Like music, video games are very personal choice when it comes to what's good or not. Years ago reviews recognised this, a game with 90% would generally appeal to a wider audience where as 70% didn't mean it was a bad game, instead it usually noted that fans of that particular genre would love it. These days if a game gets a review like that it's perceived as a failure, and with the value of reviewers and reviews all over the place in terms of quality they become less relevant. Hence the importance of quality demo's or beta tests become all the more apparent. So with all of the initially negative press surrounding the launch of Star Wars Battlefront, I thought I'd add my more positive experience which came through ever more as I worked my way in and began to understand the strategies and approach to getting the most out of this chunk of the Star Wars Universe.
When the Star Wars Battlefront beta was first released I was both impressed and disappointed. Incredible graphics, amazing audio mix but gameplay felt imprecise, ship handling was poorly implemented and the death match style saw me shot in the back every 10 seconds, I did more running than shooting, the game placing you against opponents with far more perks from the off. On the face of it then, this was a game for the dedicated Star Wars fan, or the reaction gamer. I quickly turned off the beta disappointed with first impressions.
However, at Christmas I finally got to play the finished game and found myself loving it, more modes that appealed to me and the addition of the excellent Jakku map in Turning Point mode sealed the deal, I was hooked. Now let's put this into perspective of what kind of gamer I am. I prefer progressive shooters where enemies have to come from another direction, not spawn all over the place, hence Call of Duty and its silly perks lost its interest years ago, my favourite being Call of Duty World at War. Why? Simple it featured Hardcore War Mode! This mode saw the two teams fight at opposing ends of the map, then meeting in the middle to fight over a single flag point, if you capture that, you have to fight for another point closer to the opposing spawn and so on till you capture their spawn point. With only a few maps, the Hardcore mode appealed to me immensely, no concern about lag and bullet sponges, the game was about precision, tactics and judgement. The tanks were also well implemented with great controls, sadly removed in a later update. 87,000 kills later and ranked in the global top 300, I was still hooked but alas modders came in and ruined the experience, a game I would have happily supported with DLC for many years to come.
So when I played Star Wars Battlefront and found that Turning Point, Supremacy and a more balanced Walker Assault had been included, it felt perfect. The one player story mode would have been nice and is still a much needed addition, but for me it's the multi-player that keeps me coming back and if the game is good I'll happily pay for DLC. These modes are great, but unfortunately from the off there is no online player ranking system like Halo 2, so you're thrown straight in with players who have far more weaponry, abilities and perks at their disposal. This makes your first few days play a bit of a grind, lots of deaths just trying to earn the next weapon or perk. But once these are in place the real learning begins, what (hand) perks to use, what weapon suits you best? This is where the strategy comes in, there are only 11 main weapons, but these can each serve a purpose. No weapon is perfect on every map, so first you figure out what weapons work better in each location, then which weapons work best on each stage of a map. If the enemy is coming from long range, use a range weapon, if its mid range, alter your approach, if short range, consider a powerful blaster pistol. So few weapons, so few maps but so many possibilities.
Quality over quantity, this is where the maps matter and its where they exceed in almost every capacity. Maps are lovingly created with some of most incredible detail, I say that as someone who has seen the original trilogy many times and can appreciate those small details. This really makes you feel like you are actually within the Star Wars universe, playing a part in that far away galaxy. So amazing maps for the most part, incredible production value but it's not all perfect, there are a few things I hope the developers look at as the game evolves.
Homing missiles; often the bane of my life, I once came up against a team who managed to get on top of the (The assumed Tantive IV cruiser) ship in Turning point and virtually all of them used these, not fun. While Heroes in Supremacy mode can be fun, but when used with a team, unstoppable and game changing. But my biggest gripe with the Battlefront games in general is ship handling, when Battlefront Modern combat was released I loved it, vehicle handling identical to the aforementioned CoD World at War tanks, and as a bit of a tank specialist I felt perfectly at home. But when Battlefront Bad Company released the vehicle handling changed and sadly never looked back, controlling vehicles as if with a first person style mode never feels comfortable and although younger players will grow up never knowing any better, the old controls were superior. Apart from the ships, which I've found imprecise and unpredictable in combat there really isn't many vehicles to choose from, the Imperial forces have access to the powerful AT ST Walker while rebels have nothing, but they do. Rebel forces did have a tank to combat this, called the MLC-3 'Mobile Laser Cannon' the tank was designed to appear in The Empire Strikes Back but never made it into the movie, however toys were produced, indeed I have one myself. In effect, there are lots of ground vehicles that could potentially be brought in and this would certainly help even the fight for the rebels..
Of course there are no space battles currently, but with the craft handling as it, I've not missed it and if nothing changes I'd still prefer to play Factor 5's Star Wars Rogue Leader on the old Gamecube, still a far better example of how to do it right. Which brings me to my final issue, character customisation, on the whole a useless feature. When I play as a storm trooper, I play as a storm trooper, that means not removing your helmet. It's just plain wrong that storm troopers don't have a helmet on and thankfully most players feel the same. It can also make for confusion in battle. So on the imperial side there are only the three proper storm troopers available, and again the black one is so hard to see, it wasn't really a practical inclusion. Especially when fighting on Endor, sadly set in poorly lit evening conditions on Supremacy mode making the black trooper almost invisible. Too much investment in the wrong places here with the wrong type of customisation and not enough weapons, let's hope we see more of what players want in the future.
So looking back at the package, would I be happy with lower quality maps and production value just to add a one player mode? What other sacrifices would have to be made? Games development has increased enormously in cost where as the game retail prices have stayed stable. So there needs to be a costing and in this case a hefty season pass. As for the value of the season pass, that is yet to be seen. The proposed content does sound exciting, with no doubt a few secrets along the way.
But despite my gripes, I'm loving Star Wars Battlefront, no it's not for the hard-core FPS gamer who cares about kill / death ratios, but then objective based modes never were, and they were all the more fun for it. But with good modes, more maps and more features there's the potential here for a game that won't just last one year, it can last the entire life cycle of this console generation.
Star Wars will never get old and with production values of this level, neither will this game. Yes, it does takes some time to get into, no its not for everyone but it's also a lot more enjoyable than initial impressions would have had you believe. With the assets produced, EA are in a perfect position to build more around the Star Wars universe, it may miss that one player experience sought by some but it's the multi-player that will keep this title alive and kicking.
So I look back at those reviews and reviewers, when they play a game, what genre do they like and how long to they stick with a game? Call me boring but when I find a game I really like, I stick with it, year in year out. Most reviewers don't have time to do this, so it's down to immediate enjoyment that gets the high marks, especially when it comes to a new franchise, even one with an established name like this. I won't give a review score because most gamers today won't recognise what it means so I'll just end with saying, there's a lot to look forward to in this game if you can get through those initial hours of grinding, but with Doom looking more like an action Quake style shooter and CoD going in more for perks and gimmicks, this is plain old blaster action Han Solo would be proud of and I will be enjoying it for many years to come.
Written a few weeks back I'm going to dive in soon and see how the latest DLC has built on or fragmented this games community and how that affects a game solely based on multiplayer.