Saturday, 10 October 2015

Star Wars Battlefront: PS4 Beta

Star Wars Battlefront: PS4 Beta

Publisher: EA
Platform: PS4

To say there has been a disturbance in the Force this week is somewhat of an understatement.

And that wasn't just a million voices crying out at once and then gone (though possibly with the late delivery of the beta into the PSN Store, I'm not ruling that out) - it was a chorus of incessant fanboys and girls excited at their chance to get their hands on the DICE shooter that set the world alight at E3 this year. And the fact it was open to all was also a major boost to fans.

With the 7GB beta for the Star Wars Battlefront Beta, gamers have a chance to dabble on three of the levels of the game ; a survival mission on Tattooine, a 40 player assault on Hoth and a capture the pods outing on volcanic world Sullust. The good news is that the servers appear to have held up just fine - not once have I been kicked out of the lobby at all or left waiting for a match up.

The bad news is twofold - one, it's constantly online (more on why this is a niggle a little later) and two, it's fiendishly addictive.

The survival mission on Tattooine sees you stranded after an assault and with Admiral Ackbar shouting at you there's a trap coming with stormtroopers, you have to survive 6 waves of enemies, capture some pods and try and grab some collectables, as well as power ups. This is one of the few levels you can play solo, - or if you prefer with a local co-op or an online mate in a splitscreen. Rendering is superb and the level of details on the troopers as they hurtle towards you, blasters firing is nothing short of graphically impressive. This is a game that captures the essence of Star Wars and the reason it's so beloved.

Playability of these levels is fine too - it's constant and clever, as well as relatively intuitive. But that doesn't mean you can't manipulate the backgrounds to your advantage. When tasked with facing an ATST, simply hide near rock or just above its blasters on a rockface and it can't get you; it's a simple trick to survive, but seems to be one that's easily exploited - and one that could become a bugbear in the final game. Once the waves are over, with stormtroopers and snipers in the mix, you're rescued and it's onto the next part of the game.

The pod drop on Sullust is a variation of the likes of the capture the flag games we've all played in CoD or Destiny. It's perfectly enjoyable fun as you race to claim the pod, then defend it, then inevitably get shot by those opposed to your plans. You're thrown into teams, and the beta alternates you between rebels and empire, so there's no clear indication in the final game if you get to choose sides or whether you get thrown into the middle of conflict. Visually the game soars again with the volcanic hues feeling like they're from Hawai'i more than anything - I've yet to see a lava field erupt or take in even if that's possible, but the backgrounds are breathless.

Not that there's really time to stop and take this stuff in - the nature of the online game and also perhaps Battlefront's MO is that if you stop to look, you're shot dead. It's a shame because there's been so much effort into bringing this world to life, that to stop and appreciate it would be a bonus.

Finally, the Walker Assault on Hoth; the 40 player behemoth is nothing short of incredible. And that's simply because it fulfills some Star Wars fan dreams. I won't deny the giddy excitement that I had the moment I ran over a Tie fighter power up, or a AT-AT power up, selected L1 and R1 and got to drive these craft. It's thrilling to the max, but it's also cleverly and fairly executed. The AT-AT power up only allows you 1 minute within the machine, a chance for the other 19 players on your side to have a go too; but that minute is fun, using the various weapons to blast the rebel scum to pieces is fun. And again the environment is thrilling, a crisp white execution of the snow world (no Taun-tauns though which seems a missed opportunity), but bizarrely, one which doesn't render your footprints. And it seems no matter what you do, you never stand a chance of defeating the Walkers as they progress.

The game overall is not fully perfect though.

A few glitches pepper the relatively smooth multiplayer game play - and I'm not sure whether these are server related or whether they are something more serious.

In Survival, half shot bodies of Stormtroopers occasionally pepper the landscape, their torsos floating above the ground and lingering, twitching before disappearing a moment later. In Hoth, Darth Vader simply stopped on the ice fields and slumped to the ground like he was praying and refused to move, even when my Rebel shot repeatedly at him, with no sign of life. I guess he was dead, but he didn't disappear. And also on Hoth, Luke's leaping through the air juddered and spluttered, going back and forth like someone was editing, pressing play, rewind and pause at the same time - all perhaps quirks of the game, but all moments which stood out mainly as everything else was working so perfectly.

And craft aren't exactly easy to fly - a TIE fighter can crash on the slightest whim and the ATAT's head is somewhat difficult to move around, leaving you to face the fact it's thrilling but limiting.

All in all, though, I can't wait to experience the full game - the Beta's good, admittedly short fun (I got more longevity out of the Need for Speed demo last weekend) but in parts it's showing some real promise. And the fact EA's opened it up to all to really test the servers is commendable - and on the first 24 hours alone, it seems to be coping well.

Go, load it up - and May the Force Be With You.

The Star Wars Battlefront BETA is open to all and runs until October 12th.

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