Previews

“Never tell me the odds” — hands-on with the Star Wars Battlefront beta

Defeat was imminent. Despite my team’s best efforts, Imperial troops had continued to push forward. The snowy battlefields of Hoth had been littered with destroyed vehicles and defeated soldiers, but the enemy showed no signs of stopping. Airships soared overhead, keeping my team’s forces at bay. Our firepower had been no match for the pair of armored AT-ATs that had nearly reached the shield generator of the Rebel base. The battle was almost over. All hope was lost.

With only about a minute remaining, I hopped into a Rebel Snowspeeder as a last ditch effort. I headed towards the Imperial walkers, but quickly found myself being tailed by enemy TIE fighters. I dove as low to the ground as my speeder could go, slowed down, and set my sights on one of the huge armored foes. As soon as I was within range, I fired my tow cable and began to wrap it around the legs of the AT-AT, carefully balancing my altitude as enemy fire barreled towards me. With mere seconds left to go, I detached the cable, tripping the walker, just as its partner had reached the generator. The Rebel Alliance had been defeated, but it didn’t matter; at that moment, I was a hero.

Star Wars Battlefront is full of powerful moments like this that throw you into some of the greatest battles of the Star Wars universe. After spending some time trying out the various modes that are playable in the beta, I’m more excited than ever before for the full release. Here’s a rundown of what players can expect when they get their own hands-on experience with the game.

"Wow! That got 'em!"

“Wow! That got ’em!”

Walker Assault

The centerpiece of the Star Wars Battlefront experience, Walker Assault is the same large-scale game mode that has been seen several times since the game’s E3 unveiling. Taking place on the ice planet of Hoth, two teams of 20 players each go head to head, with the Rebel Alliance trying to hold back the attacking Imperial forces. If the Rebels are unable to stop the Imperials before the Imperial AT-ATs reach the shield generator, then it’s game over.

With Walker Assault’s emphasis on huge battles, vehicles play a significant part in this game type. The start of the match gives Imperial soldiers immediate access to the ground-based AT-STs, lethal walkers capable of trouncing Rebel forces while taking quite a beating themselves. Luckily, the Rebels have heavy firepower of their own, as they start the match with X-wing fighters at their disposal, with A-wings and Snowspeeders unlocked eventually as well.

Piloting Battlefront’s ships definitely takes some getting used to. Steering is controlled entirely with the right thumbstick, while tilting the left stick adjusts the ship’s speed and power. The ships all have quite an exhilarating top speed, capable of traversing the entire battlefield in a few seconds’ time, so finding the right balance between a speed and firepower be the difference between reaching your destination on time and falling at the hands of enemy ships. It takes a few rounds to adjust to the learning curve, but a few rounds of practice, players should find themselves good enough to bullseye even a Womprat.

If there is one part of Walker Assault that has me concerned, it’s the balance. With the ability to hop into the land-based AT-ST, the Imperials consistently felt overpowered when compared to the infantry of the Rebel team. Of the handful of Walker Assault matches I played, the Imperials won every single time, with the only instance of the Rebels coming closing to victory being the tow cable scenario I detailed earlier. Hopefully this feels a little more balanced as players begin to understand the game’s mechanics with more experience. Regardless, though, even when you are on the losing team, Walker Assault is filled with so many epic Star Wars moments that even losing feels fun. This game type is a blast to play, and is bound to be one of Battlefront’s best offerings.

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Possibly the most intense moment of the entire match.

Drop Zone

As the stark contrast of Walker Assault, Drop Zone takes the focus off of the large-scale battles in favor of smaller, more personal combat encounters. Taking place on the volcanic planet of Sollust, which has been referenced but never seen in the films, Drop Zone is an 8-on-8 game mode where Rebels and Imperials compete to claim escape pods that fall from the sky. Essentially a variant of familiar King of the Hill game types, players will find themselves rushing to a central point on the map to hold each territory long enough to claim each pod’s reward.

One of Drop Zone’s more entertaining aspects is its element of strategy. While there will almost always be a pod to fight over, it’s not uncommon to see a second pod hit the ground before the first can be claimed. This leaves players with the decision to keep defending the current pod or rush to the next in hopes of getting a head start on the next capture. Each captured pod rewards players with power-ups, such as thermal detonators or energy shields, so the strong aspect of risk-vs-reward plays a huge part in Drop Zone.

The close- to mid-range combat seen in this mode feels much more intimate as well. Without vehicles and heavy artillery to rely on, each combat encounter is comprised of standard pistols, rifles, and explosives. Sollust’s rocky terrain leaves a lot of nooks and crevices to maneuver around, creating exciting moments when firefights begin. Sneaking around and finding the right approach to each combat scenario is a sound strategy in this mode.

Compared to the open scale of Walker Assault, Drop Zone is an entertaining change of pace. The map layout feels more confined, but shootouts feel more strategic and skill-based as a result. Frantic and fast paced, Drop Zone is a huge amount of fun.

Sullust shows a beautiful landscape never been seen in the Star Wars universe.

Sullust shows a beautiful landscape never been seen in the Star Wars universe.

Co-op

The last of the modes available in the beta, this is the same survival-based co-op mode playable at E3. Unlike Walker Assault and Drop Zone, Battlefront’s co-op mode is for two players at a time, with the goal of teaming up to survive as long as they can. After a brief story-based intro that shows two Rebel soldiers crash landing on the canyon-filled terrain of Tatooine, players must endure wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemy soldiers.

Much like Drop Zone, pods will frequently fall from the sky to tempt daring players out into the more dangerous areas of the map to reach them. Securing a pod and holding the position for a short period will earn players power-ups in the form of automated turrets, or other offensive and defensive based weaponry. Players will need them too, and the AI-controlled Stormtroopers can very quickly overwhelm players if they aren’t careful. Jetpack troopers and AT-STs can provide a significant challenge to players who are unprepared.

Teamwork is the name of the game in Battlefront’s co-op mode. Although this challenge lasts only six waves in the beta, coordination and cooperation are essential if either player is to succeed. This may be the quickest, yet least hectic mode playable in the beta, but it is absolutely an entertaining experience to play when craving a more close-knit scenario with friends.

"Our troops can't repel fire of that magnitude!"

“Our troops can’t repel fire of that magnitude!”

I ended my first night with the Star Wars Battlefront beta with a huge smile on my face. The chaotic firefights felt great, and the huge scale of some encounters led to moments that were nothing short of epic. Perhaps most importantly, Battlefront feels like a Star Wars game through and through, whether it be because of its familiar scenery, weapons and vehicles, or even the iconic soundtrack that plays in the background. It’s been a long time coming, but Battlefront is the best way to scratch that Star Wars itch.

The Star Wars Battlefront beta will be playable on Xbox One, PS4 and PC from October 8th through the 12th, with the full release to follow on November 17th. For more on Star Wars Battlefront, be sure to check back to Gaming Trend.

 

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