Preview: Star Wars Battlefront

The Battlefront franchise has been dormant for quite a while, but as we progress towards DICE’s re-invention of the franchise we also see a lot more of what we can expect as one would imagine, but at Gamescom we finally got our hands on both co-op and the newly announced Fighter Squadron mode. We’ve seen tons of what this futuristic warspace is like on the ground, but whilst the skies aren’t exactly uncharted territory, an almost cinematic-like rendition of aerial warfare in a franchise such as this was a concept that the minds of many players only even began to grasp.

Before we headed towards our Fighter Squadron session in the EA press area we took our chance to experience what Star Wars Battlefront’s co-op mode had in store for us in the press lounge. We started our split-screen sessions with a familiar sight from E3, which set us up on a mission to survive Stormtrooper waves on Tatooine. Our objective was straight forward; survive six waves of incoming enemies and retrieve and defend objectives throughout the map. It didn’t take long for me to get into Battlefront, as the main mechanics were quite similar to Battlefield in many ways, albeit gunplay is a lot more focussed due to the nature of the weapons you’ll be using. Traversal felt very similar in weight as well, though Battlefronts packs a punch with its boost jumps and shields, which put a nice spin on the gameplay formula.STILL_SWB_0002_Layer 2But we’ll keep it brief regarding the former, as we’re obviously more interested in what DICE’s newest showing and hands-on of the game had in store for is, which was the game’s newly-unveiled Fighter Squadron mode, which puts 2 teams of 10 players (with 10 additional AI characters on each side) against each other in an intense airborne battle between the Rebels and the Republic. Players enter the airspace as they are faced against one another, but will also have to complete objectives to bring their teams closer to victory. These objectives vary from destroying target ships to defending/attacking locations on the map.

Behind closed doors we played the same demo that was available on the show floor, but we were given the privilege of having the creative team of Star Wars Battlefront guide us throughout and answer the questions we had about the game. We were given a brief introduction by the team, which was soon followed by each member of the press setting up at their stations to commence the fight, which would last for 2 rounds. Rebels were all given X-Wings for the session, though for this match we would side with the Dark Side as we quickly entered our Tie Fighters and entered the airspace.STILL_SWB_0001_Layer 3As soon as the match initiated the first thing that immediately turned into a point of attention were the controls. Obviously for a long time a lot of us were expecting controls akin to Battlefield when it came to aerial combat, though this is really far from the reality itself. The controls of Battlefront’s flight mechanics are a lot more simplistic, with vehicles always cruising at a set-speed, using the left stick for all movements throughout the airspace, whilst the right stick is limited to camera movements and such. This isn’t a bad design choice, as it works very tell for its intended purposes. It does lack a lot of weight to it however, though considering the classic design of the crafts themselves it’s logical why they wouldn’t be able to perform the same as a more traditional aircraft would in Battlefield 4 for example. There is also the fact that flight is much more combat-driven, which puts the triggers to use in a different way. By using the left trigger you’ll be able to lock your weapon onto your enemies. This doesn’t only act as a target lock however as it also provides a sort of aim assist that’ll help you in more focussed combat situations.

The setup of Fighter Squadron is pretty similar to Battlefield’s Air Superiority (yes, another Battlefield comparison, but still), which puts dogfighting in the spotlight. Initially players are simply tasked with taking out the enemy team, which adds to their own scores and their team score. DICE has chosen to stick with a 10v10 design for Fighter Squadron, though each team is given 10 AI characters, which noted by the team was to add to the chaotic feel of gameplay, which was a smart move considering the fact that the player area is quite massive. Throughout each match the game will give the team specific objectives, which can vary in their contents. One moment you’ll be tasked with taking down a larger AI ship, whilst the next you’ll be attacking locations on the ground, which take combat a lot closer to the ground, which can create some hectic situations.STILL_SWB_0000_Layer 4But the most important question for many: Is it fun? It depends on what you’re looking for. Whilst my expectations for the gameplay differed from what I actually played I did have a good time with Fighter Squadron. Its control scheme is incredibly accessible and easy to get a hang of, though for some it may feel a bit clunky and simplistic. The mode itself might vary by player as well, as on long-term it might be a bit more repetitive due to the fact that its dynamic is a bit limited. We’ll have to wait and see how the full game does on that front, as we’ll obviously have a lot more maps and modes to play with at that point.

Fighter Squadron is an interesting and welcome addition to Star Wars Battlefront, though its easy to say that this might be one of the modes that the players will be most divided about. But there’s enough about Battlefront that we’ve seen that more than makes up for that, and obviously there’s a lot that we’ll learn and see about it in the coming months leading up to its release.