The lights are on
Electronic Arts' walled-off booth at Star Wars Celebration contains one of the show's best-kept secrets, a lengthy video of the forthcoming Star Wars: Battlefront video game. The booth interior, which we were not allowed to take photos of, is designed to look like a Rebel Alliance briefing room, complete with a command terminal in the middle, and tiered seating for the pilots, soldiers, and less-important game journalists like myself. The setting screamed classic trilogy, and was the perfect fit for the demo DICE had on hand: a gameplay slice recreating the Battle of Endor from the film, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
The demo shows off the advancements of DICE's Frostbite engine, and clearly illustrates what players can expect when the game launches on November 17 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Here's what we saw:
The DemoAll is quiet
on Endor's moon, but the Rebel Alliance troops patrolling the forest floor don't anticipate it will remain this way for
long. They are alert, fingers on triggers, heads swiveling frantically, waiting for the Galactic Empire to
emerge from the thick forest foliage. The trees stretch high into the air,
their canopy blocking out most of the mid-day sunlight, and knee-high plants give
the nerves no reprieve as they sway gently in the breeze.
The demo is
seen through the eyes of one of the Rebel's foot soldiers. He's human, decked out in
green attire, and his load out consists of a laser rifle, thermal detonators,
and a spherical energy shield that appears to be similar in design to those
used by the Trade Federation Droidekas. The soldier studies his surroundings intimately,
checking most vectors – high and low – for Imperial movement.
An explosion deeper in the forest puts him and his crew in
motion. One of his squad mates yells "speeders," which are on top of them as
soon as the announcement is made. The speeders roar through the plants and off
into the distance in a heartbeat. From this moment on, the action doesn't slow.
Shots are fired through the treeline toward the rebel troopers, and a squadron of
stormtroopers pour out of the woods. Our trooper opens fire, downing several
stormtroopers on a hillside. Each kill brings up "killstreak" experience points
on the HUD, immediately connecting this game to DICE's other juggernaut franchise, Battlefield.
The laser blast from the Rebel trooper's rifle packs a punch, delivering a
brief puff of smoke on the target's torso before the body collapses to the
ground. Laser fire rips over head with the familiar flash seen in the original
trilogy movies. The Rebel Alliance is making quick work of the stormtrooper onslaught, and is steadily moving forward across Endor's gorgeously realized terrain.
The density of the trees and the sloping landscape they
occupy make sight lines difficult, and add intensity to the conflict. The
Imperial attacks appear to be uncoordinated, with stormtroopers emerging from
the brush with no support, and others in small squadrons of four to five
soldiers. The Rebel Alliance, on the other hand, is fully coordinated, working
together as a team (which all appear to be human-controlled in the demo).
One rebel soldier verbally alerts the squad of the first legitimate threat –
an AT-ST lumbering awkwardly through the woods. The AT-ST is heavily
armored, and our rebel trooper's laser fire doesn't appear to faze it (or the
red health meter that appears below its name). The soldier audio is generated dynamically in game, and is not the chatter of the players.
The rebels spread out and open fire on the heavy unit, but again, there isn't
much their standard weapons can do. Just when it seems like retreat or a
thermal detonator toss may be in order, the AT-ST explodes, its metal frame
soaring through the forest, flames eating away at what's left of the still
standing legs. Ewoks can be heard celebrating, but they don't make an
appearance in the demo. A rebel trooper landed a rocket blast on the AT-ST and it appears it only takes one hit to down it.
The Ewok's elaborate village is seen briefly, high up
by the tree canopy. An Imperial trooper uses one of the Ewok's bridges as a
vantage point, but our trooper, who is now wielding a sniper rifle, takes him
out with one nicely placed shot. The rifle spits out a green spherical shot.
The rebels push the fight further into the forest, where our
soldier locates a rocket launcher of his own near a log. The rocket launcher is represented
as a blue glowing icon, one of many "power-ups" that players can stumble upon
in the environment.
Ascending a hill, we see a battle in a ravine 30-feet
below, with rebel troopers in shields (just like the droideka's) making short work of
Imperial ground troops. The Imperial laser blasts ripple helplessly against the
glowing, blue energy bubbles.
Further into the forest, our trooper spies an AT-AT a good 200 feet away.
His squad is quick to sound off on the trouble they are racing towards.
Again, laser blasts don't do much against this heavily armored vehicle, which
oddly was not a part of the battle in Return
of the Jedi, yet was clearly seen patrolling the radar dish prior to the
Perhaps we're seeing what happened to it here. Our rebel
trooper dashes off to the walker's left, where a conveniently placed uplink
station awaits. The walker is facing him, but our trooper stands his ground,
and the player controlling him holds down a button on the controller to establish a connection with a satellite network. The
process takes a good five to seven seconds, plenty of time for the walker to
get off a shot, but it doesn't send any fire his way.
When the uplink is established, our rebel trooper orders a bomber strike. Rather
than running away to safety, the rebel soldier sprints to the
left side of the walker, and then through its legs. As he cuts beneath it, the
walker takes a step forward, its giant feet inches away from achieving a
The scale of the walker is impressive, every bit as looming as it was when Luke bravely runs beneath one in The Empire Strikes Back. The sound of
the walker's joints is identical to that of the film.
Seconds after the rebel trooper is free of the walker, he looks up to
see two or three Y-Wings zip by overhead, delivering a direct hit to the walker, which explodes immediately. The detonation is noisy and dangerous, sending
huge chunks of metal hurling toward our solider and others nearby. The AT-AT stands its ground for a few
seconds while on fire, then its front two legs buckle, sending its head and the
rest of the body to the ground.
At this point, the player controlling the soldier changes the viewpoint from first-person to
third, something players can freely do at any time during gameplay. The character model is nicely animated, his head apparently tracking potential enemy movement.
This AT-AT surprisingly wasn't the end of the fight – it was just the last line of
defense between the rebels and an Imperial bunker. Rebel troopers pour into this diminutive interior space haphazardly. The bunker is every bit as beautifully
detailed as the forest, complete with a mouse droid scurrying in a panic on the
The troopers rush around a corner to a crossing where, a teammate is grabbed by an invisible hand, picked up off of the ground, and
tossed into metal piping, his body slumping over dead. Before our solider turns his head, we heard a familiar breath
drawn. A slow turn to the right reveals Darth Vader. His saber is glowing dangerously red, and
he's just 10 feet away, looking menacing and ready to win this war by himself. Our soldier fires off a few laser shots, but Vader blocks them
with ease. Vader draws near and the demo ends.
Nicklaus Fegraeus, DICE's designer director for Star Wars Battlefront, says players get the chance to suit up as villains like Lord Vader by obtaining power-ups scattered on the maps. He went on to say that these encounters play out like boss battles. The power-ups range from shields, the ability to pilot a walker, or other things.
Fegraeus briefly talked about dogfighting in X-Wings and TIE Fighters and said that flight plays a large role in the game, but didn't go into specifics as to how these aerial conflicts unfold.
The demo was heavily scripted and was not played live in
front of us, but was an impressive first showing. For two years, DICE has stressed the desire to create an authentic Star Wars
experience, and that's exactly what they delivered in this first demo. It had the look of a classic trilogy battle.
Read on to learn about the game modes, the technology, and more.
Email the author Andrew Reiner, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.
So glad it's going to be both first and third person.
Since it's been forever and a day when the last Battlefront was released, I must say it looks pretty impressive in the graphical department. Really have high hopes for this game.
Very disappointed there's no space battles.
I'm actually very sad there's no space battles. Those were the most fun in 2 and I was kind of hoping to see a fully realized attack on the Death Star this go round. Other than that I'm super excited!
Good ol EA. DLC announced six months before the game is out. Oh well atleast it will be free. Can't wait to see the game in action.
SPLITSCREEN COOP IS BACK BABYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
Split-screen? Sold! Thank you, DICE. I would have guessed Battlefront split-screen was a thing of the past. I'm glad to be wrong. :D
Too bad I'm getting a Wii U instead of an Xbone, this game was my childhood.