Star Wars Battlefront Beta Impressions: We’re Tossing Ewoks and Seeing What Sticks

Oh... oh.. this just brings a tear to my eye
Oh… oh.. this just brings a tear to my eye

Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, I think that was the last Star Wars game to truly blow me away. Oh believe me I’ve owned and played them all. Yet after X-Simulator and Tie Fighter, and yes I loved Knights of the Old Republic; still Dark Forces II really blew my mind when it first released. Multiplayer mode was icing on the cake, the single player and the Dark Side/Light Side choices were extremely novel ideas at the time, the story, characters, bosses, swinging a lightsaber around in first person, it was all fantastic. While there have been many Star Wars games before and after, few felt as if every single pixel, sound, control, and explosion was perfectly placed, and expertly designed. Now with the upcoming JJ’fied versions of Star Wars trilogies ready to begin storming movie theaters this winter, a new Star Wars game is on the horizon. How does it measure up? Is it shaping up to be a quick and dirty movie cash in? Is it just Battlefield 4 with Stormtroopers?

Strangely enough, Battlefront III was a surefire game release, following the success of Battlefront II, that never actually materialized. Free Radical was contracted by Lucasarts to produce the third game in the beloved series. There are actual screenshots and assets for that game still floating around. A few years later, Lucasarts has now effectively gone under. As if that’s not enough Mickey Mouse actually owns Star Wars, Spiderman, and the X-Men, I mean, who would have thought this 15 years ago? Electronic Arts however, acquired video game rights to Star Wars somewhere in all of the Lucas related changes.

The logic choice was for EA and DiCE to continue the Battlefront franchise. Who better to make a Battlefield game than the actual Battlefield makers? Make no mistake Battlefront games were always Battlefield style games with Star Wars assets. Battlefront has several changes that make it a much nicer multiplayer game than BF4, and the Star Wars theme and gameplay just works better than straight up military-style combat arena in my opinion.

The hyper-realistic look really drives home the Star Wars experience.
The hyper-realistic look really drives home the Star Wars experience.

The visual quality of this game is as reported, it is completely gorgeous. Running this game on an I7-4770K CPU, 16GB of RAM, and 2 GTX 970s in SLI mode. Some have had problems with SLI and Crossfire modes with this game, I have had absolutely zero crashes, or connectivity issues. It runs flawlessly in game at 2560×1600 resolution. I did have some initial concerns with the Beta, taking screenshots was a confusing affair, in fullscreen mode it would only take a screenshot at a quarter of the size the rest was whitespace. It was impossible to get a screen with most screen grab tools as well. I had to put the game in windowed mode and stretch the view out and get creative to pull off accurate screen captures. As you can see in the picture above, the detail in everything is astounding. I have several readers ask if this game is better on consoles for the home theater feel or PCs. Granted, if your home theater setup is more impressive and you can handle the controller for playing shooters go for it. I cannot ignore my inner geek however, the PC is capable of pushing far crisper graphics at higher resolution with more bells and whistles.

On the left Xbox One scaled up to match the size of the hand/pistol off PC at double 1080p resolution
On the left Xbox One scaled up to match the size of the hand/pistol off PC at double 1080p resolution

 

Consoles turn effects off and on and have a limited clear view distance to mask their hardware limitations and still push 60fps with all the onscreen mayhem and 40 online players. Xbox One does not fully run at 1080p resolution, it’s more of a 900p. My PC is set to 2560×1600 which is well over 1080p resolution. With settings on Ultra the draw distance before blur effects is noticeable. Also the PC skybox moves, giving the environment a little more realism. It’s implementation of ambient occlusion at the highest settings is superior.

Xb1Sullust
PCVsXb1

 

I’ve also taken a video comparison the best way I know how. I apologize that I am unable to fully record and duplicate the higher resolution 2560×1600 gameplay hopefully I have this figured out for the full review. Suffice it to see it runs as you see on the screenshots above, but at 60fps without hiccups.

 

 

While both are scaled down, I tried to keep the ratio the same to appreciate exactly what more than double the pixels really means. In any case, the reality is they both play smoothly. When the lasers fly there’s no differentiating the two. Now the interesting thing will be if according to this tweet DirectX 12 will be added to Star Wars Battlefront. If you recall when DiCE launched Battlefield 4, it only came with DX11, Mantle API support was added later and then selectable within the options. DirectX 12 files were already found within the Beta to suggest this is how DiCE will implement DX12 in the future and maybe even Vulkan API, as a post release update. This could mean even better performance on PC in the future.

Now what do I think of the game so far? It’s impressive. It’s fast and furious and you die a lot. This is a better multiplayer experience than BF4 ever was, for starters jumping into a game is easy and fluid. The inclusion of Star Wars weaponry and ideas like personal shields, jump packs, thermal detonators, add a more impressive arsenal for survival than military style shooters. I like the style of earning cards, or buying them with battle earned credits. The use of powers is almost MOBA style, they are assigned to keys 1-4 or  buttons on the controller, the activate and go into a cool down period before using them again. Vehicles  are positioned on the Battlefield as pickup icons you activate. For the life of me, I have not figured out how to activate them using the keyboard and mouse configuration. In any case I detest, using Keyboard and Mouse to fly anything. I would love to know how to activate using the keyboard so I can get my controller ready for vehicular combat. Fortunately, there’s a few second grace period involved, where I can activate the vehicle “power up” and get  ready to pilot. The game allows you to transition neatly from controller to keyboard and mouse to give you the best of both worlds on the fly.

There are no single player campaigns coming for Battlefront, so there’s no chance of it honestly rivaling the likes of Dark Forces II or Knights of the Old Republic in terms of captivating story content. Judging from past games, this doesn’t seem like DiCE’s forte anyway. What is there is an impressive multiplayer game, with 2 player coop wave mode which is really fun (but highly limited in the Beta). Insanely good graphics, and impressive animations, the feel of a large scale Star Wars war all around you is there. Battlefront is exciting and fun on any platform, but more so on PC. I find it hard to imagine that any shooter fan, multiplayer fan, or Star Wars fan does not have this game already on pre-order, but if you don’t the BETA weekend continues through to Monday. Download it from EA’s Origin app which is similar to Steam, or GoG, and check it out.