Waking up early after a sleepover to play “Star Wars: Battlefront” on my best friend’s PlayStation 2 was something I used to look forward to when I was young. On those frosty winter mornings in early January, we would wrap ourselves in our sleeping bags like a pair of Exogorths (that’s the technical term for the worm alien that lives in asteroids as seen in “Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back”) and spend the hours before breakfast battling for the fate of the galaxy. Then “Star Wars: Battlefront II” was released and I just about lost my mind. Space battles?! Play as a Jedi?! I was a prepubescent boy with a bowl cut and a Star Wars addiction and I was in heaven. Now, after 10 years of waiting, the new “Star Wars Battlefront” is being released in mid-November and after playing the beta this weekend, I feel like a kid again.
When played on the PlayStation 4, the beta looked excellent. The dusty surface of Tatooine, where the lone “survival” mission took place, was rendered in bright, brilliant oranges and browns, while the snow covered landscape of Hoth, where the best online gameplay was offered, managed to shimmer and shine, despite being almost entirely white and grey.
In terms of online gameplay, the matches ran well. Styled as an eight on eight match (Empire vs. Rebellion), teams work to capture escape pods that fall from the sky and hold them for the duration of the game. I played almost exclusively on Hoth, where players worked to either defend or attack the Rebel base. On that icy surface, there were plenty of crags, rocks and trenches for players to hideout behind. The re-spawn system was fast and players were allowed to re-enter the battlefield immediately after dying. The downside of the multiplayer experience (especially on Hoth) is that it’s very hard to win as the Rebels, given the fact that the Empire’s forces have access to AT-AT Walkers, AT-ST Walkers, air support and occasionally Darth Vader. On the other hand, playing as the Rebels gave players the opportunity to lasso an AT-AT Walker with the classic Hoth Speeder just like Luke Skywalker.
The game cuts down on the perks of most contemporary first person shooters—e.g. advanced loadouts, weapon customization, in-world hubs, etc.—in favor of an old school approach that harkens back to the original “Battlefront” games. The interface is user friendly, allowing players to log in, select a weapon and two accessories (ion shot, jetpack, thermal detonator, etc) and join a match. Objectives are clearly marked on the map and even those new to first person shooters should not have a problem picking up the basics after a minute or two of play.
The game looks like it was, “Solely made for ‘Star Wars’ dads,” wrote RockPaperShotgun’s Graham Smith. “It has a fetishistic approach to the sound and texture of the original trilogy which seems designed to massage the nostalgia glands.” While this is true, what really gets to this Star Wars fan is the simplicity of the game itself. It does not bother with complicated leveling up systems or weapons advancements that leave newcomers in the dust while more experienced players rob them of the best things the game has to offer. That is, the game’s aesthetics may please the old timey “Star Wars” fans, but what will really get them (especially the older crowd) is the game’s accessibility.
“Battlefront” appears as if it will be a game that focuses its attention on the combat; on aiming, on using accessories, on learning how to fly a Y-Wing, etc.
The beta also featured Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as in game upgrades. In the same way that players pick up coins to enter vehicles, Vader and Luke are available for pickup. I almost played as Vader once, but someone shot me before I could pick up the token, so I can’t tell you how that feels–though I can say that fighting against the game’s Jedi is a challenge for a player without a perk.
“Star Wars Battlefront” may not be as huge or as technically innovative as other games of its kind (“Destiny”), but its simplicity may be its saving grace. Players who grew up on the original “Battlefront” games will be able to geek out with the newest installment of this beloved franchise.
Will can be reached at [email protected]