Hands-On With the Star Wars Battlefront Comic-Con Demo
Not all game demos took place on the convention floor last week. During Comic-Con, the entirety of Downtown San Diego is transformed into a nerd’s paradise, so it’s only fitting that online community The Nerd Machine would set up a Nerd HQ for all the nerds to relax, drink, and awkwardly socialize in between doing nerd things. After hearing of a Star Wars Battlefront demo at the Nerd HQ, I went down the street on Saturday to the New Children’s Museum to check it out. I’ve never played a Battlefront game before, but I was hoping to fix that and get some more material for the site.
Well, if the old Battlefront games are anything like the new one, then I don’t think I’ve been missing much. The museum was packed with demo stations on multiple floors, all of them playing the same Survival Mode Tatooine level. The level put two Rebel players together against six waves of stormtroopers, with occasional extra objectives like “defend the crashed escape pod” and…actually, that was it. Every wave proceeds exactly the same, with most waves adding new enemies like shielded troopers, AT-ST walkers, or the Empire’s deadliest weapon: jetpack troopers. The game looked gorgeous on the PS4, and the framerate was silky smooth while I watched.
When I finally got my hands on the game and chose my weapon (one of two weapons unhelpfully labeled “blaster rifle”), my co-op partner and I were dropped into the desert. Everything was going smoothly until I touched the left analog stick, at which point my Rebel soldier did an instant 180. My co-op partner made a noise, and I looked up to see his screen had become a blur as he tried to control the look sensitivity. We both entered the options menu to turn it down, but I underestimated how much I would need, and I didn’t want to continually pause and adjust when I was playing with a stranger and being silently judged by about twenty more strangers behind me. I decided to stick with it, and that worked. For awhile.
Sensitivity issues aside, the game controls have a general slipperiness to them, and Dice is apparently aware of this, because the game has one of the most generous auto-aims that I’ve ever seen in a modern game. Once I realized that the game would do the aiming for me, things started to come together. I wasn’t having fun, but at least I wasn’t dragging down my co-op partner anymore. My jetpack was underwhelming, functioning more like a high jump with a long cooldown, and I had a tendency to launch myself backwards if there was so much as a boulder in front of me. This worked to our advantage, since I launched myself down a canyon once and was protected from stormtrooper fire until I was able to run around and accidentally flank them. Eventually, we reached the AT-ST wave, and I expected a difficult battle, but once we both fired off our anti-vehicle weapons, the walker keeled over almost immediately. Okay. Sure. Two waves later, and the Empire decided to actually pull out the big guns.
See, the jetpack troopers have an advantage over every other soldier in the Imperial arsenal – they can foil your auto-aim by hovering just above your field of vision. By the time you’re done spinning around like a greased up dreidel and you’ve got your sights on one, you’re dead. I was able to shoot down the one that killed my co-op partner, but that left one more for me, and he took me out from his auto-aim blind spot.
Obviously, there’s quite a bit missing from this demo, like vehicular combat, PvP, and the rest of the game modes, but a demo is supposed to give players a microcosm of the game as a whole. You’re supposed to do things in the demo and say, “I want to do more of that. I want to see where they go with this idea.” Honestly, after playing nearly six waves of shooting stormtroopers, I don’t really want to shoot more stormtroopers. Aside from your anti-vehicle weapon, there appears to be only one weapon slot, and most of them look very similar to Blaster Rifle B. That sums up the demo, actually. That’s the microcosm presented for Star Wars: Battlefront. Simple and samey. I wanted to like this one, so hopefully they prove me wrong on November 17th, but this experience certainly didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.