Since I happen to be an EA Access member on Xbox Live, I got the chance to spend ten glorious hours with the complete version of Star Wars: Battlefront last week beginning on Thursday morning, most of which I streamed live on my personal Twitch channel. This early-access preview was only available to Xbox One players, unfortunately, but what I saw bode well for the future of EA DICE’s relationship with Lucasfilm. It’s not only a bigger, richer game than the one we experienced during October’s open beta but also significantly more accessible.
First off, it features tutorial-style missions designed to teach new players the mechanics of flight, combat, and special “Hero” and “Villain” abilities. These are a fantastic addition to the game. One of my biggest gripes during the beta—other than the price of EA’s Battlefront Season Pass—was the apparent impossibility of downing an AT-AT walker using the harpoon-and-tow-cable strategy Luke devised in Empire.
With the new single-player tutorial missions, the game teaches you how to down an AT-AT with a snowspeeder and then gives you the time to practice it without player-versus-player interference. You’ll have the walkers tripping over their shoelaces after just a couple minutes’ practice—it’s all a matter of letting the mini-game’s “autopilot” take the reigns while you focus entirely on guiding the airspeeder’s pitch (with your controller’s right thumbstick, if you’re playing on a console).
Another major benefit to the single-player modes that were absent in October is learning how to dogfight using the X-wing, A-wing, TIE fighter, and Interceptor. Oftentimes during the beta, I’d pick up an A-wing or Interceptor token on the battlefield simply because it was there, and flying a Star Wars fighter is inherently thrilling—but I rarely knew what purpose the craft was meant to serve in a particular mode or map, or how best to dispatch enemy pilots. There was, with the possible exception of studying the button layout in the pause menu, no straightforward way to learn the flight controls—let alone the basics of air combat.
I managed to spend hours in the beta without ever realizing that you had to hold the left trigger (LT) in order to focus your aim on a particular target, for instance. Embarrassing, sure, but I can’t be the only one who felt utterly useless in an X-wing prior to the EA Access preview. It’s worth mentioning, too, that there seem to have been some significant improvements made to shot registration, but I haven’t yet confirmed this; it’s just my general impression.
The greatest joy to be found in the ten pre-release hours I spent with the full Battlefront game, however, had to be the sheer variety of experiences on offer courtesy of the various game types. And I tried them all (“Achievement Unlocked—‘A New Hope,’ ” my Xbox chirped, in the end). Good news, folks: there isn’t a single dud to be found in DICE’s Battlefront.
Take Boba Fett out for a bit of blasterfire-riddled, jetpack-propelled fun in the sand on Tatooine; you’ll have a blast. Give your fellow rebels some support in the guise of Leia, whose abilities are among the best of the playable Heroes. Don’t overlook the traditional capture-the-flag gameplay of “Cargo,” the hardpoint-centric domination modes “Supremacy” and “Droid Run,” or the laid-back thrills of the dogfighting mode, “Fighter Squadron.” It’s all a bit hard to believe at this point—can the game really be this good? Will it have the replayability value of similar shooters? Time will tell.
I’ve been tossing around ideas about how EA DICE might improve the game with cosmetic-only microtransactions for things like custom X-wing paint jobs, but I don’t foresee the publisher having any reason to change its mind about DLC pricing given the timing of release and all the hype surrounding The Force Awakens. A licensed Star Wars game in 2015 has certain marketing advantages over most other titles, and I suspect EA is not unaware of that fact.
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