Yesterday the beta for Star Wars Battlefront dropped from orbit and began assaulting across three separate fronts — PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Polygon had a chance to play on each platform overnight. So how goes the opening round for a title that EA expects to sell 9-10 million copies of? Here's some of our first impressions.
Admiral Dave Tach
The first day with a game is often the best day with a game.
It’s the honeymoon period, a time when things you’ll soon take for granted look dazzling and new. It’s also a dangerous time. Trying to form a meaningful impression without much experience is like entering a hive filled with scum and villainy. You have to be on your guard.
Still, my first few hours with Battlefront’s multiplayer beta on PlayStation 4 left me supremely impressed. This game is stunning. Yes, I know that my eyes can deceive me, that I shouldn't trust them. But dang. In 2015, developer EA DICE knows how to make a gorgeous game on the PS4.
I noticed the attention to detail first. The way weak Stormtroopers fumbled around and fell after a few shots from my blaster, just like they should. There's Admiral Ackbar’s ship in the skybox, just like it was in Return of the Jedi. And the way the snow on Hoth sparkled as I ran through it legitimately made me smile.
I kept noticing it all, impressed by the level of detail. I swear, at one point, a Stormtrooper I was shooting stumbled and fell in a way that felt so familiar to me that the animation must have been cribbed from a movie. EA DICE’s Frostbite engine powers Battlefront, just as it powers the developer’s Battlefield series. It does the universe graphical justice in a way this longtime fan of the galaxy far, far away has been fantasizing about for what must be decades.
Battlefront, I imagine, is what happens when people like me who grew up loving Star Wars get to make their contribution to the universe.
Star Wars Battlefront’s multiplayer beta contains the thinnest of slices of the final game, and it’s too dangerous to extrapolate from my first few hours how much I’ll enjoy the full experience.
I can’t imagine that I’ll get tired of looking at it, though.
TK-141 Charlie Hall
Despite the high benchmarks released yesterday, I was able to run the game on my PC relatively well. I'll put my system specs in the comments below for those interested, but between my higher-end graphics card and an aging CPU I still had solid 60fps at 1080p. As far as the servers went on the PC side, I only encountered one major hiccup — a full server freeze that lasted well over 30 seconds — during a single match last night. Otherwise, my experience was trouble free. Servers were plentiful, and I never had to wait in a queue to start a match.
What surprised me was the pace of the game. Battlefront feels much faster than the Battlefield games I'm familiar with. In part, it's because characters are so very fragile in the early game; just a few shots to center mass is enough to take someone down, unless they have a personal shield. Thankfully, the hike to the action wasn't nearly as long as I'm used to in other EA multiplayer shooters.
What I enjoyed most was striding over the Hoth map in an AT-ST. The chicken walkers have a nasty multi-barrelled grenade launcher that makes quick work of rebels hiding inside trenches. The chin-mounted laser is okay I guess, but knocking out turrets with the onboard missile launcher was a lot more fun.
My only concern with the vehicles so far are the fighters. They feel awkward, not so much like they're flying through the air as they're attached to pegs being held out in front of the camera. Perhaps it's the turning radius that has me flummoxed, but I'll need to spend more time in them to before I feel comfortable.
Moff Nick Robinson
As someone who doesn't have a ton of affection for Star Wars as a franchise, I'm probably coming into this game a bit more detached than most players. That said, I put nearly four hours into the PS4 version of the beta yesterday afternoon — you can watch three and a half of them on Polygon's YouTube channel — and came out of it with one major thought:
It feels like a PS2 game.
Now, to be 100 percent clear, I don't mean that as a pejorative. And I'm certainly not talking about the visuals.
Battlefront is a gorgeous video game, and between the vast, extraordinarily busy skyboxes and the shower of sparks every time a blaster bolt strikes the environment, it's one of the best-looking sci-fi shooters of all time. Instead, when I say it reminds me of a PS2 game, I mean that philosophically. This new Battlefront hearkens back to a different era of multiplayer shooter, before left-trigger-right-trigger gameplay and convoluted perk systems ruled the earth.
What am I talking about, specifically? Well, for starters: there are no iron sights in Star Wars Battlefront. Yes, you can squeeze the left trigger to look down your scope, but as one of the load screen tooltips helpfully points out, this feature (mechanically speaking) doesn't do anything. Sure, zooming in with the left trigger might give you a better view of your enemies, but it in no way affects the accuracy of your weapons. This is huge.
There are other goofy things that feel throwback-y about Star Wars Battlefront — you pick up charges and powerups on the map from glowing blue holograms, you can't retrieve guns from fallen enemies, your equipment and abilities all have straight-up cooldown timers that don't reset between deaths — but none of them feel quite as anachronistic as the fact that you're encouraged to shoot from the hip.
After eight years of multiplayer shooters hewing closer and closer to the formula Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare established in 2007, playing a game that encourages you to simply point at an enemy and pull the trigger feels legitimately fresh. Between that and the third-person option, my early impressions of Battlefront are that of a strange, borderline-retro shooter that, excitingly, plays like virtually nothing else out there.
I went into this beta with a part of my brain expecting a Star Wars-themed skin for Battlefield 4. If you come away from these few paragraphs with one thing, let it be this: It really, truly isn't that at all.
Playing the new Battlefront, you really get the sense that rather than simply repackaging modern Battlefield, DICE opted instead to reimagine what the original Battlefront and Battlefront II would feel like if they were created today. Which, for my money, is about a zillion times more interesting.
Also? The jump pack is ridiculously fun.