The beta for the eagerly awaited Star Wars Battlefront Beta started this weekend, running until sometime on the 11th October and unlike the recent disastrous beta for Street Fighter V, EA’s servers have had no trouble hosting games, at least on Xbox One, giving us a glimpse into what the final game will be like.
The beta provides first or third person shooting in three game modes “Survival Mission on Tatooine”, “Drop Zone on Sullust” and “Walker Assault on Hoth”, with the recently announced “Fighter Squadron” (see trailer below) and other game modes “Blast”, “Supremacy”, “Cargo” and “Droid Run” locked for the beta.
In each mode players control Imperial or Rebel soldiers with a variety of goals to fulfil. “Survival on Tatooine” is your basic Horde mode in a canyon environment with quite a bit of verticality built in. Players, either alone or with a friend, pay as rebel soldiers fending off wave after wave of Stormtroopers with later waves featuring enhanced troopers with better weapons and shields. This mode culminates in a fight with an AT-ST “chicken walker” that, when playing alone at least, usually results in a cat and mouse game as you chase the AT-ST around rocky outcroppings, trying to shoot it in the back with your heavy weapon before turning around and running back around the other way, waiting for it to recharge.
“Drop Zone” is a capture and hold game type where teams of 8 Imperials and Rebels face off in the relatively flat expanse of Sollust, dodging between rocky outcroppings and trying to tag and defend drop pods like the one used by R2 and Threepio to escape the Tantive IV in the first movie. When a team successfully claims a pod they are rewarded with some power ups and then it’s onto the battle for the next pod.
The Main Event
These first two game types give you an idea of how to control the game, and the game suggests you play these first before taking on the mode that most people will be interested in: the epic 40 player “Walker Assault on Hoth”. This game mode restages the frozen battle from the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, and once again features and capture and hold mechanic. The Rebels have to claim and maintain control, over “uplinks” so that AI controlled bombers can attack the slowly advancing AT- AT’s and knock out their shields, leaving the usually impervious assault craft open to attack.
The Imperials have to take those links down, with the added advantage of being able to jump into the AT-AT’s controls, however players can only control the hulking beasts weapons and not it’s movement, as it moves along a set path in the level. This map and game type feel suitably chaotic and the action moves across three phases of the level as the AT-AT gets closer and closer to the rebel base and it’s shield generators.
Controls in the game are decent in the standard first and third person views, the weapons can feel a little lightweight however, with many players seemingly soaking up multiple head shots before going down. This is made up for the feeling of being enveloped in Star Wars, with the sounds of TIE fighters and blaster fire all around, sounds that thrill even after almost 40 years.
Fight or Flight?
The biggest issue I had with the game, however, was the vehicles. One of the biggest draws of the Battlefield series from which Battlefront gets its inspiration, is that you can just hop in to any of the vehicles lying around and take off (or crash horribly in the case of helicopters).
In Battlefront, you can only claim a vehicle by finding one of the appropriate power ups littered around the level, which are usually placed in heavily contented. Once you do manage to claim a vehicle token you need to find a quiet spot to hold down both bumpers (on the Xbox One) for a few seconds before you spawn into an already airborne TIE Fighter (both normal and advanced flavours) X-Wing or A-Wing. These sections are fun, even if the handling is a little sluggish but it can be extremely frustrating trying to find the appropriate power ups, dodge incoming blaster fire and try and beat your team mates to the vehicles icons, and even if you do get one you could be shot in the back before you can activate it.