Electronic Arts and DICE finally gave players the first chance to get their hands on, and play, the highly anticipated reboot of the Star Wars Battlefront franchise at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. I attended the expo, and I was able to play the new demo that was available for the game. The playable demo at the EA booth allowed players to jump into the game’s massive, multiplayer Battle of Hoth from the upcoming game. A couple of months ago at Star Wars Celebration 2015, The Paranoid Gamer provided a look at the behind closed doors, first look preview for the game. This time, an actual playable demo was available for the PlayStation 4 version of game to get a look at Battlefront’s progress.
Considering that the new Star Wars Battlefront is due out later this year, I was happy to see a playable demo on display. For this year’s E3, I was disappointed with the lack of new and quality games on hand to preview and play. There were plenty of big new announcements and behind-closed-doors previews, but very few upcoming big titles to get hands-on time. For example, 2K Games is set to release WWE 2K16 later this year, yet there was absolutely nothing shown for the game at E3. That is a major concern. I was happy to see the first looks of gameplay for Doom and Fallout 4 at the Bethesda Softworks briefing, but there were no previews or demos for the games at the Bethesda booth. It seemed like there were fewer games to preview and play this year. Thankfully, Star Wars Battlefront was one of the exceptions.
The gameplay demo featured a Team vs. Team match for the Battle of Hoth, consisting of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. EA and DICE had an elaborate entrance for the demo, which resembled the Hoth Rebel base from The Empire Strikes Back. Before the demo, there was an intro video, narrated by the famous Admiral Ackbar. This intro video provided the gist of the demo and the objectives for both sides. The Empire is out to destroy the shield generator of the Rebel base (similar to the movie), and the Rebels have to take out the Imperial AT-AT Walkers.
The demo was very fast and action-packed. The player is basically a soldier dropped into the middle of the Battle of Hoth and must help his/her side win the day. I was a Rebel soldier. Controls and shooter mechanics were fairly responsive for the demo. Each player appears to have a jetpack for longer sustained jump movements. However, all of those have a cool down period after one use. Across the battlefield, Rebel soldiers have to get to radio towers. After activating those towers, Rebels must defend them from Imperial forces in order to call in Y-Wing air strikes. I really like the feature that gameplay can seamlessly switch between first-person and third-person perspective. If the next-gen versions of Grand Theft Auto V can exploit this feature, I do not understand why more next-gen games cannot. I would like to see more first-person shooter games employ an optional third-person shooter mode.
The battlefield is littered with special Rebel Alliance tokens that players can acquire. My understanding is these tokens can be picked up to control vehicles like the T-47 airspeeder. Then, the airspeeders can be utilized to take down the AT-AT Walkers. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to switch to a vehicle I could pilot. The tokens did provide me with various, more powerful weapons, including a rocket launcher. The jacked-up weapons also have a limited time use.
In terms of graphics, the visuals definitely looked impressive. The Frostbite 3 engine definitely appears to have been put to good use for Star Wars Battlefront. The environments and character models all looked very bright, sharp and crisp. Character movement and animation were very fluid for the demo. I did not experience any noticeable issues in terms of glitches or framerate skipping during the demo. For the demo, what was available was very smooth and polished, so I hope the final product will turn out that way.
I especially liked that the teams were so big. It made the demo a lot more fun because all the team members were working toward a common goal to defeat the Imperial army. It added a veiled type of visceral entertainment to the overall demo experience. It is pretty impressive to have 40 player battles of teams of 20 against each other. Not even Titanfall was able to handle more than six players at once during its matches.
One thing I was not clear on in the demo was how to play as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, similar to the presentation at the Electronic Arts press conference. I assume at some point during the battle, some tokens spawn on the battlefield that will allow a certain player to transform into an iconic hero from the Star Wars franchise. If Vader or Luke Skywalker took part in my battle, it was not viewable on my screen during my demo play session.
My main problem with the game is still the lack of space battles. It is incredibly annoying that DICE could develop a next-gen reboot of the Star Wars Battlefront series that has absolutely no outer space battles. It is just highly bizarre. All the previous Star Wars Battlefront games had interstellar Star Wars battles. It is even more strange that there are so many spacecraft and airborne vehicles in the game, and none of them will be able to go into orbit for some interstellar dog fights. Hopefully, the game will be so fantastic that the lack of space battles can be overlooked. However, I still hope this element is fixed for potential future installments.
Star Wars Battlefront is scheduled for a November 17 release for North America and November 20 in the UK. The game is being developed for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC. The first DLC for the game, The Battle of Jakku, will be released on December 8, and December 1 for players who pre-order the game.