Game Review: Star Wars Battlefront Beta
As a lot of this is of my own personal opinion, you can know that I played the first two battlefronts on Playstation 2 without online support, meaning a friend and I would go at it. I've been a huge fan and would pick it up and play it again if I still had a PS2.
And as for performance, I've been on every side available in the beta with wins and losses (including the Rebels winning Hoth). My Kill to Death ratio leans a little more to the death side but not by much.
Frankly, I'm disappointed. But hear me out, because I've got my reasons.
The original two battlefronts were great. You (and a friend) play rush across a distinct location of Star Wars with dozens of bots with you and against you. You use the terrain and a variety of classes to get the job done, or jump into a vehicle (terrestrial or interstellar) ranking up kills. You had small urban conflicts, flat and balanced locations, and huge set pieces where one side definitely has the advantage. The second game had its pros and cons (adding heroes but losing both Bespin levels with their chokepoints aplenty) but it follows the same formula.
Well, DICE's Battlefront is different in some ways. There are no AI controlled bots (aside from the Y-wings but they don't really count) so everyone's a human. That's fine, but in any level that doesn't feature enclosed areas, that's grounds for human snipers who will gleefully welcome in casual players from the past or players who are new to competitive multiplayer. Bots equalized the field, making it feel more like the battles relied on the player's actions, effectively making them a 'super-soldier' who is just as frail as everyone else.
While your tried-and-true Command Post games were not available in the Beta (which seemed like an odd choice), they are present in the actual game in a mode called Supremacy so people who enjoyed the original fun grind (of marching here, clearing out the enemy, capture this post, repeat) can continue doing so, it seems. Both of the online modes were a lot of fun and I hope there are more maps to accommodate these game types (more on Walker Assault later). Survival was fun if but incredibly shallow and worth only a single playthrough (I can't imagine the difficulty settings making it any more memorable, unless additional rounds and enemy types are introduced). Let's get more into the bigger topics.
The base formula for the SWB games is great; you're a foot soldier in a grand battle where you execute objects to crush your opponent. When your character isn't greatly different than every other ally and enemy it brings in real reward when you kill more than you die, making every point in your score worth more than your typical FPS shooters or most other games with a named protagonist. But SWB introduced something fantastic with its Heroes.
Originally just a force of nature in the original game, you couldn't do much but flee in terror or march behind a Hero character. Sure, there were inventive ways of dealing with them (grenades on the Bespin Platforms, or the Sarlaac Pit) but they were immutable forces of nature. Then, the sequel made them more mortal and gave you the option to play as them, carving through the ranks of Storm Troopers or battle droids was something more equatable to Dynasty Warriors, but you had to work for it to unlock it.
Now, Heroes in DICE's SWB operate similar to the second game in the series but change in strange ways. You no longer earn them by performing well, but by luckily spawning nearer to a collectable power up than every other member of your team. You're no longer carving your way through AI opponents, but human ones that will constantly evade you while your life bar drains of health and time. Sure, you may still be a force of nature, but it's no longer as rewarding to play as a Hero.
Personally, I feel since the majority of opponents are now human in the game, a Hero's life needs to be changed or altered. Perhaps mitigate the amount of damage time has on a Hero by keeping them close to their allies. This would change people's playstyle from a Hero rushing through enemy territory as everyone gangs on up them, instead to more of a strike team similar to Darth Vader's introduction in Episode IV.
Also, the tutorial better explain the Hero a bit more. It's not fun to be shown three different icons and spawn as Darth Vader only to swing my lightsaber wildly before being gunned down by an enemy squad.
So far, all the guns felt fun and easy to use, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. All default guns are automatics, which is pretty disappointing considering previous games. The one-handed blaster could be a single shot firearm, or another could be triple-burst or some other way. I'm hoping this is just because of the beta's limited selection, but even then the beta gives us the same gun with four different stats.
The Cycle Rifle (as a cooldown rifle) is pretty nifty and very effective, but it highlights a problem with the other guns; you can snipe with moderate success with any weapon. The best combo was using the sniper rifle to get at least a body shot (which drops the opponent down to 10%) and their character automatically switches back to their regular weapon. Then, zoom in and hold the fire button to have one or two bullets which are still quite accurate at great ranges to finish off the opponent. There have been some complaints about this and I personally think that making the blasters have either a shortened range (where the shots fizzle out at 'x' distance) or have a severe curve on accuracy at a set distance.
I do like the different damage types (standard, kinetic, and ion) and I think that brings a considerable amount of variability into play.
My Biggest Issue
Most importantly, my biggest issue with the game (and not just the beta) is the lack of local splitscreen. Yes, I know it's in the game, but it's not allowed online. I don't need an online experience to enjoy the SWB games (I haven't in the past) but I'm finding it more and more illogical to cut out such a beloved experience that's been available in the past (looking at you, Halo 5). In addition because locating such information online is difficult, I'm not sure if the offline modes will provide all the game types (aside from things like Deathmatch) will be available.
For instance, my wife and I want to play Walker Assault on Hoth. We have one game, one system. Will there be such an option with split screen? Or will we be just regulated to your typical Supremacy matches (which is fine, I guess)? It's questions like these will determine if I actually get the game, or I'll just pass on a rebooted entry of one of my favorite arcade-esque games of my youth.
I'm not pre-ordering, especially if the only gain is a free DLC that I can get a week later had I not preordered. I still have too many questions regarding what I would potentially value the game for that have not been answered and will likely not be answered until the game comes out. It infuriates me to no end how splitscreen is becoming irrelevant in the face of better graphics and capacity when, for me, splitscreen adds so much replayability and just fun to a game. It's beyond annoying.
Yet still, the beta proved that the game isn't all bad simply because it doesn't have a feature I would like. The presentation (aside from flippy-dippy lightsaber heroes that doesn't damper their terrifying presence on the battlefield) is beyond fantastic, with the unbeatable original score and some new sound effects along with the visuals. It's still relatively easy to pick up and play (I'm still trying to figure out when aim/shoot went from the top shoulder buttons to the bottom shoulder buttons) and the leveling up and store systems give another reason to continue playing the arcade-like modes. It's good in so many ways, it's just frustrating when you see what it doesn't have.
So, I'm going to have to evaluate it again whenever it comes out whether I think I should get it or not.
If you're looking for an old school Battlefront equivalent on the PS4, you can always check out the free Planetside 2. It's a non-Star Wars property based on the old SWB design except cranked up to massive numbers of players. It's really good.