Star Wars Battlefront is about to go into open beta, and I’m here to tell you that this is the Star Wars game you’ve been looking for.
Battlefront’s always been one of the best video game series in the franchise, as it places you in massive multiplayer battles and thus in the universe as few others have been able to. Despite a long and tumultuous trip to this third entry in the series, it looks like bringing in Battlefield developer DICE was a perfect idea for this game, if my hands-on time with the PS4 version is any indication.
This open beta (it's available to anyone with a PS4, Xbox One, or PC!) offers up three modes to try out. The first is Drop Zone, a 16-player match that lets you play as either the Rebels or Empire as they try to capture and hold escape pods. This is on Sullust, a world comprised of volcanic rock, and while it's no real callback to any classic movie moments it's a really unique environment to fight on. Expect some really fast and fun King of the Hill-style fights here.
This map is where you’ll cut your teeth on the game and earn your first XP. You start off with nothing but a blaster rifle but you can purchase cards that allow you to change your loadout. After earning some currency your first two cards will likely be a thermal detonator and cycler rifle, which work as the game's grenades and sniper rifles. Each item has a different cooldown period but can be reused forever, with the cycler rifle offering one-shot kills if your aim is true. Keep playing online and you’ll be able to earn new blasters, items (jump packs!), perks, and changes to your appearance- although the latter is not available in the beta.
It’s pretty great how customizable it is, too. You can only equip three cards at a time but you can put them in any of the three slots- mapped to L1, Triangle, and R1 on PS4- that you like.
Play Drop Zone first. It’s a must to figure out how the game works, and how to get ready for the real battle, the Walker Assault on Hoth.
For a minute, the Hoth level was the videogame equivalent of zombie movies. Far too many games featured it and many thought nothing more could ever be squeezed out of the concept, no matter how cool it was. We were all wrong. It’s also interesting to see the progression in technology, if you look from here, to here, to HERE.
As someone who’s a big fan of Star Wars but hardly a fanatic, I can’t count how many times my jaw dropped playing this map. I was killed more than a few times just because I stopped to admire how stunning something was. Walking out of the rebel base into the harsh sunlight of Hoth and seeing AT-ATs in the distance trudging towards you- well, it’s awesome, in the true sense of the word. The same is true when you come across Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, whose first sight will incite chills in you. As a mere Rebel or Stormtrooper you’ll likely get cut down instantly the first time you run into someone playing as one of these legends, maybe because you forget that they can reflect blaster fire.
Then there's simply moments when an X-Wing zips after an A-Wing above your head, and you look up to see a Super Star Destroyer exploding and falling towards the atmosphere.
This game is heavily stacked against the Rebels, as you might expect. This is asynchronous multiplayer at its best, where the Rebels have to find and hold locations that enable bombing runs on the incoming AT-ATs, while the Empire has to assist them in their slow trek towards the base. This is a 40-player battle that will see multiple vehicles in use by the players, but rather than finding vehicles to jump in you’ll find power-ups that transform you into the various ships and heroes. The Rebels are mostly stuck with weak firepower but the the Empire can control AT-ATs, AT-STs, and various TIE Fighters in their push towards the Rebel base.
Similar to the Rush mode in the Battlefield series, there are three stages in this level as the AT-ATs keep moving. The Rebels will have to fall back to each new location if they fail to stop them, which is a really hard endeavor. When the AT-ATs are overloaded with ion fire they’re weak and it’s time to unload on them with every available blaster (tow cables are scarce here), because if either of them break through it’s game over for the Rebels. Note that in the many games I’ve played I’ve not seen a single Rebel victory, although we did come close. That may sound unfair, and it is, but it makes for some thrilling battles no matter which side you play on, and when we do finally win as Rebels it’s going to really matter.
But there’s just so much to do and try here. If you want to stay on your feet and try to capture objectives, you can do that. If you want to take to the skies to attack or defend the AT-ATs, there are constant air battles zooming over the battlefield in what feels like a whole seperate game. There are countless emplacements and pick-up locations to find and with 40 players running around at once you’re never far from battle.
It’s simply a non-stop, thrilling experience.
This may change when everyone slams the servers, but this is also one of the smoothest-running multiplayer games I’ve played, let alone betas. Searching for a match took less than a couple of seconds, and I was in and playing in no time. I never had a problem with connecting or staying in a match.
If you somehow tire of these two maps (the game does only allow you to level up to Rank 5, so there is a limit to the things you can unlock) there is also a Survival Mission to try. These is one- or two-player “Horde” mode game, where you try to survive as long as you can against nonstop waves of enemies. Set on Tatooine against all forms of Sandtroopers and vehicles, this is a pretty good diversion, especially with a friend either online or in splitscreen, but hardly the main course.
EA was very clever with this beta, as the menus showcase many greyed-out maps and modes that aren’t available here but will be in the full version, as if the available modes weren't enough of a taste of things to come.
Star Wars Battlefront’s open beta starts today and runs through Sunday. May the forc- ah, hell. Just get it.