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First details on Star Wars Battlefront, the new shooter from the Battlefield team

Battlefield developer DICE wants to give Star Wars fans a chance to live out their own personal battle fantasies with Star Wars Battlefront, the new shooter set in a galaxy far, far away that's coming to consoles and PC this holiday.

For DICE, playing out those fantasies means reliving some iconic Star Wars moments, as well as experiencing Star Wars battles that we never saw in the films. In Battlefront, players will play as the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. They'll ride speeder bikes, pilot X-wings and drive AT-ATs on planets like Hoth, Tattooine and Sullust. They'll play as key characters like Darth Vader and Boba Fett, wielding the former's lightsaber and flying around with the latter's jetpack.

Niklas Fegraeus, design director on Star Wars Battlefront, said the developer wanted to tap into that feeling of playing with toys and action figures as a child, imagining your own conflicts in the Star Wars universe.

"Playing with our toys and creating our own battle fantasies, in our imaginations, that became the vision of Star Wars Battlefront," Fegraeus said at a presentation at Star Wars Celebration. "We want to immerse players in an authentic experience, where you can create your own Star Wars battles."

Online Focus

Star Wars Battlefront will be a first- and third-person shooter; players can choose which perspective suits them best. The focus, DICE said, is on online multiplayer with up to 40-player battles, but the developer is creating offline challenges inspired by moments from the films that can be played solo, or cooperatively either online or split-screen. Fegraeus said those offline challenges will be highly replayable, with a variety of difficulty levels.

The game won't have a traditional campaign, DICE says, of the kind we've seen in the studio's recent Battlefield games.

Star Wars Battlefront storm trooper image
One of the Battlefront's Stormtroopers poses for the camera

In a gameplay demonstration shown at Celebration, we witnessed a battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire on the forest moon of Endor from Return of the Jedi. On the ground, a team of rebels clashed with a team of Stormtroopers. The rebels appeared to be a bit outgunned by the Empire; AT-STs and AT-ATs showed up during the battle, and the rebels fought back by calling in a Y-wing bombing run when they needed some more substantial firepower. (That AT-AT armor is too thick for their blasters, of course.)

The rebels won't be helpless, though. They'll have access to iconic Star Wars vehicles too: snow speeders, X-wings, the Millennium Falcon. DICE is also adding power-ups like shields and explosives. While there are familiar-looking blasters and thermal detonators in Battlefront, the game will also have tech we haven't really seen in the films. In the demo we saw, the rebels could use a mobile bubble shield to protect themselves from blaster fire, and one equipped a rocket launcher to blast open an AT-ST.

Authenticity

The game, which DICE said was running on a PlayStation 4, looked and sounded spectacular.

Patrick Bach, general manager at DICE, said that Lucasfilm has been helpful in working with the studio when it has gameplay needs that don't necessarily line up with the movies.

Star Wars Battlefront will focus mainly on the original trilogy of Star Wars films, not the prequels or sequel trilogy

"One of the big reasons we took on the project was that we had access not only to the archives, but also we had access to the knowledge that the Lucasfilm people have," Bach said. "They have been working with us to create a game, not a movie. They are extremely competent and brilliant at what they do [and] if we say we have a need from a gameplay perspective — 'This is what we want to do, how do we get it right?' — they help. We work it out."

Bach said DICE wants to explore battles unseen in the films, where other Star Wars stories are being told.

"What happens over there in Endor?" he said, gesturing as if pointing over a hill or mountain ridge. "You don't see it in the movies, but that's what we want explore. We want the game to be bigger than what we see in the movies, yet stay true to it. It's been an intimate collaboration."

Part of that collaboration has been DICE getting access to Lucasfilm's vaults, the models, costumes and sounds of Star Wars. Using a technique called photogrammetry, DICE turned hundreds of photographs of real Star Wars props into 3D models, making the ships and Stormtroopers of Battlefront film-accurate. Fegraeus called the game's models "a perfect replication" of what moviegoers saw in the films.

"When you pick up a lightsaber or jump into an X-wing, you're using the actual thing," said Fegraeus.

battlefront gif

Its own thing

Bach said that Battlefront was designed to be its own game, and it's not built on the mechanics of DICE's Battlefield series. Rather, he said, DICE started with the question, "What does someone want when they play a Star Wars game?" He said that means going "back to the core" of the franchise and "seeing where it leads us."

"The goal has never been to replicate or mimic another shooter," he said.

Don't expect X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter-style space dogfights in Battlefront

One new mechanic in Battlefront is what DICE is calling the "Partner" system. Players will pick a friend and form a tag team, Fegraeus explained, and in multiplayer, you'll "always play together, spawn on each other, see each other." Partners will also be able to share their unlocks, meaning that if you're a player who's unlocked a bunch of weapons or skills in Battlefront through the game's progression, your partner will also be able to use those unlocks, even if they've just started playing.

While DICE says it will have dogfights in Star Wars Battlefront, it won't have dedicated space battles. Bach said the team wanted to focus on a mix of ground-based and vehicle-based battles.

"What we want to do is connect the aerial battles with the ground battles, making sure that there's kind of a feeling of the battlefront being everyone, instead of someone being over there and someone being up in space and there being no connection," Bach explained.

Star Wars Battlefront will focus mainly on the original trilogy of Star Wars films, not the prequels or sequel trilogy, but it will have a tie-in to the new movie due this December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, DICE revealed. Two weeks after Star Wars Battlefront hits PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One on Nov. 17, DICE will release an add-on called the "Battle of Jakku."

Jakku is the desert planet shown in The Force Awakens' two teaser trailers. Here's how DICE describes the scene:

"...the Battle of Jakku [is] the pivotal moment when the New Republic confronted key Imperial holdouts on a remote desert planet on the Outer Rim. Taking place in the aftermath of the Rebel victory in the Battle of Endor, players will experience the events that created the massive, battle-scarred landscape of Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Players who pre-order Star Wars Battlefront will get the "Battle of Jakku" DLC on Dec. 1. Others will get access to it Dec. 8.


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