At around noon today, the beta for Electronic Arts' reboot of the [Star Wars: Battlefront](tag:2684021) series went online for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Battlefront is one of the most hyped games of the year, but EA's recent launch issues with games like Diablo, Sim City, and Battlefield 4. Any gamer worth his credits would be wary. With that in mind, what does the beta indicate that Battlefront has in store?
The beta allows players the chance to do battle in three locations, one for each available gametype. The first I played, a Survival mission, was set on Tatooine, on something similar to a mesa. The landscape was crisscrossed by natural "bridges" and rock formations, and a couple locations played host to small villages that would otherwise be occupied by Tusken Raiders. The player takes the role of a Rebel, who must fend off increasingly difficult waves of Imperials.
On Normal difficulty, it's easily feasible to complete with no backup and no understanding of how the game works-the Stormtroopers slowly walk towards you as you blast away. Your only real danger is missing them or trapping yourself in a corner, both of which are actually kind of difficult to do. As you progress to "Hard" and "Master", the enemies will actually become threatening, but neither of these is unlocked for the beta. New players may also appreciate it as a starting point to learn the controls and familiarize themselves with the mechanics.
From there, it's a fairly simple transition into multiplayer. The first mode most people will try (for reasons stated later) will be Drop Zone. Out of the frying pan and into the fire is a pretty applicable phrase for the scenery, at least. While Tatooine was a barren wasteland of a desert, Sullust is covered in rivers of lava, and pockmarked with sulfuric pits that are spread throughout the playable area, adding environmental hazards that are all to easy to step into.
The actual gametype is fairly straight forward. Drop Zone is a king of the hill-type battle, with Rebels and Imperials pushing back and forth over escape pods that crash down one at a time. Once one team successfully captures a pod, the next drops, and begins the cycle again. Drop Zone can certainly be hectic, and the random landing locations ensure that neither team can hunker down too much. As soon as a pod is captured, a team that was on the defensive could find itself scattered and charging straight towards the enemy for the opportunity to get the next pod. Players always need to be on their toes, because there's really no telling if the guy around the corner is friend or foe.
Overall, Drop Zone's 8 on 8 action provides a simple, fast-paced game mode that often plays more like a death match than an objective hunt. The sheer difficulty of forming and holding a perimeter means that more often than not, you're trusting the guy watching your back to spot that sniper before he puts a slug through the back of your skull. It's hectic, it's tense, and it's a really exciting and well done game mode, especially for fans of close to medium range combat.
Let's be honest, though, as fun as those game modes are, the reason everyone got in to the first two Battlefront games was the sheer scale. They made you a part of the massive militaries of Star Wars, charging headlong in to battle with dozens of your fellow soldiers. Criss-crossing lasers, swooping speeders, and dominant walkers made the games something to see, not just to play. So when we all downloaded the beta, we all knew the mode we wanted to hit up. Walker Assault.
Walker Assault is exactly what it sounds like. Two enormous AT-ATs make their way across the icy, mountainous terrain of Hoth, with diabolical intent. The shielf generator must fall. This mode is the real deal-the beta even recommends leveling up in Drop Zone and earning some gear before taking the plunge into the frozen hell.
My God, is it worth the wait! Walker Assault is perhaps the most immersed I've ever felt in a Star Wars game. Whether Rebel or Imperial, charging across the icy plains to reach your objective is a matter of speed, skill, and alot of luck. Sharpshooters on both sides delight in using rocky outcroppings and small cliffs to rain lasers and slugs down on the poor souls who made it their mission to reach the uplink objectives. Those making the charge will find themselves in a focused zone of running, jumping, whirling, and shooting as they duck into trenches and speed across gaps. Those who search can find support tokens that allow them to settle into the cockpit of an AT-AT, AT-ST, TIE, X-Wing, A-Wing, or Snowspeeder, and rise above the battlefield sporting heavy cannons , missiles, and more. If you've ever wanted to be in Star Wars, this is probably the closest you'll come.
Of course, this particular mode may be a bit too accurate to the movies. The Empire has such a high margin of victory that there are already several game guide videos specifically designed to help the Rebels win. It's so easy to win as the Empire that in most games, it takes a spectacular combination of incredible incompetence by the Imperials AND near-perfection by the Rebels. By the end of about thirty games, I'd won once as the Rebels, and never, ever lost as the Empire.
Fortunately, it seems EA knew of this going in, and intends to use the beta to determine exactly how to balance it, be it weaker walkers, stronger Rebel weapons, or anything else. So far, we've got a pretty solid game from DICE. We'll have to wait and see the final product, but those who were worried may just be able to exhale.