There's always one, isn't there? Star Wars Battlefront is undoubtedly going to be the biggest PlayStation 4 game of the year – Sony's recently reduced bundle will see to that – but having bunkered down with several hours of the beta, I'm yet to be convinced that it's going to be any good. I already had this opinion at EGX 2015, but while some of my colleagues went gaga over the game, I decided I'd hold my opinion back until I'd spent some more time with it. I've done that now, and while my impressions are still early – well, worries, I have.
Before I beat the game up like it's wearing a Jar Jar Binks costume at a sci-fi convention, I feel that it's important I give it some props first. Indeed, not everything is bad here, and the presentation is a real high point. DICE has always been great with sound design, but its audio engineering team has excelled itself here – this is an auditory masterpiece, and if the studio doesn't win any awards then I'll be outraged. The visuals are also great, with some action packed skyboxes – though the 900p rendering resolution does take the edge off a touch.
The user interface – which is cleaner than a Storm Trooper's armour – is worthy of compliment as well, even if it does take some getting used to. And while I know some are having a few issues with the matchmaking, I've been pretty impressed by how stable the online experience has been – especially considering the servers must be getting absolutely smoked. So those are the positive things, but they're also the areas that I more or less expected the game to excel in. Unfortunately, I think that it has problems elsewhere.
The guns aren't very good
In a game where you're going to spend 95 per cent of your time behind the barrel of a gun, you've got to make sure that your weapons are fun – but the ones available in Star Wars Battlefront's beta kind of suck. I've spent a few matches with every available firearm, and while I quite like the sideways stance that characters take while wielding the DH-17 hand cannon, I can't think of many other compliments to make. The four main blasters available are all way too similar, and lack any real bite. This isn't helped by the hit animations, which are practically non-existent. Sure, the guns are authentic – but Star Wars weapons always were a bit crap.
In the co-op mode that's set on Tatooine, it feels like you're doing absolutely no damage to your Imperial aggressors at all. You blast them, and they shrug off your shots, until eventually they fall on the floor and an icon on the screen informs you that they're dead. As mentioned above, it all looks and sounds sublime, but compared to some of the gunplay in a game like Destiny or even Killzone: Shadow Fall, it feels flat. Now, there may be better weapons in the full game, but there's going to need to be, because the ones in the beta suck.
Walker Assault's totally unbalanced
So, the Walker Assault mode is clearly the tentpole portion of the Star Wars Battlefront beta – a 40-player competitive face-off that sees the Rebels attempting to secure Uplinks so that the Empire's AT-ATs can be attacked. The problem is that it's practically impossible if you're on Luke Skywalker's side to take down Darth Vader's four-legged tanks. To be fair, you can do some serious damage if you use an X-Wing or Snowspeeder at the right moment, but seeing as vehicles are restricted to random pick-ups, it's not like you can co-ordinate these kinds of strikes with your team. Well, you can, but it's not exactly as straightforward as it should be.
The other problem is that in the first two phases of the mode, spawn camping is pretty darn rife, making an already difficult task for the Rebels even bloody harder. Now, this is the sort of thing that data from the beta will hopefully help DICE to eliminate, but this feels more like an issue with the way that the map is laid out to us – it's not going to be an overnight fix. And even if the studio does sort out all of the above issues, we're just not sure how much longevity this kind of mode is going to have. It feels a little too scripted to offer that spontaneity that tends to make multiplayer a hit, and we imagine that most people will have had their fill after a dozen or so rounds.
It seems vapid
I feel for DICE a bit with this game, as it's clear that it's had to cut corners and compromise to get Star Wars Battlefront out in time for the new movie. The problem is that it's clearly gone for style over substance, because even in the beta, it's pretty obvious to me that this is going to be one of those flash-in-the-pan multiplayer titles like Evolve and Titanfall, which has some decent ideas, but nowhere near enough material to back them up. Fair enough, I haven't played the full game so I have no idea how much content there'll be, but even after a few hours running around the charred surroundings of Sullust and the snowy landscapes of Hoth, I feel like I've had enough.
Alright, so I'm not the biggest competitive multiplayer person in the first place, but even the most ardent fan must be able to see where I'm coming from. The game appears to have been built around that all-important first impression, with the presentation pulling you in. But look beyond that superficial wrapper, and there's a big black hole in the centre. For example, there are no classes – so everyone will eventually pool around the same gear – while the random nature of the arcade-like power ups seems to deter tactical play. I hope that the final version proves me wrong, but the beta is the most disposable of experiences: a sugary sweet kick that turns bitter all too quick.
Do you agree with some of Sammy's criticisms, or is it too early to make some of these complaints? Are you worried about the game, or has it got your heart fluttering faster than Princess Leia in that bikini? Join us in a galaxy far, far away in the comments section below.
What do you think of the Star Wars Battlefront beta? (136 votes)
- It's amazing, I can't wait for the full game17%
- The beta's good, but I want to see more29%
- It's okay, but I'm not convinced39%
- I don't really like it at all6%
- The beta has actually put me off the game9%
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How much time have you spent playing the Star Wars Battlefront beta? (123 votes)
- I've been playing it since it released11%
- A good few hours25%
- Just a couple of hours27%
- An hour or so20%
- Less than an hour17%
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