One of the more highly anticipated games presented at Gamescom 2015 was Star Wars: Battlefront. This isn't the original game that was launched over a decade ago, but rather a modern-day remake. EA didn't show us too much of what is coming up, but we did get to play the Fighter Squadron demo for a few minutes. Back at E3, my colleague Rexly Peñaflorida II got to play the Blast Mode demo.
Along with a heap of other trade visitors, we were led into a dark room and told that we would be playing the fighter squadron demo on a PlayStation 4. The explanation was simple. You'd be flying either a TIE fighter for the Empire or an X-wing for the Rebels. People on one side of the room were in the TIE fighters, and the others were in the X-wings. Each team was comprised of an equal number of real players and AI players, and the challenge was to kill as many enemies as possible. AI enemies would grant you 1 point, human players 5 points and shooting down an enemy transport (which would show up every few minutes) would give your team a 20-point boost. The first team to reach 200 points would win. We had time to play two matches before the session was over.
When we started, I played for the Empire and found myself flying a TIE fighter. Of course, the flying controls were not inverted, so I first had to figure out how to rectify this. Once I did, I got into the action and proceeded to get some kills. The flight was quite simple. You have the usual pitch, yaw, and speed controls, along with a couple of quick-moves. The idea behind the quick moves is that if you have someone on your tail, you can press a single button to do a quick barrel roll to the left or right, or a loop-de-loop. For veterans of the series, this is nothing new as the mechanic was implemented in the ship-to-ship battles of Star Wars: Battlefront II.
There was one issue I had with these quick-moves, however. The flight felt quite natural and dynamic, but the moment I used one of these quick-moves, it felt like I entered a scripted move. Of course, that is exactly what they were, but that doesn't detract from the fact that I'd have hoped for them to feel more natural. When I was in a dogfight with someone on my tail, for example, I'd press the roll right button, the ship would straighten up for a brief interval, do the barrel roll, and then hand the controls back to me.
Part of the flying mechanics was a yellow and red bar at the bottom of the screen that showed the tradeoff between speed and firepower. If you'd hold the left trigger, you'd go faster, but you wouldn't have as much power at your disposal to reroute to firepower. Alternately, if you slowed down, you could deal more damage to your enemies with your laser cannons.
Individually, you would get points for damaging enemy vehicles, with a larger boost when you destroyed it. This would tally up your total, which at the end of the game would place you in the tier to show how good you were.
I also accidentally discovered the button to change views. I could switch between hood views, third person, and in-cockpit, and with each view the soundscape changed, too. Although the cockpit view was obviously the most immersive, it did severely restrict my view, so as an inexperienced console player I stuck to the third-person view.
I didn't get as much hands on time as I would have liked to thoroughly analyze the demo, but the time I did get was good fun and left me with a smile on my face. The fear when companies remake old games is always that they end up ruining it, but I'm fairly confident that DICE won't be ruining this one, from what I saw. Despite the renewed graphics, I still got nostalgic chills from my youth, and the Star Wars feeling was definitely there.
The game is slated to be released on November 17 in the U.S., with the European release following a couple days later on November 20. It will be available for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and EA is already taking preorders here.