A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
It is a period of civil war. Rebel fanboys, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Video Games Empire, by convincing EA to go back to the Battlefront brand.
During the battle, neckbearded spies managed to steal a release copy of STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT, a video game with enough power to destroy an prequel trilogy of disappointment.
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister PR people, Tim McDonald races to the internet aboard his computer, custodian of first impressions that can either save people some money or convince them to try it out…
Alright, that’s enough of that. Yes, I’ve been playing a bit of Star Wars Battlefront. Not a huge amount, but enough that I want to give you a few early thoughts.
I’m not going to go heavily into the PC-specific stuff because it hasn’t changed much since Peter and I wrote our thoughts on the beta. It still runs pretty well on my computer, it still has quite a lot of things you can tweak, and it still has options for various different types of colour-blindness, which is something I’m always happy to see. And, on the downside, it still has no server browser, it still has some awful pop-in, and the mouse controls for vehicles are still a bit iffy.
Actually, let’s take a look at some of that pop-in using our newfangled screenshot comparison feature (which may or may not work as you might need to see it in proper high-res). This is taken from the game’s tutorial level on Hoth, which is one of the most boring tutorials in any galaxy, whether this one or one far, far away:
[sciba leftsrc=”https://pcinvasion.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Star-Wars-Battlefront-sidebyside-1.jpg” leftlabel=”” rightsrc=”https://pcinvasion.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Star-Wars-Battlefront-sidebyside-2.jpg” rightlabel=”” mode=”horizontal” width=”640″]
Look at how the angles on the rocks in the distance change when moving forward basically two feet. It’s really weirdly disconcerting. I mean, it’s not the biggest thing in the world, but it’s surprisingly jarring that they change shape. That said, this sort of thing is hidden a lot better on most other maps – Endor is so covered in trees and foliage that it’s hard to spot these distance details, and plenty of other maps tends to be more enclosed. It’s still an issue when flying (and it’s also an issue when you’re on the ground trying to spot, say, TIE Fighters in the distance, because they simply because invisible past a certain distance) but Hoth is the worst example of the obvious draw distance stuff.
And no, there’s still no in-built voice chat, which I honestly don’t consider a bad thing. It just means I don’t have to find a way to turn the fucking thing off immediately, or alternately mute everyone in a match. I quite understand if you consider this a big issue, but the less 12-year-old children and people pumping music through the microphones I don’t have to deal with, the better.
The few hours I’ve spent with the full version of Star Wars Battlefront have been a bit… weird. As per usual, I’ve steadfastly avoided everyone else’s coverage so I’ve got no idea what the general consensus is or what are considering the Biggest Issues, but I think I can sum up what I think so far in one sentence:
It’s a collection of FPS mini-games tied together by an unlock system.
No, really. I know how utterly bizarre that sounds, but the more I think about it, the more it seems accurate. (I was going to go for a “Search your feelings” thing, but I think that entire opening segment has pretty much filled my allowed quota of Star Wars references.)
I mean, take the single-player stuff. You’ve got a set of tutorial missions that broadly introduce you to the game’s general concepts, some solo/co-op/adversarial missions (which can only be done in co-op or versus mode with a friend), and a bunch of survival modes. None of these have any particularly fantastic staying power, but they’re fun things to dip into, and I’d imagine they’re a lot more fun if you’ve got someone else to shoot with/at.
Then there’s the core of the game, which is the multiplayer stuff. You’ve got Supremacy, which is a back-and-forth tug-of-war between active control points, sort of like Team Fortress 2‘s Symmetrical Control Point mode that forces you to capture points in a linear order. This is probably the “main” mode, insofar as it offers big maps and vehicles and hero characters and 40 players.
But maybe you don’t want to do that. Maybe you want a simple team deathmatch? Welp, that’s a mode. Or there’s a capture-and-hold mode. Or a hero-versus-soldiers mode, where only the hero scores points, and whoever kills the hero becomes the hero. Or a flying vehicles only mode. Or… you get the picture.
It’s pretty much a game that, rather than having a particular “main” mode and then a couple of little bonuses, offers you a whole range of different styles of play and lets you pick whatever you want to do, with the only contiguous themes really being that it’s Star Wars, that your unlocks carry across, and that most of these take place on the same maps. Supremacy, Walker Assault (the beta’s Hoth map), and Fighter Squadron (the aforementioned “flying vehicles only” mode) share the same four maps, because they both require huge amounts of space. Smaller maps for things like team deathmatch are a different pool. And there are a few middle-sized maps for other modes, too.
Oddly, I’d probably argue that this is the smart move. What I didn’t really want was Battlefield with Star Wars skins slapped haphazardly over the top of it, and that is absolutely not what this is. It’s a much more arcade-y take on the Battlefield stuff, with short rounds, loads of fanservice, and all sorts of power-ups.
And, yes, Star Wars Battlefront is pretty much as Star Wars as possible. The visuals and sounds are spot on, whether you’re fighting across Tatooine or Endor or Hoth, and whether you’re fighting for the Rebels or the Empire. There are some exceptions, like how one of the Empire’s commander-types sounds Welsh rather than aristocratic English, but by and large all the sights and sounds evoke the original trilogy in a way that makes my inner fanboy giddy with excitement.
The exception to this are the hero characters and various other Star Wars cameos. I’m pretty sure Anthony Daniels is doing C3PO again, and I’m fairly certain Temuera Morrison is voicing Boba Fett, which is fair enough. But the rest? Christ, some of them are awful.
The worst offenders are easily Darth Vader and the Emperor. Darth Vader sounds like me putting on a deep voice and putting a cardboard tube to my mouth, and the Emperor sounds suspiciously like my grandmother. Especially when he starts talking about how people will feel the true power of the Dark Side and so on, because my grandmother is… well, let’s not talk about her. But it can’t be that hard to get James Earl Jones on board for a day to record some lines, can it? Or maybe it can. I don’t know. All I know is that the voices they do have are a bit arse, and are jarring enough to take me out of the OH MY GOD IT’S STAR WARS fangasm.
While we’re at it, the Emperor’s “special moves” are hilarious. Yes, you can Force Lightning people, but you can also spin across the battlefield, giving the camera an inadvertent upskirt shot as you mimic M. Bison’s Psycho Crusher from Street Fighter. And this is without mentioning how plastic and off-putting some of the faces – Luke’s, in particular – tend to look.
The game itself is… fine. Because of the aforementioned sense that it’s a collection of mini-games I’m having a really hard time taking it seriously, which is probably for the best, because it certainly has issues.
Get into the cockpit of a fighter and you can be shot down before the “ooh, look, you’re in a fighter now” cutscene ends. People with more unlocks than you can and will destroy you; having a blaster pistol and a thermal detonator doesn’t help much against people who can jetpack around the map, fire homing shots, and stop their weapon from overheating. This is balanced slightly by the game assigning you a “partner” you can respawn next to, and you can use whatever power up-like “cards” they have selected, but even so.
Although, yes, this feels different pretty much every game. One game you get destroyed by some asshole in an AT-ST because you don’t have the cards or weapons to deal with it, they’re sniping you whenever you go near gun emplacements, and you just can’t do a damn thing. The next game, you get into an A-Wing right at the start and spend the entire match in it, racking up 40 kills and daring the enemy team to sully your skies.
It also helps that levelling up can be done more speedily by completing “challenges”, which ask you to play in different ways. Get 25 kills with a blaster pistol, say, or win three matches of Fighter Squadron. These are neat little ways to compel you to keep playing and to try out different things, and they started my massive love of Fighter Squadron.
No, really, I love Fighter Squadron a whole lot. It’s not X-Wing. It’s not Rogue Squadron. It’s just a very light mode in which you swoop back and forth over the battlefield, shooting down AI and human pilots, and occasionally beelining for a transport to defend it or shoot it down. Sometimes you get to fly Slave I or the Millennium Falcon. It’s simple, but brilliantly fun, and right now “simple, but brilliantly fun” feels like Star Wars Battlefront at its best. Although Walker Assault is still fantastic, what with the timer basically being “until the AT-ATs are in range” and the constant frenetic firefights around the control zones. Best of the big modes, easily.
I do take some issue with the weapons, if only because… well, they’re all very similar. They’re almost all different variations on blasters; some fire faster, some are more accurate, some are blah blah blah. Unlocking a new blaster variant doesn’t quite have the same impact as, say, unlocking a new assault rifle in Call of Battlefield, which has a pretty big impact on things. Maybe the later unlocks vary this somewhat, though; I haven’t checked through the full list, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t spot any of the pool of weapons from, say, Jedi Knight 2.
There aren’t a massive pool of maps right now either (the “big” modes like Supremacy have four, I think; I believe there are a total of 12 spread across all of the modes, split between four planets) but it looks like that won’t be a massive issue for long. Everyone will be getting the Battle of Jakku sometime soonish, and EA are apparently promising free maps to go along with the Season Pass of paid content they have planned.
My early impressions are firmly in the “Hmm” department. I’m not feeling a desperate urge to go back and play it right now (probably for the best, as I’ve got too much else to do), but it’s hardly bad. Like I said: it feels more like a collection of surprisingly solid FPS mini-games than the next in-depth, life-consuming multiplayer shooter. It’s something I’ll stick on every now and then for a bit of light entertainment, but I don’t think I’d be grinding out unlocks night after night, even if I did have the time.