Star Wars: Battlefront Beta ImpressionsDeveloper:
PC, Xbox One, PS4
The ice planet Hoth might normally be cold, but today the air is blisteringly hot. Intense laser fire criss-crosses the sky, and the chill winds bring with them the crackle of distant explosions. I'm crouched in a trench overlooking a snowy ridge, beyond which is the fuzzy yet unmistakable outline of an AT-AT walker. Between us, somewhere just beyond that ridge, is a signal beacon, and if we can activate it, it will disable the AT-AT's shield's making it vulnerable to aerial attack.
Of course, that's assuming we aren't cut down by the AT-AT's formidable weaponry the moment we summit the ridge.
But there's no alternative, so we make a run for it. Five rebel soldiers including myself sprint towards the ridgeline. As we crest the ridge, we spy the beacon. But we also see the AT-AT isn't alone. A pair of AT-ST's and a squad of Snowtroopers are clustered around its massive feet. Red lasers slice through the air, pounding into the snow around us, the icy ground hissing from the heat. Three rebels are cut down by the barrage. I dash to the right, pressing myself against a rugged wall of rock and ice. I'm safe. For the next five seconds.
To my left, a shadow rises onto the ridge. Clad in black, a red lightsaber gripped in its right hand. Suddenly I'm lifted off my feet, and I can hear the bones creaking and cracking in my neck.
"It's Darth Vader!" the seven-year-old inside me squeaks. "I'm being choked to death by Darth Vader. This is great!"
Having played the recent public beta over several days, there's no question in my mind that Star Wars: Battlefront gets the "Star Wars" bit right. The scream of a TIE fighter as it flies overhead, the burst of sparks that occurs when a laser blast slams into a Stormtrooper's chestplate, the blaring brass and cascading strings of John Williams' iconic score - it's a bolt of Force Lightning straight into the nostalgic part of your mind. As for whether it gets the "Battlefront" bit right, well, that's a little more complicated.
The beta offered three maps to play on, two of which were online multiplayer, while the third map was aimed at single player and co-op. This provided a glimpse of the variety DICE is hoping to weave into Battlefront. The headline act was undoubtedly its recreation of the Battle of Hoth, where up to forty players assumed the roles of either Imperial Snowtroopers or Rebel soldiers.
The battle is structured around two hulking AT-ATs, which march slowly yet inexorably toward the Rebels' shield generator. If the giant walkers reach the generator intact, the Imperials win. To stop this, the rebels must activate a pair of signal beacons which deactivate the AT-AT's shields, allowing circling X-Wings, Y-Wings, A-Wings and Snowspeeders to rain deadly laser fire down on them for a short period of time.