I loved Star Wars as a kid. On one afternoon, I sat with my brother watching Episodes IV-VI and then I and II right after. It was a long afternoon, but I loved every second of it. I think part of my fandom stemmed from playing the franchise’s video game counterparts for years. I remember getting hooked on Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds, the Star Wars real time strategy game for PC. Then when I received a Playstation 2 for my birthday, I played the heck out of the first Star Wars Battlefront, followed by its sequel, Star Wars Battlefront II. So when Electronic Arts released the open beta for Star Wars Battlefront, the series’ reboot, on October 8, you can bet that I was there playing.
The beta allowed the play-testing of three scenarios: a survival mode against artificial intelligence opponents, a small 16 player drop zone capture the pod mode, and the enormous 40 person walker assault mode over Hoth. Starting out with the survival mode, I found the AI to be underwhelming, with each enemy dying to a single shot. The only difficulty available was easy, so this could be the reason why. The mode was useful as an introduction to the game, giving the player a nifty jetpack and other mods to help aid survival, in addition to tips and tricks on how to maneuver. I’m looking forward to harder difficulties and playing with friends.
The next mode I tried out was drop zone, which pits eight rebel players versus eight imperial troopers. The objective is to capture the drop pods that crash land on the map area to score points and gain collectibles. Wait, did I mention the graphics are amazing yet? No? Well, they are breathtaking, especially compared to the original Battlefront games. In the drop zone mode, every graphical detail has been fleshed out, from the Lambda-class T-4a Imperial Shuttle in the middle of the map, to the pods coming in hot from outer space. The game really makes me feel like I could be there, fighting the rebel scum, vying for control of the pods. Anyway, the drop zone mode is similar to area control capture the flag, requiring each team to hold down a point for a certain amount of time. I thought the game mode was nothing new, but the gameplay and the feel of playing as the rebels or imperials was more than enough.
After I grew tired of drop zone, I finally chose to tackle the walker assault mode over Hoth, and let me tell you, it is ridiculous. Just the thought of a 20 versus 20 multiplayer map over a detailed, humongous battlefield is crazy, but lay over it a Star Wars theme, towering all terrain armored transport walkers, the planet Hoth, and you’ve got a Star Wars Battlefront nerd’s wet dream. Players can grab power up tokens which allow them to pilot the AT-AT’s, smaller all terrain scout transport, TIE Fighters, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, A-Wings, Snowspeeders, and tons more. It’s insane. Through this almost 20 minutes of madness, there are objectives; the Imperial forces’ objective is to take down uplink points which allow the rebels to call in Y-Wings. These Y-Wings bomb the AT-AT walkers, which make them vulnerable to damage. However, the Y-Wings do not last long and once they are destroyed, the AT-AT’s once again become invulnerable and slowly march towards the rebels’ shield generator. The rebels lose if the AT-AT’s are not destroyed before the last checkpoint. Most people during the beta found that the Imperials won almost every single time, since it was difficult to take down the walkers effectively. However, winning or losing was not of importance to me.
Often, I just enjoyed taking to the skies and piloting a ship and dogfighting my way through the enemy lines. Contrary to the previous installments, dogfighting in ships in this game is smooth and interesting. I feel like I’m actually in the ship chasing after that TIE Fighter, locking them in, firing off my photon torpedoes, and victoriously flying through their wreckage. Also, just like in the movies, when the AT-AT’s are vulnerable, players can pilot a snowspeeder, cable tie one of the walker’s legs and spin round and round until it goes down. It’s extremely satisfying to pull off. Additionally, I found that Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were not effective in the open field, but once I got them into an enclosed hangar, it was lights out for all the units in my way. A few lightsaber slashes later, I’m at the end of the hallway and more than 10 kills confirmed. This game mode was my favorite of the three and really hit me with childhood nostalgia.
The beta of the Star Wars Battlefront reboot shows great promise and really does the franchise justice with its classic Wilhelm screams and iconic AT-AT walkers. Some people complain that it looks too much like an electronic EA Battlefield game, but for me, that sense of scale and ability to pilot vehicles is a huge part for me. I’m too in love with the classic pew-pew blaster rifle sounds and the well-renowned light saber sound effects that other criticize don’t matter too much to me. Yes, the walker assault is not balanced and there is currently a limited selection of weapons available in the game, but since it’s in beta, I don’t have qualms about bugs that are going to be fixed. Plus, most fans seems to forget that this sense of 20 versus 20 maps is what we wanted to feel in the original Star Wars Battlefront series of games.