My legs churn through the snow, seeking a rock formation a few feet away. I’m dying, and although I haven’t looked, I’m sure there are holes in my chest. Suddenly, a warning appears: “Orbital strike inbound.” I throw down a shield, and it has barely deployed by the time the bombardment arrives. In the muffled bubble of the shield, the only discernable sound is my ragged breathing.
This is the world of “Star Wars: Battlefront,” or at least, the impression given off by the beta, which was opened late last week. There are only three levels available to beta players, two multiplayer missions and a survival mode that can be split-screen or single player. Based on the beta, I would call “Star Wars: Battlefront” a big creative success, but there are several design and technical problems that concern me.
Let’s start with what I love about this beta – and there is a lot to love. The survival mission is a good way for players to get introduced to the game and its “hand of cards” power-up system. You collect a card in the level and you can activate it later for a rocket launcher or extra life. The actual maps and design of the characters feel like iconic “Star Wars.” When you head into the Battle of Hoth, made famous by “The Empire Strikes Back,” you really feel as though you’re there on the planet.
The soundtrack and sounds in the game are also very well done. As I mentioned with the shield example, a lot of work has clearly gone into getting the sound of blasters right. But it is more than that, because different blasters have different noises, and their pitch and volume change based on your distance. It’s great to see such technical effort put into the beta.
So here’s where the beta let me down. There are clearly technical problems to iron out, such as the invisible walls that smacked me right down when I attempted to jet pack across an open field. For several hours when I first started playing, there was a weird effect that resembled what you would see on an old VHS tape, the snowy, grainy line shimmering across the screen.
But what really concerns me are some of the design issues. In the Battle of Hoth mission, for example, the map is heavily stacked toward the Empire. Rebels must not only secure and hold uplinks to be able to damage the AT-ATs, and thus win the game, but they must inflict all the damage themselves, as the bombers that are called only “disable” the giant behemoths. Empire players only need to keep the uplinks disabled or kill the rebels when they try to take advantage of a limited window to kill the AT-ATs.
Spawns are also downright awful. Over the course of two days, there were over a dozen times where I would find myself spawning right behind an enemy, or worse, right in front of him. On one occasion, the game saw fit to spawn no less than 10 enemy players in a circle around me. Needless to say, that was a frustrating death.
Matchmaking is another glaring flaw. Out of maybe 30 matches I played, only two felt really competitive. If you aren’t rolling over the enemy team, then you are probably the one being rolled over. For a game that emphasizes teamwork and being part of a larger effort, it would be nice if the teams were at least balanced.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the “Star Wars: Battlefront” beta. With just under a month to go until launch, there is enough time to fix the technical problems and the creative side. Fortunately, the really important stuff has been polished to a mirror shine.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.