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Preview: Star Wars Battlefront: A classic reborn

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Official EA - Electronic Arts Facebook Page

(Official EA – Electronic Arts Facebook Page)

Last weekend, EA’s DICE – most famous for the Battlefield series – released the test beta for Star Wars: Battlefront. The massive team-based multiplayer shooter shares the set of the original Star Wars trilogy and beyond, ultimately being a reboot of the classic Battlefront franchise.

While the beta only included two maps and limited customization, the game is already looking like one of the best multiplayer shooters of the year, and a worthy successor in the Battlefront legacy.

If there’s one thing that DICE does right, it’s scale. Whether that means a map where a skyscraper comes crashing down in the middle of a match or simply 36v36 tank warfare, DICE knows how to make a game feel grand. Battlefront is no exception to that tradition, and while the game only supports a maximum of 20v20 players, DICE has excelled at creating an immersive, exciting experience on an astonishing scale.

Of the two maps released for testing, one was an objective based capture mode called Drop Pod, which showed off the gunplay and quick nature of the game, though it rapidly became stale due to its repetitive nature. The second game mode, called Walker Assault, showcases what is undoubtedly the set-piece mode of the game.

The beta only featured the snow covered Hoth map for this mode, which featured two massive imperial AT-ATs slowly approaching the Rebels’ base, destroying it when they reach their destination, mimicking a famous scene from Star Wars: Episode V. The imperial’s job is to defend the walkers, while the rebels need to destroy them before time runs out.

Along the way, battles are fought on land, between vehicles, even in the air as X-Wings and Tie Fighters dart overhead, occasionally crashing into a player or their enemies. It’s a set piece unlike any other that grips players in a truly monumental battle that is often closely matched until the very last moments of the game.

Battlefront not only plays well, but it is a vehicle for memorable experiences and unforgettable moments. Players can tow-cable an AT-AT to change the tide of battle in a difficult but rewarding maneuver, or simply sit in a turret and fend off hordes of enemies. Every grenade dodge and headshot taken feels memorable and characteristic of Battlefront’s greatest appeal.

Fans of the original Battlefront series shouldn’t assume this version is a direct continuation of the previous style and gameplay. Pandemic Studios, the team behind the original games, closed back in 2009, passing on the franchise to a different team with a fresh take.

Consequently, the game plays like a nice marriage between what Battlefront became and what Battlefront was originally based off of, namely the Battlefield series of the same genre. Modes like the objective based Conquest and the dog-fighting focused Fighter Squadron keep the spirit of Battlefront very much alive. Players can also switch between first and third person modes depending on how they prefer to enjoy the game.  The game also features split-screen multiplayer, meaning you and your friend can play online off the same console, a feature that is going to be sadly absent in the upcoming Halo 5.

That said, the class system of Battlefront has been totally scrapped in favor of a more Halo-esque loadout system where players will have to play more of the game to unlock new weapons and abilities, which they’ll be able to mix and match to take with them into the next mission. These loadout cards include everything from thermal detonators to jetpacks to single fire highly powerful sniper rifles.

Currently, the biggest complaint among the community is that it plays too much like Battlefield, but that’s far from the case in many ways. Battlefield is a very gun-centered game which still includes classes, destructible environments and a vehicle system that feels much different. Battlefront feels like a stark departure from this, and while it should appeal to fans of the Battlefield series, it is a very different game.

The game also lacks the Galactic Conquest feature of previous games, instead adding in a survival mode to the game where waves of imperial storm troopers will attack your position.

Yet perhaps the most important thing Battlefront does is that it creates a truly unique Star Wars experience that arguably recreates the universe of the films in a way no other game has. This is in large part due to the stunning visual quality they achieved with the Frostbite 3 Engine, rendering everything from jaw dropping explosion effects to the subtleties of the way light reflects off the snow on the ground.

The sound effects lend themselves greatly to this realized world, as every laser shot brings back rushes of nostalgia to fans of the films, with a depths and clarity seldom ever seen. The sound of every engine and the shouts of nearby rebels or imperials serve to create an enthralling battle symphony.

It should be noted that all of this is technically subject to change, as the beta form of the game is not the final product. That said, as it stands now Battlefront is set up to be one of the best multiplayer shooters of the year, and if you enjoy that (and eduroam doesn’t break on you), this game may very well be worth picking up on release for $60, or maybe waiting the extra 10 days to pick it up on Black Friday. The game will also have a season pass for an additional $50, that gives players access to all four of the game’s DLC expansions, a steep price that may not be worth it unless you’re a diehard fan of the game.

Star Wars: Battlefront will be released on Nov. 17 for PC, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.

Alessandro Arena-DeRosa can be reached at [email protected]

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