Hopefully, by the time you’ve spent a few hours playing this Wednesday’s beta, the idea of Star Wars Battlefront simply being a reworked Battlefield will quickly disappear. It’s just not the same thing. After a day playing ahead of the public release, I’ve found a faster, more hipfire-focused game, built on group tussles, fast turnarounds and satisfying shoot outs. It’s also got a few interesting mechanics and gameplay ideas in there that means it plays quite differently to DICEs more familiar FPS name.
(Apparently, I say Jedi when I meant Empire while talking about Hoth. *Obviously* that's wrong. Please don't tell me anymore.)
Firstly, that mention of hipfire. We reported a while back that there are no iron sights in Star Wars Battlefront. Instead there’s a pulled-in zoom effect that gives you arguably more accuracy than down the sights and keeps the focus much more on immediate, fast blasting. It’s a change of pace that gives Star Wars a different feel. The action’s fast and, thanks to a relatively robust health system, you can actually trade shots with an opponent rather than being cut down in an instant.
That speed creates a far enjoyable and rewarding dynamic compared to the usually more stressful multiplayer environments. Died? Great, start again. It’s way more fun to run around popping off shots in running battles, rather than stressfully peeking around corners and only seeing the enemy that ended you in a killcam. Because everyone lives that little bit longer, little clustered firefights often erupt between teams over key areas. It doesn’t take long before almost every game starts to feel like it’s recreating a movie moment.
The way power ups litter the field, granting you access to extra weapons, vehicles or hero characters, is another trick the game uses to keep things ticking over fast. Grabbing a floaty spinning token for an A-Wing when you’re used to spawning next to a choice of cars and choppers might take getting used to, but it makes more sense here. The game’s fast and very mobile so having power ups all over the map makes more sense. It also levels the playing field, so anyone can use them rather than just high level players. Accessibility depends on how important things are - rocket launchers are everywhere, for example, while the AT-AT’s guns or heroes are limited to a single randomly placed token that only appears if there’s a slot free.
So it’s faster and more ‘pick up and play’, even before you start to unlock stuff. But as the game progresses there are more interesting mechanics. Another change from the norm is the Star Card system. Battlefront is basically a classless game that uses these cards to shape a character using abilities and gear that run on cooldowns. There’s no ‘one grenade per life’ rules here, for example. There’s as many as you can throw, as long as you don’t mind waiting seven seconds between tosses.
You can equip three cards into a hand comprising gear and perks, making choices according to how you want to play. There are only seven cards in the beta but they give you some idea of how the system works. Things like Ion Blast and Ion Grenades make you better against vehicles, there’s a shield if you want to tank it, while a long range Cycler Rifle gives you sniping options.
There’s only one perk-based card currently called the Sharpshooter. That reduces your cooldowns on everything when you get a headshot. So the more accurate you are the more grenades you have access to, say. It’s a good card to combine with the Cycler Rifle to reduce its nine second cooldown, assuming you’ve got the aim for it. There are three levels too, letting you progressively sharpen that particular skill. It’s a simple system but one that could be flexible depending on what other cards and abilities are in the final game. It’ll certainly be interesting to see what sort of variants you can construct from the options.
The rest of the beta is more predictable. It fits in the 40 player asymmetrical Walker Assault, built around trying to protect/destroy steadily progressing AT-ATs. There’s the co-op survival mode where two friends fight off Stormtrooper hordes. And, finally, Drop Zone, a smaller 8v8 version of something like Headquarters, where teams fight to secure pods that drop into the map.
They’re all solid modes and great fun on their own but the fresh thinking just lifts it up a touch. True, if it was just Battlefield reskinned that still wouldn’t be a bad thing (I would still play it). But the changes and different ideas add a welcome freshness. It also does a great job of letting you live the Star Wars fantasy. The production is flawless - from the environments and ships to the crackling sparks and flash of blaster impacts. The sound design really is fantastic, taking some of the most iconic noises in sci-fi and making them sound like things that could actually kill you. Even the snow looks good on Hoth, filled with little sparkly ice crystals. There’s clearly a huge attention to detail and level of craft that’s gone into every little thing evident in just the beta alone. It bodes well for the main game.