It doesn’t matter if the player is a teenager or an elder, few can deny the intrinsically nostalgic feel of a Star Wars product. Anything related to the franchise stirs up very specific feelings, even more so if players get to interact with the Star Wars product first hand.
It’s for that reason alone that it’s hard to jump into Star Wars Battlefront without anything but rose-colored glasses. The sound of blaster fire whizzing by, Tie Fighters and X-Wing’s dogfighting in the sky above, and even the music all create the sense of immersion fans want from a Star Wars game.
First and foremost, although DICE, the same developers responsible for the Battlefield franchise, is now also in charge of Star Wars Battlefront there are very few connections between the two series. Sure, Star Wars Battlefront looks absolutely gorgeous, like almost any Frostbite game, but it still has a distinct feel to it. Granted, that identity is not exactly the same Star Wars Battlefront that fans remember, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For our demo, the set-up was quite simple. Players split up into two teams – Rebels and Empire – and work together either to destroy or defend a Rebel installation. For the Empire, assists come in the form of AT-ATs and AT-STs, while for the Rebels can call in Y-Wing strikes for some added firepower.
On top of that layer is a capture the point type mechanic where the two teams fight for control of satellite dishes. If the Rebels keep the full set of satellites online they can call in the Y-Wings, which will disable the AT-ATs’ shields and make them vulnerable to blaster fire. However, if the Empire keeps even just one satellite offline, they will have greater firepower working in their favor.
It’s this push and pull between defending the installations and attacking them that makes Star Wars Battlefront feel like a legitimate battle. But with the added layer of planet Hoth and all these familiar design details, what is at first intriguing eventually becomes enthralling. Whether the player is controlling a Rebel soldier or an Empire trooper, there’s the sense that they are a small player in a larger battle, but also an integral piece of the puzzle if they can help the team achieve their objectives.
Couple that with the fact that Star Wars Battlefront plays in a way that’s appropriate for the property, and it’s hard not to imagine sinking hours into the game this fall. The way laser rifles, pistols, and blasters need to lead their targets at distance, or the cool boost that happens when player’s trigger their “jump pack”, feels so unique to this franchise it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. The customization was quite limited for our demo – players could choose between two set-ups with three different abilities, in addition to choosing between a handful of guns – but there it seems as if Star Wars Battlefront will offer players a decent amount of options to favor a variety of playstyles. Want to do more damage and get up close? Then there is a grenade launcher “ability” and an Ion Shot. Find that the enemy team is swarming too hard? Use a protective shield and orbital grenade to clear a path.
Not to mention, when player’s jump into an X-Wing or Tie-Fighter – a power-up, of sorts, that’s accessible by collecting specific coins on the battlefield – there’s a new layer of battle unfolding just above the surface of the planet. Admittedly, it feels weird to give these interplanetary vehicles height limits, but for a first time experience it was hardly a bother. Since everyone is limited in their air space, the focus is always on either dogfighting or taking out ground troops.
For as much as the fans will debate whether or not Star Wars Battlefront feels like the original games, it’s hard to deny there’s something a little bit magical about a multiplayer shooter set in this universe. The fact that DICE nailed the visuals and the sound effects at the very least means that the product is enthralling, but the gunplay and the unique abilities add an extra layer of nuance to the experience. By the time the match was over it was very clear that we needed to play more, and that’s all one can expect from an E3 demo.
Star Wars Battlefront releases November 17, 2015 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.