Star Wars: Battlefront – A Yoghurt-Scented Hands-On

Leave my lovely innocent AT-ST alone

R2-D2 smells like yoghurt. In fact, the whole second part of the Star Wars Battlefront [official site] queue at E3 smells like yoghurt. I’m in a group of 40 attendees waiting for our turn to do battle on Hoth in the final play session of E3. I think the yoghurty smell is coming from the copious dry ice, which is swirling around R2’s wheels as EA try to create a Hoth-like experience in a cavernous conference hall in downtown LA.

The Hoth of the game is not yoghurty, but it is gorgeous. An expansive snowy wilderness which we spawn into as Stormtroopers. Well, 20 of us do. The other 20 are rebel scum, ripe for the shooting.

Our mission is to defend two of the game’s gigantic AT-ATs as they trudge forth while the rebels attempt to bring them down. Uplink points are scattered across the map. The rebels can hold these in order to gain a window of time in which to attack the AT-ATs or they can try other methods of attack. One is piloting a T-47 airspeeder, using its tow cable to tangle the legs of the AT-AT and bring it down that way.

You’re not actually playing *the* Battle of Hoth, but the team at DICE have stuffed this multiplayer map with enough references to that iconic Star Wars sequence that you could imagine everyone secretly (lol “secretly”) role-playing.

When we first spawn, everyone’s on top of one another, like when I’ve copy pasted an image multiple time in Photoshop. I run forwards, then off to one side, out of the crowd. I’d like to say it was tactical but it was to find a spot of untrampled snow so I could check whether I left footprints. I did.

ONWARD.

Armed with the default blaster, I started to scout for the uplink stations where rebels would likely be clustered. As you might expect given the setting – a relatively flat snowscape – you could generally see multiple enemies charging about from a great distance. Certainly greater than the blaster could reliably deal with. I wonder if this is designed to help simulate authentic stormtrooper aiming as a blast sails past its target again.

While dead, I check the other weapons in the inventory to see if any of them has a better range. They don’t, although I’m tempted by a higher damage option. I grudgingly concede that sniping on this kind of map might be a bit overpowered. Instead I change up my strategy slightly, scuttling around in paths cut into the snow where possible. I’m not sure this was my finest idea, as it sometimes seems to put my head at a handy height for being blasted, but it’s better than being exposed out on the snow as it narrows down the number of angles from which Rebels might attack.

That’s useful because, in terms of responding to getting injured, I find it almost impossible to work out where shots are coming from. The interface shows percentage health remaining, but nothing that helps me reliably pick out the direction of the shots before I fall. Often, as the camera pans to my killer, it moves in an unexpected direction. That dude? Oh, okay, I guess.

It’s a strangely unintuitive element, given the rest of the game feels designed to be easily accessible and legible to anyone with basic shooter experience.

In addition to the blaster I have a couple of special abilities which recharge over time, and can also pick up powerups on the battlefield or tokens which would allow me to command a flying unit. One special skill which I used a lot is a barrage of three explosive projectiles. It’s a bit overpowered, I think. The shots are easy to land and pretty much a guaranteed kill when you do. It feels like either they’re doing slightly too much damage or take too little time to recharge. I am fond of them because about halfway through our playthrough I stop dying to them and start killing with them.

Look at the state of these losers

There’s also a jet pack which gives you a vertical boost. It takes me by surprise when I first use it, as I’ve become used to the majestic slow glide of my Destiny warlock. The Battlefront jet pack shoots you high into the air pretty fast. I find myself using it to peep out of cover and get the lay of the land when I’m down in the snow paths, as well as to buy myself an extra few seconds to respond when I’m being shot. Enjoy my parabola of death, jerkwads.

Alas, despite my late-blooming projectile prowess, the Empire suffers defeat. One AT-AT faceplants in the snow like a metal camel indulging in a graceless swoon. The other is soon to follow.

Having played similar modes in other multiplayer games, I’d say we lost because scoring individual kills wasn’t enough. It never is. We needed to have been better at co-ordinating our fight against the uplink points the rebels were controlling, preventing them from gaining those attack windows on our AT-ATs.

So how was it as a general experience?

I only had time to play one round and didn’t get to try my hand at piloting any vehicles in that time. There was also a certain amount of “bun fight” as everyone scurried around shooting and jumping, which you’d assume would settle into a slightly different shape after a few more rounds, as people got used to the map and the objective prioritisation.

Star Wars: Battlefront felt streamlined and generally easy to get to grips with. Perhaps a little light, although I’m hesitant to offer that as a concrete observation as I tend to get a certain amount of weightlessness in PvP in these all-newcomer situations. There was a legibility issue in determining my assailant’s general direction. The sense of place was fantastic, though. Star Wars is not one of my specialist nerd subjects (those are: Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Kim Kardashian, one particular Picasso painting from the early ’50s and Death Becomes Her) but the Hoth that DICE gave me felt like the Hoth I remembered from the movies.

55 Comments

  1. herschel says:

    Ok, you can call me ignorant. But is this COD Star Wars?

    • Brosecutor says:

      I think it’s more Battlefield Star Wars.

    • hawken.grey says:

      Yeah, it’s battlefield with a Star Wars skin – beautifully pull off (visually) but nothing new in terms of gameplay it looks like. I think that’s fine, but personally I’m more interested in smaller, personal stories with Jedi (like the old Jedi Knight games) than big fights. Big fights is not what star wars is about to me.

      • John O says:

        I normally wouldn’t care about a game like this, but the theme interests me. I love questioning mechanics and being meta, but in this case I just want to blast Stormtroopers in the face

      • Baines says:

        This RPS article is the most positive description that I’ve even seen about the game.

        Everyone else has been more negative about how it is (too much) more Battlefield reskin than Star Wars.

        • Flopper says:

          It’s def not a BF reskin… No classes and hero units alone is already vastly different than anything BF has done.

  2. Solidstate89 says:

    I was watching Jesse Cox’s take on the 1st day of E3 and he told me that the AT-AT walkers are on rails during the Hoth battle. You can determine what to shoot, but you can’t move anywhere you want.

    Instantly killed any hope I had for the game.

    • Solidstate89 says:

      Should say “he said.” Don’t know why I wrote it as “he told me.” Fricken’ lack of edit button.

    • ThinkMcFlyThink says:

      Everyone seems to have so many all-or-nothing dealbreakers for every single game. AT-AT on rails? Instant loss of interest. No ironsights? Instant loss of interest. No instant spawn? Instant loss of interest. It seems like people are so quick to snap-react to any one piece of information, but I’m much more interested in how the sum of the parts come together. Would I like to control the AT-AT? Yes. Was I super frustrated by terrible AT-AT drivers back in the day, and thus understand why they’re doing this? Yes. Do I think there is still plenty of potential to have a good time? Yes. I look forward to more information.

      • bleeters says:

        You can presumably only control a few guns on an otherwise pre-determined and slow moving walking tank with limited actual mobility when it comes to those guns (as in, they can only fire fowards and a little bit to the side) so many times before it gets boring.

      • OscarWilde1854 says:

        Seriously though, why on earth would people WANT other people to be in control of something this important in a video game? Have you people played an online FPS? BF 3 or 4 or HL for examples…

        You spawn into a tank only to find the driver is driving it into a wall thirteen feet from where he spawned and is apparently completely incapable (or unwilling) to use reverse. He’ll then trample sixteen teammates, crash into 80+ avoidable objects, and then finally make it one block from the spawn and get blown up in 3 seconds by an actually competent tank driver on the other team.

        Is that REALLY what you want the AT-ATs to be doing? Would it ALWAYS be the case? No.. some people would be good. But there would certainly be a lot of room for one player to completely ruin your teams odds of actually winning a round.

        It’s like the NHL series on consoles.. You could play 6 on 6 online last year (NHL 14) with two people as the goalies… this year you can only play 5 on 5 with AI goalies. MUCH, MUCH, better. No more idiots in net who are either garbage or intentionally throwing the game. Does it suck for the kids who like playing goalie? Yeah. But at least the other 10 people can actually have an enjoyable game now.

        • OmNomNom says:

          If it was only in control of say the highest scoring player on the team then it would be ideal.

          The problem with recent Battlefield games is its a click fest to see who gets the tank etc and the more selfish (and more shit) players will camp far back in the vain attempt to get a good k/d without caring if they win the round

      • Spinkick says:

        If its one thing we gamers like to do, is bitch. Reddit is a pitchfork generator with the frequency gamers lose their shit at gaming companies.

        Remember when carriers and destroyers were pilotable in the original battlefield? Notice how they took that feature away? Because people cant be trusted to help out the team with these critical elements. So they have to put them on rails.

    • Elliot Lannigan says:

      If you were the designer, how would you allow freedom to control the AT-AT while also preventing the players from doing ridiculous, immersion-destroying things like getting a leg of the walker stuck in the trenches, trying to squeeze into the Rebel hangar, walking on top of a low-ceilinged building and ending up tilted at some ridiculous angle, etc? We know that hundreds of thousands of players will deliberately seek out every possible combination of such lunacy in the name of “fun”. That would completely ruin any “real Star Wars” feeling the game might otherwise produce. When compared with that inevitable outcome, I’d rather the walkers be on rails. Being on rails doesn’t mean there can’t be multiple tracks to choose from to make the strategy more interesting, so this is really not a huge problem for me.

      • Orillion says:

        Exactly. Something that big is just too impractical to give the player total freedom to control. I don’t even think the big problem would be players deliberately breaking it; it’d be players accidentally getting it caught in scenery.

        Though, you know who would be pretty effective with them? People walking the exact straight line that doesn’t happen to cross over any impenetrable dips in the terrain.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Really big collision detection boxes. Seriously. That’s one incredibly simple, straightforward way to make sure vehicles stay within certain bounds without literally putting them on rails.

        • aldo_14 says:

          The problem is that big collision boxes would also risk making it incredibly unintuitive where you could go, and would likely lead many players to get frustrated at seemingly arbitrary limits.

          • TillEulenspiegel says:

            Gamers are quite used to invisible walls by now. And if you want to put in a little bit more development effort, there are many many ways to subtly highlight the allowed area in the game UI.

      • Jdopus says:

        I would allow it. You don’t need to overdesign your game to such an extent that it becomes impossible to fuck around. Some of the best fun I’ve had in multiplayer games was just from fucking around and not playing properly.

        • wraithgr says:

          How sure are you that it was also fun for anyone else playing with you?

          • P.Funk says:

            As long as when you’re fucking around you’re generally helping everyone win, whats the difference?

          • cpt_freakout says:

            Many of these shooters are like playgrounds – if you’re playing solely to win the match then you’re the one who’s taking the fun out of the whole game. In any case, this kind of thing gets sorted out after a few weeks after launch, when people start joining clans and playing competitively and whatnot. I don’t normally fuck around, but man do I enjoy it when others do very silly things, and I think this freedom is integral to making the game click for a very long time. I mean, there’s only so many times you’ll find walking straight in an AT-AT doing exactly the same thing, shooting in mostly the same angles, awesome and fun.

        • theslap says:

          I agree. Battlefield 1942 comes to mind.

          • WJonathan says:

            Agreed, one of my preferential reasons for Battlefield design is the freedom to fail given to players. “Here’s a huge map, with vehicles, weapons, etc, have at it.” You can screw up in a number of ways: crash a plane, ground a ship, ram a jeep into your own med facility, BUT you can also find innovative ways to accomplish goals that not even the original programmers thought up. Put the vehicles on rails and you kill the creative spark that kept an old game like BF42 fun for 12 years after its release. Having the opportunity to fail is part of the fun and challenge of gaming.

      • EighthNote says:

        It seemed to work well enough in Battlefront 2! Sure, there were times when the asshole driving didn’t know how to steer, but it certainly would have killed a lot of the fun if they were limited to rails

      • Razumen says:

        I don’t imagine it’s that hard, you can just setup certain areas that the AT-AT’s can only go.

      • Vin_Howard says:

        Yah, I -hate- it when players DARE to play a game. I wish games would just take all control away from incompetent, untrustworthy gamers. Call of Duty was doing great, but now that they given players all that dangerous freedom of movement, and now I worry that that game will be ruined by players as well.

      • ragnarokitorious says:

        Really?? I think that would be part of the fun, piloting this huge beast of a vehicle. It would be a change of pace and expectations from the player and would IMO make it more than just a shooter. It does seem maybe that they are catering to their battlefield audience too much??

    • Razumen says:

      While I think that not being able to control the AT-AT is such a big deal when the whole point of the map is to reach the rebel base as quickly as possible (someone dicking around with the AT-AT could very well lose you the game.) I DO think that they lost some potential by not having multiple routes they could take, thus increasing the strategic complexity of the level.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      The AT-AT is bigger than anything you’ve previously been able to control in a Battlefield game, and they were used at the battle of Hoth for a very specific purpose, not to go running around. You’ve got AT-STs for that.

      • P.Funk says:

        You remember the bit where General Veers’ AT-AT pivots its front feet and kinda stands one closer to the other to bring the shoulder around so he can shoot down a speeder? Yea, that was awesome. Won’t be seeing that in this game.

        • Spinkick says:

          Nor space battles. I want this thing to start off in space, and have the empire diving into the atmosphere to deply the AT-AT’s all the while the rebels are defending.

        • PancakeWizard says:

          It wouldn’t be awesome if it was happening all the time!

        • Applecrow says:

          I’m glad I’m not the only person who noticed how much of a boss pilot Veers was. Even if it was one of the pilots under his command it shows what a elite crew can do with a walker.

          AT-AT on rails is a limit of the engine and production, not the user’s skill.

  3. Kefren says:

    I just watched the embedded “Walker Assault” video. But John didn’t even appear at any point.
    Disappointed. 6/10.

  4. madcat01 says:

    DBH LOVE… Thank you Philippa, thank you very much.

  5. amateurviking says:

    ‘Yoghurt! Yoghurt! Yoghurt! I hate Yoghurt! Even with strawberries…’

    • Kollega says:

      “Come, walk this way, take a look! They put the picture’s name on everything! Merchandising, merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made!”

  6. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    *standing ovation*

  7. herschel says:

    I figured.

  8. OscarWilde1854 says:

    “check whether I left footprints” – Thanks Pip! This is LITERALLY the first thing I would have done also! It’s the little things for me really…

  9. James says:

    Thanks for this Pip, but I have a few questions:

    1) How big was the map relative to Battlefront original?
    2) Did the map feel over-designed as an FPS level, or did it actually feel like Hoth?
    3) Do you have any idea if there is a way to disable the standard DICE kill HUD that lets me know I have a killshot when actually I’d rather just play the damn game than read text in the middle of my screen?

    Regardless, you have made me reconsider my views on Battlefront. It will still be a cynical cash-cow, but at least it might play decently.

  10. neoncat says:

    An excellent first look, but maybe for the next review might a seasoned Battlefront player offer comparisons to the originals? Battlefront was never a COD/Battlefield clone, and the elements of its gameplay shouldn’t be compared to those standards…

  11. jrodman says:

    Are star destroyers supposed to fly that low?

  12. WJonathan says:

    Mark Hamill’s pockmarks are accurately rendered, so we’ve got that at least.

  13. Applecrow says:

    The more I see of this game, the less excited I get. It just looks more and more boxed in, like when the snowspeeder is flying around it looks very open, but it also looks like all the action takes place in a rather tight area.

    And no space combat? wtf? Oh, at launch? Which means DLC. And its EA.

    And Jar Jar Abrams is directing and writing the new movie?

    FFS someone give me some hope.

    Rebels Season 2 started? Hell Yeah.