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Star Wars: Battlefront: Return of an Empire

Company: EA Games

Itís arguably been a long time since anyone could say this with a straight face, but itís a good time to be a Star Wars fan. Not only is the mega-franchise about to launch its sequel trilogy, but thereís a ton of exciting new plans regarding the new direction Star Wars is taking. From the mysterious Amy Hennig-directed project at Visceral to the expansions to Walt Disney World and Disneyland to the already successful Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: The Old Republic, the brand is perhaps stronger than itís ever been. But letís talk about that other thing thatís practically on our doorstep. Namely, Star Wars: Battlefront. Having skipped an entire console generation and with the now-defunct (and profoundly missed) Pandemic Studios out of the picture, itís up to DICE to usher the series into the next generation of Star Wars gaming. I recently spent some time with the beta for Star Wars: Battlefront, and Iíve come away with some impressions, nearly all of them positive.

First things first, letís disabuse ourselves of the notion that Star Wars: Battlefront is just a reskinned Battlefield. While most of us would be perfectly okay with that, that doesnít seem to be what this reboot is going for. It wonít take much playing time to determine that this game is its own beast, somewhere in between the high-speed third-person action of the originals and the slower, more deliberate objective-based gameplay of DICEís bread and butter.

Customization in Star Wars: Battlefront still has an air of mystery about it, as we donít yet know how much it will encompass. But in the beta, youíre given a blaster and two Star Cards, which are set to a loadout, here called a Hand. You are given the option to purchase more blasters and cards by performing well in combat, which in turn grants you currency. All of your other combat applications are going to be found in the field as power-ups. If you get to one in time, youíll be granted a special boon, whether itís extra offensive or defensive gadgets, an additional stack for a consumable ability, the option to hop into a vehicle (both land and air), or the option to become a hero Ė here either Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, depending on what team youíre on. Additionally, turrets can be found across certain maps; they are often devastating, but that is balanced by the fact that they are all completely exposed.

Star Wars: Battlefrontís beta offers three modes of play: Drop Zone, Walker Assault, and Survival. There are several others to be included with the full game, but we wonít know much about them until the game launches. There is no dedicated single player content in Star Wars: Battlefront, a choice that may alienate some gamers in the same way that Titanfall did. I canít say for sure if that disappoints me as of yet; itís entirely possible that the breadth and depth of the competitive suite justifies the price tag.

Drop Zone is a King of the Hill variant that charges the Rebels and Imperials with the retrieval of a series of crashed pods on the volcanic world of Sullust. Once a pod crashes, itís a mad, murderous dash to the crash site until someone is able to claim it. Claiming the pod starts a countdown, and if the process remains uninterrupted for long enough, the pod opens, the claiming team scores a point, and a series of power-ups spill out of the pod. Drop Zone is an incredibly chaotic game type, with players being funneled in through a series of chokepoints as they vie for superiority.

Walker Assault is by far the most interesting mode in the beta, because it feels like itís been ripped straight out of the movies and made completely interactive. Itís essentially a recreation of the Battle of Hoth sequence from The Empire Strikes Back. Imperials are charged with escorting a pair of almost-invulnerable AT-ATs to a spot within range of the Rebel baseís shield generator, and it is the Rebelsí job to ensure the lumbering walkers donít reach their destination. Three pairs of uplinks mark the path to the shield generator, and they play an critical role in helping the Rebels destroy the AT-ATs. By activating and protecting the uplinks throughout a series of countdowns, they are able to call in a series of Y-Wing bombers. Each countdown cycle results in another Y-Wing participating in the bombing run. When the bombing run begins, the AT-ATs become susceptible to all types of fire. From there, it becomes a mad dash to the icy plains of Hoth to concentrate fire in an attempt to do the maximum amount of damage Ė while the Imperials rush to meet them and pick them off like fish in a barrel. Every game of Walker Assault places the Rebels at a disadvantage. This is fine, considering the fact that thatís exactly how it happened in the movie, and the Empire positively crushed the Rebels on Hoth.

Survival is a bit of a curiosity, as it seems to be the standard wave-based gameplay that weíve come to expect from most modern shooters. Itís enjoyable, but far more mindless than the other two offerings.

Star Wars: Battlefront is looking more and more like a smash hit the more we see of it, and it just goes to further illustrate my original point: itís a good time to be a Star Wars fan. Star Wars: Battlefront launches on November 17th.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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