ANJL Episode 50

This week on the show we talk extensively about our time with the Street Fighter V beta and try not to bore Avery to tears.  In the news Avery brings up an interesting discussion around pre-release negativity and we talk about being skeptical of games vs bagging on them before they’re out.  We also revisit the Payday 2 microtransaction situation that we missed last week.  Then Lewes has a meltdown at the end of the show.  Enjoy another new episode of And Now Just Listen!

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Star Wars: Battlefront Beta Impressions

Battlefront was played on PS4 for this preview.

Star Wars: Battlefront is one of the most beloved game franchises to ever use the Star Wars license.  Since Battlefront 3’s tortured development fell apart, fans have hoped that someone would raise the series from the dead.  A few years ago EA proclaimed they would do just that after announcing a new partnership with Disney and the Star Wars license.  Battlefront’s release has no doubt been orchestrated to capitalize on the nostalgia of long-time fans as well as the building fervor for the upcoming movie.  The beta period, which ran from October 8-13, was my first opportunity to get hands-on time with the game and see if DICE, EA, and Disney are on track to revive Battlefront.

The Battlefront beta impressed me right off the bat for several reasons.  Firstly, I think it was quite wise to open the beta up to anyone interested in participating instead of restricting it to pre-order customers.  This gives DICE a better idea of what to expect in terms of server load and should help them to be better prepared for launch.  I also appreciated the ability to play two different modes and that each game type had it’s own hopper.  The inability to choose game types has been a big turn off in some multiplayer betas and is something that I think should always be included.  Finally, the game ran well most of the time.  I never had any major latency or connection issues and apart from occasionally snagging on geometry the gameplay experience was solid.

Drop Zone and Walker Assault were the two game types available for the beta period.  Drop Zone is a capture and defend mode which was played on the smaller Sullust map.  It features fast paced action and focuses more on the shooting elements of gameplay.  Walker Assault is a more involved, and chaotic, mode where rebels must capture uplinks in order to summon a Y-Wing bombing run which will in turn open a window to attack two AT-ATs.  The walkers only take damage during this window and it’s length is determined by the number of Y-Wings summoned.  In turn the Imperials must stop the rebels from maintaining their uplinks and protect the walkers from the aforementioned attacks.  The game ends when both AT-ATs are destroyed or they reach the end of their scripted path.  Hoth was the only available map for Walker Assault and it definitely hearkened back to the iconic battle in The Empire Strikes Back.  Finally, an abbreviated version of the wave-based cooperative mode (simply called missions) was available and provided an amusing distraction from the competitive multiplayer.  I enjoyed the competitive modes quite a bit, but I wonder about the lasting power of another horde-like mode.  Based on my short time with it, I doubt that I would want to delve too deep into it.

Combat in the game is mostly enjoyable and feels quite distinct from DICE’s Battlefield games.  Unlike Battlefield, all weapons and abilities are operated on cooldowns (there are a few exceptions), which means ammunition is almost never a problem.  However, I found that when operating vehicles the cooldowns could become quite frustrating.  Land based vehicles were otherwise fun to operate and I had a blast mowing through many soldiers with an AT-ST in one of my games.  Airborne vehicles, however, I found to control poorly and felt as if they didn’t have quite enough map space to fly and be effective (something Battlefield excels at).  On foot the cooldowns were not problematic and I actually enjoyed not having to worry about running out of ammunition.  Not only does it help to differentiate the game from the Battlefield series, it also makes the game feel more light-hearted and fun.  Abilities are unlocked through playing the game and are reminiscent of recent Call of Duty perk systems.  Players can equip any 3 of their unlocked abilities in order to customize them and better suit their play style.  The moment to moment combat proved to be quite enjoyable and I was pleasantly surprised at how much it felt like Star Wars.

While I was feeling rather positive about the parts of the game available for beta, I still have quite a few lingering concerns.  An impressive number of modes were listed in the main menu, but without being able to try them it’s hard to know if they will provide interesting gameplay or not.  I also worry that the abundance of modes could lead to empty hoppers or a player base that is spread too thin and creates partially full games across all modes (I ran into quite a few games that weren’t full in beta).  Couple that with the fact that Walker Assault was horrifically imbalanced, it was nearly impossible to win as the Rebels, and it leaves me feeling worried.  I was never able to successfully link up with my friends who were playing the beta either and that was a huge let down.  Playing with friends is the reason that I come to online games at all anymore and a bizarre party up system left me feeling a bit spurned.  Then we have the recent announcement of a $50 season pass.  Without knowing what content is included that price point is difficult to swallow and is, in my humble opinion, borderline larceny if the planned DLC is just more maps and weapons.

Star Wars Battlefront is a game made for Star Wars fans and is a great way for Disney and EA to try to capitalize on their new licensing agreement.  The movies are beloved by millions and Battlefront is a series that people have a great deal of nostalgia for (myself included).  This new iteration plays well and I had a lot of fun with it for the 3-4 hours I spent playing the beta. I’m happy to report that the online functionality was sound and it seems like DICE has fixed a lot of their server problems.  However, I remain skeptical because I’m not sure that feeling of enjoyment will last long enough to warrant a $60 investment.  Unfortunately, the announcement of the season pass pricing has me even more doubtful and I loathe companies announcing season passes before they have even shipped the base game.  Add on my distaste for the party up system, even if it worked I wouldn’t have like it, and my initial enthusiasm has dimmed quite a bit.  Hopefully DICE can deliver a game that will live up to it’s predecessors, but I am not yet convinced that they will.