We’ve played the Battle of Hoth in a lot of games. Does DICE succeed in giving us something new?
Battlefront is getting closer, and with it comes new gameplay previews for us to try out. The AT-AT mode that we saw at the EA press conference was playable at E3, and we played on the side of the Empire defending our walkers as they advanced on Echo Base’s shield generator.
What was the objective of the mode?
The Rebels are trying to activate and hold transmitters on the battlefield to call in Y-Wing bombers to soften up the AT-ATs advancing on Echo Base. The Imperials need to take those transmitters and project the walkers long enough for them to reach the power generator and destroy it. Simple objectives, but there’s a good sense of push and pull going on.
Did it feel like Star Wars?
Yes and no. First of all, the sound effects were spot on. As the sounds were taken directly from Skywalker Sound, the audio was extremely immersive from the various blaster rifles to the metallic clanking of the AT-AT as it walked across the snowy landscape of Hoth. The visuals were also extremely impressive. The scale of the AT-AT’s was particularly noteworthy.
I’m seeing you said yes AND no. Where does the no come in?
The gameplay very much feels like Battlefield with a coat of Star Wars paint in places. The blaster rifles feel good to fire, but there are some aspects that seem very un-Star Wars like. For example, seeing players jump around the field of Hoth in jetpacks comes across as very odd (not that you see that much in Battlefield). However, the jetpacks also seem like a crucial tool in traversing the environment. It’s a trade off. You can have total immersion in the Star Wars universe or you can have a game with more movement options. Understandably, the developers focused on the gameplay.
What weapons did you have at your disposal?
We were able to test out a scoped blaster rifle, a heavy blaster rifle, and a blaster pistol. All felt well balanced, though the blaster bolts themselves are a little slow so be prepared to lead your target depending on the weapon. There were also thermal detonators and grenade launchers, both of which felt great.
How about the fighters?
We got to fly a TIE Fighter. In a slight call back to the X-Wing and TIE Fighter flight sims from the 90s, you need to balance your speed with your weapons systems. The more power one has, the less the other will have. It makes flying an interesting juggling act. Unfortunately, the TIE Fighter felt very sluggish and hard to aim, but that’s probably because it was our first time flying them.
Fighters are also only available via randomly generated power ups on the battlefield. It can be a little jarring to jump into a TIE Fighter because you sat on a token rather than climbed in the cockpit.
In a battle with around 30 or more people, there were only about four fighters in the air at any given time, including snowspeeders. Dogfights didn’t really seem to occur.
So, how would you rate it as a Star Wars experience?
DICE has worked hard to create a solid shooter with a lot of team dynamics that will be fun to play. If you’ve played their Battlefield games, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting with Battlefront. They’ve obviously worked hard to make it a very strong audio/visual Star Wars experience, but something is missing from the feel that places you into the original trilogy. However, it’s very possible it never meant to do that as they obviously made some sacrifices in canon for the sake of gameplay. There is nothing wrong with that at all, especially when the priority for a multiplayer shooter should be gameplay. In the end, it’s the correct decision to make.
If you’re looking for a great multiplayer shooter in a nicely detailed Star Wars shell, then Battlefront looks like a ton of fun. However, for those looking to truly feel like they’ve been plucked into a warzone in a galaxy far, far away you may have to squint just a bit to get there.