Recently Star Wars took a leap onto the newest generation of consoles between Oct. 8 and Oct. 12 when developer DICE and publisher EA released its beta for the upcoming “Star Wars Battlefront.”
A “beta” is a term in video gaming that means a demo or test version of a game. The purpose of a beta is to, hopefully as a game developer, receive some consumer input on the direction of a game. This can impact the final product and turn a game from a flop to a victory.
In 2004, developer Pandemic Studios sought and received rights from LucasArts to make a Star Wars game unlike any other at the time. Most of these games before had featured a heavy emphasis on the heroes of the franchise, but not so much the actual wars which drove the movies. Trying to think outside the box, Pandemic made one of the greatest Star Wars games the franchise had seen. This game was Star Wars: Battlefront and it was awesome.
I remember many nights I would replay the same missions with my brother and friends or create our own battles with the “Instant Action” feature that allowed me to manipulate many aspects of my fight as I sought to dethrone the Galactic Empire or bravely fought the Separatists’ many droids. Whether I wanted to fight in the streets of Cloud City or the fields of Naboo, Star Wars: Battlefront blended first and third-person shooting seamlessly and created an experience I fondly remember.
In 2005 the studio created and shipped the second in the series which was also met with great success. Building on the already solid mechanics from the first, the studio branched into bringing the memorable heroes and villains into the game. Battlefront II was just as great as I fought on the battlefields of many Star Wars planets, now swinging a light saber and wielding the intense power of the force.
The license for the series shifted and other games were created that did not have as much of an impact, but were still good in their own rights. Recently, with the Disney acquisition of LucasArts, DICE was tasked with reviving the series and it is set to release on Nov. 17.
I played several days of the beta and tried all game modes available: Drop Zone, Walker Assault and a mission. The first two are similar in gameplay with fast paced shooting around various set pieces. The objective in Drop Zone is to control the most drop pods by the end of the game, and Walker Assault relives the battle of Hoth where the Empire must keep their large At-At vehicles safe during an assault on the Rebel base. Both game modes were fun, but even DICE has commented on the fact Walker Assault was very one-sided in favor of the Empire. I would suggest DICE that you take a little time and try to fix balancing issues, even if it means delaying the game for another month. I want a Star Wars game, but I want one that is well-done.
The mission mode was short, with only six out of the maximum 15 waves available to complete. The point is to fight off increasingly powerful enemies until the Rebel Admiral Ackbar can arrange for your safe transport off of the planet Tatooine. This was probably the more fun game mode for me, but as short as it was you could complete the beta version in 15 minutes or less with the right partner. With a little work, this could be an amazing mode in the final product. Overall the beta was fun but lacking at best with its gameplay. It is good seeing them already react to feedback and that is a strong step towards a better game.
The two things I can compliment this beta on are the reliable servers, which has been an issue for DICE in the past, and the beautiful visuals and audio. DICE seemed to hit it right on the head with maps that boldly illustrate the planets of Star Wars. Each rock in Tatooine seems to be placed perfectly and the snowprints and small corridors of Hoth’s snowy terrain are very well-done. All of this is supplemented with sounds that are genuinely Star Wars from the resounding scream of the Tie Fighters to the sharp twang of blaster rifles.
I would suggest holding off until after launch and reading a few reviews before purchasing this game. It could be another great installment for the series, but it could just as well turn into a money generating hog for a developer that has made, in my opinion, bad games before.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy