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So the Star Wars Battlefront beta is over and we can all go back to our less-rebellious lives in a galaxy far closer to home.  The general consensus seems very positive and I certainly had a blast so here is a quick rundown of my thoughts from over the last few days …

For the record, I played between 10-15 hours in total covering the 3 game modes available.  Taking heed of the on-screen notice, I started with “drop zone” then moved on to the Walker Assault on Hoth. I spent most of my time (levelling up and reaching the beta level cap) on Xbox One but also tested the beta on PS4.

Episode I: A New Hope

The Walker Assault on Hoth is clearly the main event of the beta and it takes all of my resolve (and the on-screen warning) to start with the “Dropzone” level.  First impressions are excellent, with controls that are familiar and intuitive for anyone who has played Battlefield or other shooters.  It also looks and sounds incredible on both machines although this is another case where PS4 players get treated to sharper visuals.  Dropzone is a basic case of capture and either attack or defend the pods and the map seems tight although a little dull and dark for my liking.  Importantly, however, it really feels like Star Wars.

For my first round I get to play as the Empire.  I die regularly but have some nice “hero” moments even then, with a satisfying 3 kill streak and some solid pod defence.  The low points do come rather more frequently but I shrug them off as just learning the controls (I hover near a pod expecting this to claim it, it doesn’t and I die of shame and a blaster to the face) or my failure to pick out the rebels against the dark rock backdrop.  A second round (playing as the rebels) at least confirms my theory that the some of my issues stem from my colour-blindness as it’s much easier spotting the shiny white Stormtroopers.  Maybe I’m also getting into the groove as my kill/death ratio rockets and I start to level up.  I feel ready for a trip to Hoth.

Before diving in, I go rummaging around the settings menu and I am delighted to find a colour-blindness setting (credit to EA for that, it makes a huge difference).  Arriving on Hoth with a sense of expectation and no more excuses I am blown away in both senses.  Two things are immediately clear 1) I have not levelled up enough or just need a lot more practice and 2) this is where Battlefront really shines.  I take an absolute kicking but love every minute of it.  The vehicles, scale and occasional presence of Luke and Vader make Dropzone feel like an amuse bouch let alone a starter in comparison.  What we have hear is an epic battle on snow and in the air and one that feels like it’s constantly evolving.  It’s an incredible start and makes me hugely excited for the rest of the beta and the full game.

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Episode II: The Deathmatch Strikes Back

So it’s a bit surprising that I spent so much of the rest of the weekend bcak on Dropzone.  Initially, this was to try the PS4 version and to level up and get access to the jetpack.  But I soon started to appreciate the simplicity and immediacy of the deathmatch-style gameplay while my interest in Hoth also waned slightly.  Why was this? Well, I was certainly better at it which probably helped, as was the fact I was playing solo and with no headset.  My experience of Battlefield suggests that the objective-based modes come alive with friends so I have a choice to make, Xbox (where I have a bigger friendlist) or PS4 (which looks even more gorgeous).  At least I have the EA Access trail to help me decide.

What I won’t be doing is pre-order.   After the Battlefield 4 debacle, it’s worth pointing out that I got into most games immediately and with no connection issues on either console.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can sustain that for launch but I, and I suspect many, will hold back a few weeks this time just in case.

Episode III: Attack of the Moans?

It’s not all perfect but most of the grumbles I had were small and may be restricted to the beta.  Although it’s fairly fast-paced, I missed the free-movement of Titanfall especially until I had access to the jetpack.  In fact, the whole focus on unlockables is a shame for a game that is clearly so appealing for the mainstream – making it unnecessarily hard for newcomers to play a useful part in battles.  Hopefully EA will make some tweaks to this and the general balancing of vehicles etc before release or I can see early buyers (and EA Access members on Xbox) ruling the roost.  Other than that, my only concern with multiplayer is whether there is enough variety here to keep players hooked without them needing to splash out on the season pass.

There is, however, a reason I havent mentioned the Survival mission.  I thought it was rubbish.  Playing these on single-player felt dull and lifeless although Tattoine looked good and it was fun to see Admiral Ackbar pop up.  It might have been better with a pal, but I’ve never really got into these “horde mode” style sessions and this was worse than most.  It’s the biggest disappointment of the beta and I hope that the Battles and other missions are more fun.   If not, I may just skip this missions section entirely.  

Overall then, a great chance to try out one of my most anticipated games of the year and some reassurance that EA are ready for the millions likely to be filling their servers this Christmas.  As long as they don’t get cocky, they should have a huge hit.  The Force is strong with this one.

The best bits:

  • Those rare but beautiful kill-streaks and feeling like a bad-ass.
  • It seems very solid from a technical standpoint (although after BF4 I’m still not pre-ordering).
  • The presentation and details are excellent.  Especially on Hoth, it just FEELS like Star Wars

The worst bits:

  • Having to level up before getting access to the jet-pack.
  • The unbalanced matches, but I’d expect EA to iron this out before launch.
  • Defaulting to first-person view.  3rd person FTW.
  • The “horde mode” style Mission on Tatooine had me bored after about 2 minutes.  Can they be any more than a distraction?
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