Welcome To: Star Wars Battlefront
Star Wars Battlefront will soon make it’s return to the world of P.C and Console gaming in a big way in November this year spearheaded by DICE, the studio behind such games as Battlefield 4 and Mirror’s Edge. More recently though Star Wars Battlefront just went through it’s first phase of closed Alpha Testing, and I was lucky enough to be among the first to test the Alpha.
This alpha was a tech focused alpha with only two game modes available, “Walker Assault” Which is based on the snow world of Hoth and is played over two rounds, So you get the experience of either defending Echo Base against the Imperials or destroying Echo base and the rebellion. The other game mode was Survival on Tatooine, and at this point I would point out that all the screenshots showing a downed star destroyer in the background with everyone screaming “JAKKU” Well no, it’s Tatooine, so just throwing that out there to start.
So lets get to the crux of this, and the one thing that everyone is saying that annoys the hell out of me … “Oh this is just a battlefield reskin!”
Okay, so lets really get into this and dis spell the myths here. The new SW:B does indeed run on the frostbite engine similar to Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline, and this is evident in the overall quality of the game it’s self. However SW:B runs on a heavily modified version of the Frostbite engine which is glaring obvious when you play. It’s unhampered by many of the platform issues experienced in games such as BF4 & BF:H and runs at a surprisingly consistent frame rate. During play my FPS never dropped below 90 on Max Graphics, With that same benchmark applied to BF:H for example my frame varied drastically between 30 – 70 depending on what was going on at the time. The engine also runs allot smoother and more consistently in times of intense action when there are many physical , particle and mesh calculations that have to be made in a very short amount of time and in a very enclosed space making the overall gameplay feeling more smooth, fluid and without stuttering or frame loss at crucial times. So by a technical stand point this modified Frostbite engine is already superior to the basic engine used in BF4 & BF:H.
The modified engine also has far better optimisation for the core aspects of the game namely the visuals allowing for a farther viewing distance and far superior quality on the materials used on the meshes. A side by side look at materials used in BF4 & BF:H compared to SW:B show this. The models and materials used have a much higher fidelity, much finer detail in the texture work which shows through with crystal clear clarity close up along with a higher detail in the normal maps which really make every fine detail pop and gives a quality that is just impossible to give in BF4, BF:H and even Mirrors edge.
So, that’s enough about the eye candy, lets get down to combat . . . .
The combat in SW:B is somewhat solid at the time of the 1st closed Alpha, however there is still room for improvement as it’s still a little bogged down in certain areas. When playing in a third person perspective it feels fluid and intense, capturing what was good about combat in titles like BF4, however the first person aspect lets it down a little as it just feels like a rushed feature more than a core mechanic. Although visually stunning, it feels a little sluggish and hampered compared to the alternate viewing aspect, however even the 3rd person aspect has an issue. EA & DICE were hot on the fact that you could “Switch seamlessly between 3rd and 1st person views” And this just simply isn’t the case. You would expect this to happen on a single key press which it does not, instead upon key press you’re thrown into a 3rd person view, pressing again simply switches the camera from the right to left shoulder, and you have to waste time holding the key down to get back into a first person perspective which takes something away from the game play. If your in an intense situation where you need to switch from third to first person quickly this will let you down in a big way as the the time it takes is just too long, kills the immersion and again just feels like a rushed and hampered feature. However every time I grumbled going from view to view I did have to remind myself that is is an alpha technical play test.
Don’t let the negatives get you down though, because when the combat is fun, It’s really fun. It’s intense, explosive and quick paced just what you would expect from a Star Wars title and they have captured the essence of what made the first two Star Wars: Battlefront games awesome to play. A good mechanic they have added is the partner spawn system. Upon joining a game your randomly partnered with someone else in your faction and upon death you can either spawn or spawn at partner, Think of it like the squad system in BF4 however instead of a squad of 5 your a squad of 2 which actually helps with the combat as it doesn’t make you feel like your just a mobile spawn point the entire time, you can just get on with it and forget about them … if you want to.
Vehicle combat, feels solid and fluid again it captures that thrill of games such as Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and dare I say games such as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 1 & 2 and fits them in perfectly with the surrounding game mechanics and maps they are available on and don’t feel clunky, misplaced or vastly overpowered as they are in BF4 & BF:H andf they removed the ability just just go on an almighty killing spree with vehicles by adding a simple depreciating timer, So when in a vehicle such as an AT-AT or AT-ST although true you can decimate ground forces, your limited to how long you can do it for before your thrown out and back into the world. Which is a good thing because it means you can’t just camp a spot and troll everyone that walks past.
In my own opinion, with what’s good, what’s bad and what still needs improvement I just can’t agree with the masses who have jumped on the band wagon simply because of their hate of EA, Dice or previous disappointment with previous Frostbite engine titles, Although true it has similar aspects, and some similar game play which is evident in 1st person Combat this is just fare superior to BF4 and BF:H, If this was a simple a “Reskin” or a “Conversion” of BF4 many of the engines previous glaring issues would be present when it comes to networking, optimisation, detail, mesh work and core mechanics and this just simply isn’t the case with SW:B. If anything BF4 and BF:H would benefit being completely remade on this new modified Frostbite engine and taking full advantage of what it’s now capable of. Technically the engine is far superior, Graphicly it’s fare more appealing, and in terms of mechanics … although it has some teething issues and aspects that could be improved on it’s still so much of a richer, fluid and more fun combat experience.
However even with this said, as the saying goes “Haters gonna hate” all I will say is though don’t hate on something you know nothing about, jump off your soap box and stop following the masses, at least until you have tried it yourself.
I will update this as time goes on through various stages of development, namely the second round of closed alpha which will bring new maps and updates from the first alpha, the closed and open betas as well.
For now though I will summarise with this ….
Although Star Wars Battlefront is bogged down with some hampered features and can sometimes feel like a generic FPS it does capture allot of the excitement of previous star wars titles in the genre and feels like an amazingly immersive game that fun, fluid and balanced. However the issues that bog down the game are glaringly obvious and only serve to feel like an afterthought and hyped over as something amazing. Visually and technically the game looks and is far superior over other titles built on the engine and this shows through quite allot and to say it’s just a “Reskin” or a “Conversion” would be like saying a triple choc cheesecake is a reskin or conversion of a bowl of fruit. Even with all this said though I will make a shocking admission, even with how much I adore and love the Star Wars I.P, loved previous games in the series this is one title, probably the first Star Wars title in many many year that I will …….
Not! be playing at launch, I base this solely on what I have seen and experienced so far, and I may change my mind depending on what further optimisation and core game play that add, fix or change closer to launch but for now, although stunning and fun, the issues that hamper it are enough to make me want to wait.
However as I said, I will be adding to this as time goes on, So lets just see what happens
May the force be with you.