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‘Star Wars Battlefront’ Open Beta Impressions

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The open beta for DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront is currently available for download on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The beta will last 5 days (ending October 12th), and includes 2 different multiplayer modes, as well as a singleplayer/co-op mode.

The first multiplayer mode is called ‘Drop Zone’, it’s an 8 vs 8 mode with a single objective that both teams fight to control. A drop pod will spawn at a random location on the map, the first team to run up to the pod and hold the X button next to it for a few seconds will claim the pod. Once claimed, the pod must be defended for several minutes. If the opposing team manages to steal your pod, they gain control of it, and the timer for defending the pod resets. Once a pod is successfully defended, the team that claimed it earns a point, and another pod spawns at a random location. The team with the most points after 10 minutes wins the game. The map that the game mode is available on, named Sullust, is an extremely rocky landscape, filled with chasms, narrow pathways, tons of high and low areas, and a huge amount of cover. The map is big enough to host 16 players, but it feels claustrophobic in some areas due to its landscape. The mode is fast and frantic; the attack and defend nature of the objective rewards multiple styles of game play, as defending a pod once you’ve claimed it is obviously important, but it would be foolish to have your whole team sit back and camp near the pod, as you’ll become easy grenade bait. Constantly moving and finding out where your opponents are coming from is paramount. Of the two available multiplayer modes, this one is my personal favorite, as I’m a fan of lower player counts, and maps without vehicles, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to spend much time with the mode, as the beta seems to get stuck about 90% of the time when searching for a Drop Zone game. This issue seems to be effecting many players, and only effects this mode, so hopefully it’s sorted out soon.

The second multiplayer mode available in the beta is called Walker Assault. 20 vs 20 players, AT-STs and AT-ATs, X-Wings and TIE Fighters, all battling it out amongst the snowy plains of the planet Hoth. First of all, this map is gorgeous. When you consider the sheer amount of things populating the map, it’s amazing how good it looks. Sure, most of it is a giant blanket of white, but snow sparkles just as it should, the massive downed AT-ATs look spectacular, and there are some in-door areas on the map which also look fantastic. The sound design is amazing, from the weaponry to the vehicles, it sounds like you’re in one of the movies. The mode pits the Rebels against the Imperials; the Rebels need to take down two AT-ATs before they reach their destination, and the Imperials must defend their massive machines on their journey. The AT-ATs move on a set path, a player can jump in the cockpit and fire its guns, but they cannot steer the machine. While the AT-ATs are not controllable, Rebel players can jump in the cockpit of both X-Wings and Snowspeeders, and the Imperials can use AT-STs and TIE Fighters. As the AT-ATs moves along their paths, the Rebel forces try and claim relay stations and call in air support. The longer the Rebels hold a station, the more A.I. controlled Y-Wings they’ll call in. The Imperials move with the AT-ATs and attempt to prevent the Rebels from gaining control of the communication stations. When the Y-Wings commence their attack, the AT-AT’s lose their shielding, and become vulnerable to all forms of attack for a short period of time. When the AT-AT’s shields are down, players are told to focus all fire on them, but many players in the beta don’t seem to understand that even their basic weaponry will do damage, and because of this, a lot of players aren’t focusing their attacks on the AT-ATs, causing the Imperials to win Walker Assault about 70% of the time.

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While Walker Assault is without a doubt the best recreation of the battle of Hoth in a video game, and I certainly find the mode fun, at the same time it feels like unbalanced chaos. AT-ST’s are ridiculously powerful, to the point where I’d be getting 20-25 kills with one before dying. As mentioned earlier, Imperial players can jump into the cockpit of the massive AT-AT and use its guns; you only have a limited amount of time in the AT-AT, but it’s incredibly easy to get dozens of kills as the beast’s laser blasters obliterate anything in its path. There are also stationary turrets scattered all around the map, and they eat infantry like no one’s business. I sat in one of these turrets, and got 40 kills without dying by shooting enemies that were so far away they looked like ants on my TV screen. One lucky player per team can grab a power-up that allows them to become either Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader. Both Skywalker and Vader wield lightsabers, and jump around the map, deflecting bullets and insta-killing anyone who gets near them. The problem for me is, using all of these overpowered things does not feel rewarding, or satisfying at all. There is a distinct imbalance at play here, and while this may be intentional, as a person who thrives off of an even playing field, this feels like something that won’t last long for me. If you’re like me and enjoy a game for its competitive nature, ala Counter-Strike: GO or Halo 2, then you may feel this game to be lack luster. Don’t get me wrong: a game does not need to be ‘competitive’ in order to be good or fun, but this type of game probably will not keep my attention for too long.

It should also be noted that the spawning on Walker Assault is pretty terrible at times. Having two enemies spawn directly in front of you, or spawning and instantly dying is extremely frustrating. These things have been common in shooters for a very long time, but it seems excessively bad on this map. Aside from the imbalance and spawn system, the worst part of the multiplayer for me is the melee system. For some reason you can throw a grenade while moving, but performing a melee causes you to stop dead in your tracks and perform an ugly and long animation. It’s near useless and should be adjusted.

As with every shooter in recent memory, playing any of the game modes will give you experience points based on performance, and also gives you currency which you can use to unlock weapons and gadgets to customize your load-outs. There are only four primary weapons to unlock in the beta, but all of them feel quite similar when using them. The most interesting thing you can unlock is the sniper rifle. Every single player on the map gets to carry the same sniper, it a single shot weapon, with unlimited ammo, and a 7 second cooldown after use. Initially I thought it was stupid to give it unlimited use, but in practice it not only seems balanced, but it’s also the only gun in the game that is truly satisfying to use. Nailing a headshot across the map for a single kill gives me infinitely more pleasure than getting 20+ kills with a vehicle, turret, or lightsaber. The 7 second cooldown between shots is enough so you cannot simply spam shots all day, and the game does not seem to have any aim-assist on consoles, so every headshot is a rush.

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The Survival mode can be tackled solo, or cooperatively with one additional person. The mode is a variant on the popular horde modes we’ve seen in many shooters, which involve dropping the players on a map and sending wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies at them, with the simple goal of eliminating all opponents. Tatooine is the only map available for the Survival mode during the beta, and players are limited to the normal difficulty setting. I managed to complete all 6 waves of enemies in just over 7 minutes, by myself. Four of the six waves included an increasing number of storm troopers, one wave was a lone AT-ST, and the final wave was an AT-ST accompanied by a handful of troopers. There were a couple of different classes of storm troopers, including snipers and jet pack users, but all of them were a joke to kill, no challenge whatsoever, as they run at you single file, lemming style. After facing AT-STs in multiplayer, the A.I. controlled version we see in Survival mode seems to do no damage. There were a couple of drop pods that came down, which I was able to claim by running up to them and holding X for a couples of seconds. After defending the pod for a minute or so, it dropped some single use weapons / gadgets. There are also some items scattered across the map, like extra lives, but nothing in this mode (aside from the Star Wars setting) differentiates it from the 5 million other horde modes we’ve seen over the last 7 years or so. This was a one-and-done mode for me in the beta, and I probably won’t touch it much in the full version of the game either. Fans disappointed in the game’s lack of a single player campaign certainly won’t find any solace in this mode.

Aside from having trouble getting into Drop Zone matches, the game has performed excellently from a technical standpoint. No noticeable frame rate drops, and minimal texture pop-in. Thankfully DICE has provided dedicated servers, and it’s very noticeable, as I’ve encountered next to no lag during the 20 vs. 20 player matches.

While the beta has confirmed my suspicions that this is not the kind of experience that will quench my competitive edge, I cannot deny that it’s fun. There are 5 modes on the multiplayer menu that are unavailable during the beta, and I’m quite curious to see how each of them will play out later this year when the full retail version hits store shelves.

-Matt De Azevedo


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