I played at E3 2015. This is largely due to it having began life with a lot of expectations, then suddenly lowering them dramatically, before building them back up to a more realistic level. Some elements, such as space battles, and a single player campaign will certainly be missed, but from what I played this is still going to be an epic and enjoyable experience for gamers and Star Wars fans alike.
Before the game even starts players have to choose their starting weapon and a set of equipment to be used in the game. The weapon assortment was mostly filled with slight variations on a blaster, with a more long range version, and a higher damage version rounding things out. The equipment ranged from grenades, to deployable shields, to a jetpack that could propel you across the map. These can be swapped whenever you respawn, so no worries if you don’t know what to pick.
The demo I got to try out put players right in the middle of the Battle of Hoth. This iconic scenario has been the subject of video game adaptations going back to the Atari 2600 days, and Star Wars Battlefront easily tops them all.
As the Empire, my team was tasked with protecting two AT-AT’s that were slowly making their way toward the Rebel base. The opposing side had to activate certain stations on the map, which would make our AT-AT’s vulnerable to their attacks.
The first thing that I noticed was just how great the game looked, truly living up to the gameplay videos that EA has been showing this year. We were playing on a PS4, so there’s no doubt anymore that the consoles will be able to output some fantastic visuals for Star Wars Battlefront.
Snow blew across the vast, open landscape, every step a soldier made left a discernible footprint, with heavy traffic resulting in definite paths between safe spots. Carved permanently into the snow were trenches, which offered relative safety, though charging enemies could easily pop a few shots into you if you weren’t paying attention.
The moment that solidified my appreciation for Star Wars Battlefront came about 5 minutes in, as my team pushed the Rebels out of the area that I’d spent the entire time up to this point. I crested over a hill only to see a huge open expanse of territory. Players fought all along the map, with laser blasts skimming the snow and sky in violent bursts of beautiful light.
This feeling of being a small part of a huge battle is exactly what has made the Star Wars Battlefront series great, and it seems like DICE has nailed it perfectly. Unfortunately this was the best vantage point that I got of the action, as all of my team’s Tie Fighters were gobbled up almost immediately upon spawning.
This worked out though as I kept to the trenches, deactivating stations whenever possible to prevent attacks on our AT-AT’s. One tactic that I found particularly effective was tossing grenades into other player’s shields, as they allow solid objects, but not laser shots. Also, if the Rebels had activated a station, I would pop my shield and charge in, finding a nice spot to take out enemies once my shield was lowered.
The sounds were what truly took Star Wars Battlefront to a whole new level. DICE has been known for excellent sound design for a while, but these were so visceral and exciting that it was completely noticeable even on the E3 2015 show floor. Of particular note were the sounds of lasers popping off of your shield, which was so distinctly Star Wars that it put a smile on my face whenever I heard it.
Combat itself worked great as well, with the game feeling both like a successor to previous Battlefront games, and an extension of their ideas into the modern era. Taking out enemies was quick and easy, but not so fast that they couldn’t turn the situation around on you if they were smart about it. And being able to switch between first and third person mid-match was very much appreciated.
Understanding the nuance of whatever weapon you were using was key, as I saw many players firing at enemies well outside of their effective range. More important though was utilizing your various gear effectively, deploying shields, throwing grenades, firing rockets, or jetpacking into an enemy blindspot could turn the tide of battle in your team’s favor.
Our game ended with an Empire victory, which I assume was pretty common due to the imbalance of this scenario. In the final game players would have a greater understanding of the strategy needed to take out the AT-AT’s, but for a bunch of first-timers, it was a matter of just sitting back and watching the Empire roll over the Rebels with ease. Hopefully this gets balanced a bit before final release, but simply having more experienced players should help a lot.
Star Wars Battlefront still isn’t at the insane hype level that it was when it was initially released. Due to the many missing features, it likely never will be. However, what was presented here was enough to get me firmly back on the bandwagon and looking forward to its eventual release. That release will come for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on November 17th, 2015.