The Star Wars Battlefront Beta was released today (PC) and after a couple of hours of playing it, I’m surprised with it.  It’s pretty fun.

Numerous sites/people have been very sceptical about SWB, and with good cause.  No server browser, a developer with a less than stellar release reputation, an obvious leaning towards consoles and just the Battlefront name alone incites critique.  In brief, not a single one of these things really impact the game, but I’ll go in to detail about them later.

I think once SWB is deconstructed down to what it is, and what it isn’t, it’s easier to be fair to the game, so here we go…

SWB isn’t CS, Battlefield or Quake in the Star Wars universe.. regardless of whether it was trying to be that highly skilled (I don’t think it is), it has a clear objective of being fun and approachable to anybody rather than a hardcore FPS (not surprising, given SW is a license with no specific age demographic).  It allows the game to be a bit wider in scope for an average player when things aren’t as demanding or punishing.. ideal for SW and its plethora of vehicles, weapons and set pieces.  That’s not to say good play isn’t rewarded.. but it’s more of a drive towards completing objectives than it is about any singular players performance.  I don’t think it’s trying to be like Battlefield with SW vehicles either, which would have been the suspected route DICE took.

As with most FPS games, you can get a sense of what the developer is aiming for overall by the gun play.  SWB’s gun play is VERY simplistic for the most part, which to me backs up the point of a clear desire to be approachable to any player.  See a player, aim down sights (or don’t), keep shooting/tracking until they die.. there’s not much more to it that that in terms of straight up gun play, and I’d go as far as to say it’s a notch under CoD in that department.  Weapons for the most part don’t have ammo (they overheat/need to cool), and health is an out of combat regeneration affair.  See where all this is going?

I honestly think SWB shares more similarities with CoD than it does Battlefield.. its gun play is similar, its regen is similar and its accessibility is similar.  Imagine a slightly less demanding CoD (don’t laugh) with a larger scope and objective focus.

When expectations are set correctly, in that SWB isn’t a hardcore experience and more something to fire up here and there, play some great scenarios in the SW license and have some fun, the game is actually very solid.  To take some of the negative issues raised earlier;

Lack of server browser:  A non-issue.. with no chance of a clan scene (imo), and no mods really needed (there’s a lot of modes on release, and no doubt tons of planned DLC maps/equipment eventually), community run servers aren’t really needed.. I’ve also had zero ping issues with their dedicated servers so far.  There’s a lot of games that don’t have server browsers than really injure the game as a result.. I think it’s entirely on the person if this is a deal breaker in SWB’s case.

The developer:  DICE have a piss poor track record at this point.  They may have learnt something, or just took extra care due to the SW license, because the game’s been rock solid for me, in both fps and ping.  Despite obviously being developed for consoles in the gameplay department, the PC version has all the required stuff such as FOV sliders and proper mouse/resolution settings.  I can’t see anything to fault currently.

Consolification:  This however, is a very legit point.  As mentioned, there’s no question SWB was made to be a console FPS.. thankfully, it hasn’t impacted the PC port in stability or settings, but has obviously impacted how the game plays.  It’s quite simplistic in its gun play, and for a PC FPS veteran, there won’t be much to strive for in the practice/training department.  It’s very CoDian in most aspects, and if you don’t like that, you won’t like SWB.  Attempting to complete objectives consistently while causing as many deaths as possible (probably double digit) will be the primary distinction between the higher and lower ends of skill.

The Battlefront name:  I never really played the previous Battlefront titles, so I can’t speak much about whether it upholds the name.  Being honest, I must have heard the name maybe once or twice during the past decade.. one of those times was in reference to this game.

Clearly, I do enjoy the game, but don’t take that as some blind support for it.  It’s a fun game that feels like a great rendition of the SW universe for sure, but in it’s desire to appeal to everyone, it will directly repel some players away from it.  It SHOULD repel me, having an obvious preference for old school arena shooters.. but as I’ve said numerous times, I just enjoy the FPS genre in general, and not every multiplayer one needs to have a high skill ceiling.  SWB gets the same treatment from me that CoD has gotten.. I fire it up, shoot some shit, have some fun and put it down again for another time.  Like a movie, the only thing I ask is to entertain me for the duration of play.. and that’s what it does.

Star Wars Battlefront comes out on November 17th.  It may be the droids you were looking for.

Edit:  I forgot to mention the price.. 50 quid is too steep imo, especially when CoD has down priced to £40 on Steam (£30 with coupons via Green Man Gaming/etc).  If SWB was priced at £30-35, I’d not even raise the issue.  However, if you enjoy the game, you’ll get yer monies worth I suspect.  Only retail can really prove that though.