Few games are quite as controversial as Star Wars: Battlefront, and even fewer are controversial for the same reasons.
When the game was first announced, fans went ballistic - for the first time in nearly a decade, Battlefront would be making its way to consoles. It sounded like a dream come true - and then DICE started announcing the changes it would be making.
The single-player story was dropped. AT-AT walkers were on-rails. Space battles were cut. Only four planets would be included. As fans learned more and more about Battlefront, it seemed like a completely different game with a familiar title slapped on. DICE has been doing its best to assure fans that the game will be good, but it's hard to do that without actually letting people play the game.
And that's exactly what DICE did: the Star Wars: Battlefront beta has been live for days now, and fans can finally sink their teeth into DICE's first foray into the Star Wars universe. So, now that fans have gotten to play Star Wars: Battlefront, can it possibly live up to the franchise's first two games?
Right away, fans of both the Battlefront and Battlefield series will realize that the game plays like a mix of the two series. The heavier movement from Battlefield will definitely influence how players move throughout the maps, while the run-and-gun aiming will remind fans of Battlefront's arcade-style action. For the most part, it works: it's a lot of fun sprinting through trenches with a teammate, jumping over a rocky wall and blasting enemy soldiers.
Surprisingly, the weapons do manage to feel distinct from one another, even if they all seem the same at first. When it comes to choosing weapons, the main factors you'll want to consider are firing rate and accuracy: for instance, the Rebels' default rifle fires much more quickly than the Stormtroopers', but it's far less accurate. The differences are slight, that much is certain, but players will likely find a favorite weapon after a few rounds and stick with it.
Balancing is a major issue in games like Battlefront, and while it's hard to tell from the beta, it could still be an issue at launch. As it stands, the Heavy Blaster seems to be the favorite thanks to its long range and high-power shots - which can leave players who have yet to unlock it in an unfair fight. Hopefully, DICE can figure out how to balance all of the weapons so that everyone has a chance before launch day - after all, that's exactly what this sort of beta is for.
Power-ups feel like a strange addition, and one that'll likely have fans on both sides of the fence. On one hand, it's a great way to reward players for defending objectives - those who actively help the team get a bonus, plain and simple. On the other hand, just getting into a vehicle can be a pain - if one of your teammates doesn't get to the power-up first, there's a good chance you'll get blasted before you get a chance to use it.
It's a shame, too: vehicles are fun, and can utterly wreak havoc on the battlefield. Even the on-rails AT-ATs (a huge sore spot for Battlefront veterans) are a blast to play as - but being forced to fight against teammates for a chance to pilot something seems to go against what Battlefront has always been about. Classic Battlefront games featured hangars full of vehicles that multiple players could use at once, so why is that focus on vehicular teamwork absent from DICE's Battlefront?
When it comes to game modes, Battlefront's beta offerings all feel distinct from one another. Some are definitely better than others...and things aren't looking good for offline players.
New players will want to star with Drop Zone, a King of the Hill-style mode in which opposing sides fight for crashed escape pods. The first team to capture five pods wins, and power-ups are rewarded with each successful capture. Drop Zone is a fun, arcade-y mode - a far cry from anything DICE has ever included in a Battlefield title. Firing from the hip, playing in first- or third-person - it's fun and easy to experiment with both in Drop Zone, and it's something you won't see in any of DICE's other games.
It's fun, and the quick matches make for some great warm-up games...but without more maps to play it on, Drop Zone can get a bit stale rather quickly. Granted, this is a beta, and the lack of content is understandable - but if the mode doesn't get enough support come launch day, it's easy to see Drop Zone getting left behind for bigger and better game types.
Since Day 1, Walker Assault has been touted as Battlefront's go-to game type, and it's definitely the best part of the beta. There's something to be said about a game that makes running next to teammates feel exhilarating: sprinting over a snowy hilltop and watching waves of blaster fire erupt from both sides of a fight is thrilling, and Star Wars fans will definitely get a kick out of watching X-Wings and TIE Fighters swoop in or the AT-AT walkers trudge along.
However, once you're done ogling at the scale of everything, Walker Assault definitely feels like something straight out of Battlefield. True, the capture points scattered throughout the map help keep things a bit more focused than the average deathmatch, but the larger scale and general focus on long-range fighting feels distinctly Battlefield. This feeling isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn't necessarily feel like classic Battlefront, either.
When it comes down to it, your experience with Walker Assault will come down to preference: if you're a fan of Battlefield's style, there's a good chance you'll love the mode...but you wanted something akin to Battlefront's classic Conquest mode, the beta may leave you disappointed (though it will be in the full game come November).
Survival, in its current state, is a dud. Co-op survival challenges against waves of enemies are nothing new these days, and Battlefront's take does nothing to differentiate itself. On Normal, it's far too easy to blast through the mode's six rounds - this isn't a battle to try and fight your way through, it's a distraction. Again, this is a beta, meaning that the vast majority of Survival's content is locked away. With any luck, the mode will be a bit more fleshed out once launch day rolls around - if it isn't, there's a good chance that most Battlefront players will just outright ignore it.
It's a shame, too: Survival is one of the few single-player modes in Battlefront, and was supposedly the reason why EA didn't bother including a traditional single-player mode. If the beta is anything to go by, those without an Internet connection probably shouldn't bother picking up the game at all: even with more difficult enemies and a few extra maps, Survival is nothing that hasn't been done a hundred times before.
Fans of classic Battlefront will likely go into the beta with one burning question: does Star Wars: Battlefront live up to its legacy? Unfortunately, there's no real answer to that question - there are things that the Battlefront beta did well, and then there's a few things that could definitely be improved.
Whether or not fans will like Battlefront will come down to how their tastes have evolved in the decade since Battlefront II was released. DICE's Battlefront isn't a Battlefield clone, but it's not a full-on sequel to the original games, either. It's a strange hybrid, and despite a few elements that aren't quite up to snuff, it's still an extremely fun, well-made game.
As it stands, Star Wars: Battlefront has had one of the most stable, enjoyable beta tests in recent memory - but the full game will need to have a lot more content before it satisfies anyone.