It wasn't all that long ago that Star Wars fans thought they'd never see another Battlefront game. Star Wars Battlefront II was an amazing game, but trouble at Pandemic Studios - namely, the company being shuttered - seemingly stopped the Battlefront franchise in its tracks. What's even worse is that Battlefront III was already in development at Free Radical Design - sadly, the game was left unfinished back in 2008.
...but what if it wasn't? What if Free Radical and LucasArts didn't have a falling out, and Star Wars Battlefront III had made its way into the hands of gamers?
Fans may never know the answer to that question, but we can take a glimpse at what might have been: back in 2013, unfinished Battlefront III footage made its way online, and it blew everyone away. The video wasn't particularly long, and it was obviously a work-in-progress - but even so, the leaked Battlefront III gameplay seemed to be an expansion of everything that made the first two games so much fun to play. It was Battlefront on an absolutely massive scale, and unlike anything else seen on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360:
From the moment the video starts, it's clear that Battlefront III would have been a very different beast compared to DICE's Battlefront.
Surprisingly, it looks as if Battlefront III would have had a much larger focus on story: while previous entries had single-player components, they were typically just recounting famous Star Wars battles. In Battlefront III, Free Radical was clearly trying to do their own thing: much of the gameplay focuses on two new characters, one Jedi and one clone, and cutscenes with full motion capture were included. It's impossible to know where Free Radical was headed with the story, but the fact that it's even there in the first place is unexpected.
And then there are the vehicles: while DICE's Battlefront treats vehicles like an extended power-up, Battlefront III apparently focused on vehicles more than ever. There's more footage dedicated to piloting than anything else in the leaked footage - including the seamless land-to-space battles.
If there's one thing that DICE has been criticized for cutting, it's space battles. In Battlefront II, ship-to-ship combat provided an interesting bit of variety in-between the larger, more traditional matches. Sure, they weren't perfect, but it was the next logical step for the franchise. Whereas DICE's Battlefront is aiming to keep things on the ground, Battlefront III was trying to blend the two together: the footage shows that it would have been possible to take off, fly into the sky and join an ongoing battle in orbit without a single loading screen.
Granted, there would have been a lot of design challenges to consider (a space battle wouldn't be much fun if everyone else is on the ground) but the idea of a multiplayer map extending into the stars is a gamer's dream come true...which makes the game's cancellation even more painful.
The rest of the package looks, for the most part, like more of classic Battlefront: Free Radical was obviously trying to make improvements to the various heroes, while the shooting looks largely unchanged. If there's anything negative to say about the video, it's that the running animations are pretty bad...that being said, the game was unfinished, and they'd have likely improved had development continued.
Look, DICE's take on Battlefront isn't bad - it's a fun shooter, and there are some interesting mechanics at play. The problem is that the Battlefront name carries a lot of weight, and EA has seemingly gone out of their way to try and change the game's core mechanics. It begs the question: why is DICE's game called Battlefront in the first place?
It's great that fans are getting another chance to travel to a galaxy far, far away - but it's hard not to look back and imagine what could have been.