Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Star Wars Battlefront - A retrospective perspective...

It's the day after the Beta, the dust is settling and if you happened to take advantage of last weekend's free peek at Star Wars: Battlefront then chances are you've made up your mind.

It's a shooter set in the Star Wars universe just like its predecessors a decade ago but this time EA has unleashed the magic only a DICE game can bring.  Its fast moving, fluid gameplay set against a backdrop of a galaxy so far, far away.

Make no mistake, even at the low end of the hardware requirements the game was gorgeous on my old Core I7 940 with 12GB of RAM and an AMD HD6970.  Nowhere did I feel any limitations from my crusty old rig. 

Battles were fast moving, spirited affairs whether you chose the single player survival mode or mixed it up with the masses on the volcanic fields of Sullust or the frozen wastes of Hoth.

I was pleased to find both a single player and co-op mode available.  I would have liked to see a campaign as well but something is better than nothing.  That said, the survival mode was a romp and promises to be the one single player mode that actually gets played in a Battlefield game.

Oops, did I slip...

Yes, I'll admit it.  For as much as I enjoyed my time with Star Wars: Battlefront it is quite simply, Battlefield Star Wars.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Let's face it, DICE has done every Battlefield game since BF1942 and since we're talking about an FPS it's no surprise that an awful lot of that DNA is present.

What's good is that there's a lot about Battlefront that isn't Battlefield.  For one thing there was no sign of the dreaded Battlelog, no sifting through server trees, no squads, no bullet drop and no overly complex UI setup.

You start the game, choose your game mode, map and off you go.  

On my first run through in Multiplayer I initially had a few misgivings.  The list of players scrolling down the right side of the screen gave me a sense of déjà vu.  For a moment I thought I was going to be "player matched" a 'la Call of Duty.  A feature that would have pretty much ended my experience right there.

Happily, the fear was misplaced.  This was a game with roots firmly in Battlefield after all so forget any pretense about trying to even up the odds. 
Which was confirmed on my first game. 

There I was, racing across a landscape reminiscent of Hawaii Volcanoes national park.  Molten rock twisted and stretched with the wreckage of Tie Fighters and X-Wings strewn about like toys.  The objective?  To secure pods falling from embattled skies before the other team does.  In the process battling both noob and veteran. 

In a four day beta with a level cap set at 5 ( I made it to 3 in an hour) there were times where I felt like I was back in Battlefield 4. 

Maybe not quite that bad but I found it amusing that I managed to break a kill streak while simultaneously earning myself a nemesis who seemed to pop up at every turn.  A characteristic eerily similar to my experiences the night before with Team Fortress 2.

Which isn't a surprise, in fact my tryst with Team Fortress 2 may have helped me.  There's no doubt that Star Wars Battlefront is a run and gun affair.  

Tactics are limited to whatever you can come up with on your own coupled with knowledge of the maps.
Knowledge that was already being leveraged by other players who had obviously been doing nothing else for the 2 days prior to me logging on.  

Get in their field of view and you had no chance.  They already knew where to hide so as to be safely out of range of what at the time seemed like a fortuitous heavy gun emplacement.  I was literally being led into a trap based on my ignorance.

Which leads to my concern.  While this was the best beta experience I've had with a DICE game in 5 years I've seen the first signs of those things that make Battlefield 4 multiplayer so unfulfilling. 

Perhaps if Dice could randomize the maps a bit so that nobody could leverage a favorite "camping" spot.  There's precedent for it.  Grid 2 can change a race course while you're driving on it!  Path of Exile changes the map and the baddies every time you go through.  It doesn't take much and would make things a little more fair and a lot more interesting.

Multiplayer is what most Battlefront players will buy the game for.  If you're the type who's more into dominating other players and stat boosting than actually enjoying the game, Battlefront is more than happy to accommodate you at this point.

On the upside, there's no such thing as bullet drop or overbearing "physics" to contend with.  

But then, why would there be?

You're playing an FPS with weapons that fire bolts of energy.   Nobody's going to calculate the effect of gravitational eddies and light refraction on laser discharges.  All you have to worry about is range, damage and cool down.  We are in a fantasy universe after all so it's likely all that BS "reality" stuff will be left to the Sci-Fi nerds...

Meaning Dice is unlikely to play around with the physics much.  Maybe nerfing a jet pack or the duration of a personal shield but let's get real here.  There's no reality to mimic, it's supposed to be fun!

Which has led to a lot of wailing about how the game is too simplistic from the hardcore types.  To them I say, if you want to worry about bleeding out from a flesh wound while scrounging around for bullet casings go play ARMA 3.  This is a game not a simulation.  Can we have some fun here?

All was not perfect, however.  I ran into another Battlefield legacy. 


It was almost imperceptible but when I saw players literally disappear right next to me and hits not register when they should I knew my networking nemesis was back.  

While I can give EA a bit of slack (being a Beta and all) this was EA's largest BETA in the company's  history servicing some 9 million players.  That's quite a load but we only saw a fraction of the full game.  Meaning netcode and lag issues are likely to become more prevalent on launch.

Still, the game is solid.  I do suspect, however, that 6 months from now when the hype has died down and the first DLC has dropped that we're going to see technical issues akin to Battlefield 4.  The only saving grace is the co-op and single player which right now is rather limited.

I'm afraid that while good, Star Wars: Battlefront isn't going to be worth the $60 or more EA is asking.  That has everything to do with a carryover of what I foresee as being the worst aspects of Battlefield 4.

I will eventually own this game but probably not until it goes on sale.  But at least I don't hate it...

On this page are a few of the videos I've done including what I considered to be an "Epic Moment" in the single player mode.  It's a fun game...for now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Star Wars Battlefront BETA starts today!

In case you haven't heard, forgot or just don't care...

EA has seen fit to allow the rest of us to get a taste of Star Wars: Battlefront a month before its official launch.  Described as a "test period" running from October 8th to October 12th players can experience 3 game modes including:

Walker Assault on Hoth: Fight in epic 40-player battles as a Rebel to destroy the Empire’s onslaught of AT-AT’s by calling in Y-wing bombers. Or, side with the Empire and protect your walkers while utilizing their mighty weaponry to crush the Rebel objective.

Drop Zone on Sullust: Escape pods are crashing down and you and your team must fight to control them. With its frantic 8v8 matches, Drop Zone is sure to put your combat and strategy skills to the test.   

Survival Mission on Tatooine: Play alone or with a friend via co-op or split-screen as you battle to hold off waves of Imperial forces including AT-ST’s, TIE fighters, elite stormtroopers and more.

Source: EA's official Beta page...

But be warned!  The game has fairly steep hardware requirements.  You're going to need either a current gen console (PS4, XBox 1) or a current gen PC with at least the following:

·         OS: 64-bit Windows 7 or later
·         Processor (Intel): Intel i3 6300T or equivalent
·         Memory: 8GB RAM
·         Hard Drive: At least 40 GB of free space
·         Graphics card (NVIDIA): nVidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
·         Graphics card (ATI): ATI Radeon HD 7850 2GB
·         DirectX: 11.0 Compatible video card or equivalent
·         Online Connection Requirements: 512 KBPS or faster Internet connection

Source: Gamespot...

Remember, this is a BETA release.  In other words, things are going to get wonky at times and server outages/availability are likely to be part of the experience.  Past BETA experience with EA titles has shown that this is likely to be a stress test on both the server infrastructure and code integrity.

Don't get to attached to your achievements either.  None of your stats will transfer and your level will be capped at 5 according to EA's official BETA page for the game.

So if you're at all interested and have the hardware to handle it, the closest you're ever going to get to a demo is yours for the taking.  Assuming you've got nothing better to do next weekend that is...