I’m actually not a huge Star Wars fan (I know, I know), but after spending a couple of hours playing Battlefront on the PS4 today, I’m starting to feel a lot of hype.
I mean. Can you blame me for feeling this way? Even the menus in this game are hot as hell:
Nevermind when you’re actually in a match! Battlefront is a looker indeed.
I’m not praising the visuals here simply because they’re pretty. What strikes me about them is how well they capture that worn, threadbare quality that many of the objects in the movies have as well. Your blaster isn’t a fancy gun. It looks plausible, real. Futuristic, yet old somehow. This, in combination with DICE’s stellar audio design, make Battlefront feel like it’s transporting you right into the world of Star Wars. Fans will appreciate this attention to detail outright. I on the other hand have no real nostalgia for Star Wars, but the games do such a good job of building this world, that I still feel completely seduced by it. It’s one thing to look at Tatooine. It’s another to walk through it and feel the rock crumble underneath your boot. I feel a sense of wonder playing Battlefront...when I’m not trying to shoot other people in the face, that is.
While I haven’t spent that much time with the game yet, I do have plenty of thoughts on what I have experienced thus far. In no particular order:
- I LOVE the jetpacks in this game. In most games, jetpacks are floaty. Not in Battlefront. One press of a button, and your character vaults across the map with force, weight. Landings stick, but they’re not exactly graceful. It feels dangerous, almost—like the jetpack could easily kill you if you’re not careful. They won’t, of course. It just FEELS that way. Still, I fully expect a lot of shenanigans with people miscalculating and accidentally crashing into all sorts of things. I know I did.
- Not reloading is a bit strange at first. It took me a couple of matches to get used to Battlefront’s tempo of “shoot, let your gun cool off for a few seconds, shoot, cool off.” When you do mess up, your blaster overheats and you get a Gears of War-like active reload mini game. If you press the appropriate button when prompted, you’ll automatically gain access to your gun again. If you don’t, you’ll have to wait a few seconds for it to cool down. It’s a small detail, but it totally adds to the feeling that you’re playing a Star Wars game, too. It feels less like Obligatory Sci Fi Shootman Mechanic than it feels like a “realistic” quirk of a delicate, ornery weapon.
- I spent a little bit playing the “Survival” missions, which are the game’s version of horde mode. Enemies come at you in waves, and each wave is incrementally more difficult than the last one. The beta only lets you play up to the sixth wave, and you can watch that below.
- My favorite thing in the world is when an enemy is in a jetpack—if you kill them, they usually start spinning out of control and then explode. It’s great.
- Survival felt like a tease. There aren’t enough waves to really make use of the power-ups you get for defending certain points, and the enemies aren’t particularly tough early on in the mode. Even so, it’s still a great way to acclimatize yourself to Battlefront. I’d highly recommend popping a few matches in here before diving into the meat of the game, which is way more daunting. I was able to test out every available gun and loadout in a chill environment, without having to actually unlock that gear (something which you’ll need to do in other modes).
- Every gun has a very distinct feel. So many different varieties of “pew-pew”!
- Drop Zone is a bit more meaty. Basically, you’re tasked with attacking or defending “Pods” from enemies. If you manage to arm a Pod and defend it for long enough, it’ll drop goodies for you to use in the match—things like souped up grenades, shields, and turrets. The mode has got enough objective in it that it’s not as mindless as a team death match mode, but it’s still pretty simple and straightforward. You can watch a couple of matches of that in the video below. I’m not particularly amazing, I apologize!
- Neither of the previous modes can really prepare you for how bonkers “Walker Assault on Hoth” is. It’s a massive 40-player mode with rolling objectives that change depending on how well your team is doing. You play as either the Rebels trying to destroy the Empire’s AT-AT attacks (which means you need to call in Y-Wing bombers) or, you can play as the Empire (which means you’ll need to protect your walkers.)
- The mode is very overwhelming, at least at first. You really do feel like you’re a part of a larger war, which also means you can’t just run in and try to be Rambo. You’ll die really quickly. The only way to make progress is to be tactical, as you try your best to mount an attack or defend against invaders. Team work will be key.
- I’d compare Walker Assault to Rush Mode in Battlefield—it hits many of the same notes—but that doesn’t capture just how epic this mode feels. You’re running alongside giant AT-ATs, which could probably crush you. Meanwhile, fighter jets buzz overhead, shooting stuff in the distance. You also have “heroes” and “villains” on each side, which are power-ups that let you play as classic characters like Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Oh yeah. And then you have the 40 other players running about. Seriously: it’s absurd and awesome.
- My favorite moment so far on Walker Assault was when I was trying to gun down an enemy from far away. There I was, shooting at this guy for-e-ver, puzzled as to why this jerk wouldn’t go down. Why did he have so much health? What the hell? I made my way closer and closer to this enemy, who seemed to be cutting down everyone in his path. Eventually, I got far enough to make out the enemy’s face—and that’s when I realized I had made a grave mistake. It was Luke Skywalker. And he was looking right at me. Scrambling and scared, I tried shooting him some more—he was nearly dead! Surely I could finish him off? Oh, precious optimism. He just deflected my shots as if they were nothing using his lightsaber, and seconds later, he cut me right down. I died. It was the best thing ever.
- Also awesome: when you actually manage to kill hero and villain characters. I felt pumped every time I killed Darth Vader. I know that eventually, the novelty will wear off—these may be iconic characters, but I also presume you’ll see them nearly every match. And since real people are controlling these characters, sometimes that means they won’t behave the way they’re “supposed” to. Sometimes, that’ll be funny. Other times, it’ll be grating. For now, though, I get really excited whenever I see heroes and villains.
- Right now, the beta isn’t open to the public. That’s later this week, on the 8th. So far, though, the game feels rather stable. I only experienced slight lag during one of my Walker matches, but the hiccups disappeared after a few minutes. Hopefully the experience is just as smooth when everyone else is playing it, too.
- The unlock system is par for the course in games of this sort now, but it kind of sucked to start out with nothing in modes like Walker Assault—especially after getting a taste of some of the unlocks in Survival. It’s too early to tell now, but it definitely seems like higher-leveled people will have an advantage.
- The spawning system could be a bit better—I got spawn killed a few times. Maybe just bad luck, though?
I know that I raved the most about Walker Assault here, yet I didn’t actually include footage of it. I’m planning on doing a livestream for that mode sometime tomorrow evening here on Kotaku, so do check back on the site for that. We’ll be able to get more into the nitty gritty of the game, including stuff like loadouts, leveling, and so on. I hope you’ll join me!