The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Tag Archives: PC Game

Tom Clancy’s The Division: Returning to take back New York

“The good old days are now.” –Tom Clancy

The Division‘s premise is well-known by this point in time: during Black Friday, a smallpox epidemic caused by contaminated bank notes brings New York to its knees, forcing the activation of the stay-behind units, known as the Division, to help law enforcement and emergency responders, the Joint Task Force, restore order. After arriving in Brooklyn, players assist the Joint Task Force (JTF) in securing supplies and a precinct station before meeting with another agent, Faye Lau. Players make their way to Manhattan Island and arrive at the James A. Farley Post Office Building, which has been repurposed as a make-shift command center. Severely understaffed and under-equipped, players retrieve medical expert Jessica Kandel, engineer Paul Rhodes and Captain Roy Benitez by fighting through the Madison Square Garden, subway tunnels and Lincoln Tunnel entrance, respectively. With the base of operations slowly restored, players can begin exploring other parts of Manhattan to help Kandel work out how the smallpox epidemic started, keep the facilities operational for Rhodes and aid Benitez in security-related details. I am, in short, back to where I was when The Division‘s open beta ended last February. In my original discussion, I remarked that my decision to buy The Division would be determined by whether or not there was sufficient content in the game once it launched; post-launch, it was shown that The Division has a solid narrative that creates a highly immersive, compelling background for the game. While The Division is a loot-based shooter, the amount of minor details that went into explaining how the smallpox epidemic came to be is nothing short of impressive, and so, once the price point became suitable, I decided to pick the game up a year and a half after its launch.

My current plan is to play through The Division as a solo player – my interests in The Division was largely in its atmosphere and setting, rather than the Dark Zone and any endgame content. There’s a substantial campaign to The Division, and this can be completed alone, allowing me to explore the empty streets of Manhattan at my own leisure. It is in solo play that the enormity of what’s hit Manhattan becomes apparent: taking on missions on my own means being forced to rely on my wit to assess a situation and determine how to best handle it. Escaping pinches boils down to reflexes and good use of gear. It’s a thrilling solitary experience, giving players the sense of just how challenging the process of dealing with the aftermath of a large-scale epidemic in a first-world nation is. Solo play through the campaign offers a more authentic experience, and I’ve experienced only moderate difficulty in making my way though things thus far – after readjusting to The Division‘s unique control scheme, things have progressed relatively smoothly, and I’ve finished off all of the major missions available during the open beta. This sets me up for continuing the process of upgrading all of the wings in the base of operations to access all of the different talents and abilities available, all the while diving deeper into Manhattan and uncovering the cause for the smallpox epidemic seen in The Division, as well as what caused the first group of Division agents to disappear.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • During the open beta, I spawned in at level four and was already on Manhattan. However, in the completed game, players start out with an MP5 and a pistol on Brooklyn. After ISAC, the player’s AI assistant, walks them through the tutorial for the basics, players can meet up with JTF forces at a local safehouse and undertake their first few missions. The streets of Manhattan are rather monotonous to traverse, and safehouses allow for quick travel across the island.

  • The first few missions of The Division introduce players to the different types of missions available in the game. They aren’t very diverse with respect to what they entail: main missions will involve entering a subterranean or closed off area to clear off hordes of enemies before defeating a boss. Side missions and encounters will involve completing tasks in a set amount of time, defending supplies or a JTF commander, rescuing hostages or investigating missing persons. Enemies are similarly limited in variety. This is a longstanding shortcoming in The Division, but I’m okay with this aspect, since the game makes up for this with its world-building elements.

  • Unlike first person shooters, where health is easily acquired as pick-ups or regenerates automatically, The Division is a cover-based shooter, where players must hide behind cover and strategically use it to win firefights. Careful, controlled bursts of automatic weapon fire and retreating behind cover to reload, or moving from cover to cover improves survivability. Here, I begin the precinct siege mission, which involves clearing out a police installation and taking it back so the JTF can use it as a headquarters.

  • The skyline of Manhattan is visible in the distance, as is the Brooklyn Bridge. Once the boss to the precinct siege mission is beaten, players will travel over to Manhattan, where the game proper begins. Bosses in The Division are characterised by their yellow health bars and an additional layer of armour on top, which must be stripped away before any damage can be dealt to them. I’ve found that engaging bosses at longer ranges with a modicum of patience is ideal – once the armour is gone, bosses go down with almost the same ease as standard opponents.

  • As I make my way to the base of operations, Christmas lights and decorations can be seen everywhere. The Division is set in the months following Black Friday; this is usually the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, leading into the Christmas season, and as a result, one of the things that I was looking to do was play The Division during Christmas, when folks have set up all of their Christmas decorations.

  • Christmas is a busy season, and can be quite stressful, as well, especially for folks who are preparing for the arrival of relatives. However, in my family, Christmas has always been a highly relaxing time of year: we’ve never gone overboard with preparations and have placed greater emphasis on togetherness over how grandiose the events are. This Christmas, we have no plans for travelling, having already visited Japan and Hong Kong during May, and so, I look forwards to a quiet Christmas that I will likely spend reading, gaming and if the weather is favourable, taking a bit of a walk in the nearby hills.

  • On the topic of weather, one of the best features of The Division is the dynamic time of day and weather systems: snowfall and fog can change the atmosphere, as well as forcing players to modify their play-style to accommodate shifting weather patterns, while lighting differences between day and night give locales a completely different feel.

  • We’re now a mere fifteen days from Christmas, and therefore, Christmas festivities have become much more visible. Yesterday morning, I visited the Edelweiß Village, a speciality market selling German, Dutch, Polish and Scandinavian foods, as well as crafts. I’ve long been interested in aspects of German culture and took all of the German language courses during my time in high school, visiting the Edelweisß village on a field trip, where one of the requirements was to order a complete lunch auf Deutsch.

  • During the evening, I had dinner at a newly renovated Chinese restaurant; there was a special five course meal that was superbly prepared, featuring pumpkin-and-salmon soup, lobster salad, triple-A Alberta Beef with a black pepper sauce, white-cut chicken and sweet and sour pork. This restaurant’s cooking was superb, bringing to mind the sort of quality I recall enjoying at an upper-scale restaurant at a hotel in Shanghai some years back. I’ve heard that in Cantonese cooking, the freshness of ingredients can be inferred by how much spice and seasoning is used in a dish; last night’s ingredients were definitely fresh given the minimal (but well-adjusted) use of spices and seasonings.

  • I spent most of today doing my Christmas shopping and are finished for the year; this is perhaps one of the advantages of being a free agent, in that I don’t have to buy something for a significant other. A South Street Burger also opened at the local mall, so we had a chance to try their grill burgers: they’re definitely larger and more flavourful than conventional fast food burgers, with fresher ingredients. I ended up combining maple syrup with jalapeño peppers to create a uniquely-tasking burger, and once lunch ended, I proceeded to finish my shopping.

  • The malls were not particularly crowded today, despite it being quite close to Christmas, making the shopping process rather straightforwards. Back in The Division, I’ve returned to the Madison Square Garden to rescue Jessica Kandel. I think I was equipped with the M4 rifle and MP5 on my first play through during the open beta, but here, I’ve swapped out the MP5 for the RPK light machine gun. I would have preferred to have a good marksman weapon on hand, as well, as this would have made taking on the boss a bit more straightforwards.

  • Admittedly, one of the reasons why I initially was not keen on The Division (besides that price tag), was that I would need to go back through and do all of these missions again. However, playing through them again proved to be a different experience. Inspection of my HUD shows that here, I’ve got the ballistic shield ability equipped with proximity scan. During my original play-through during the open beta, I had only the proximity scan slot open. Despite being the first ability available, proximity scan remains immensely useful well into the late game, being able to pick out the location of different threats.

  • The other ability I have equipped here is a ballistic shield that blocks incoming damage, while limiting players to their sidearms. I’ve personally only found limited use for it, but the ability is fantastic for situations where there is not much cover, and players who improve their sidearm performance can perform very well with a ballistic shield.

  • Being armed with an LMG is actually quite useful for a boss fight. I normally run with assault rifles in The Division for their general versatility; LMGs can hit quite hard and have a good firing rate, becoming more accurate as they are fired, while marksman rifles can deal bonus headshot damage. Shotguns are capable of one-shot killing enemies at close ranges, and PDWs have the highest probability of dealing critical damage to enemies, but are similarly limited to close ranges.

  • After rescuing Kandel, the next mission I did was the subway morgue, where the goal was to find Rhodes. I’ve featured a fair number of screenshots during my talk on The Division‘s open beta, so there won’t be too many more screenshots of this level here. With this being said, the level hasn’t changed too much since the beta, and one of the other elements of The Division that stands out is that interiors of buildings, tunnels sewers and other areas are incredibly detailed.

  • Cleaners are quite entertaining to fight, since they carry large, flammable tanks on their backs that can be ignited for massive damage. Here, I deal with Benchley a second time: he’s armed with a flamethrower that has more range than those of the other Cleaners, but keeping him at bay and returning fire made this mission a straightforwards one to beat. At this point in the beta, I already had a marksman rifle, but lacking one, I improvised with an LMG.

  • The Division‘s open beta did not feature the Lincoln Tunnel checkpoint mission, which unlocks the security wing at the base of operations when completed: I visited this site for the first time and found a sea of abandoned vehicles. In reality, the Lincoln Tunnels are one of the most busy traffic links from Manhattan to New Jersey and was opened in 1937. It is considered to be a high risk target for terrorists owing to how much traffic moves through it, and in The Division, it is how the JTF have managed to ferry supplies into Manhattan to help recovery efforts.

  • The medical wing provides players with abilities and talents that improve survivability, while the tech wing offers upgrades for their skills. The security wing provides players access to better weapons. All of the wings require a total of 4000 supply points to unlock, and these can be accrued by playing main missions, as well as finishing encounters. In general, main missions and side missions are the best way to gain experience points for levelling up, while encounters offer much less experience. I’ll only do encounters if they’re en route to a main or side mission to save time.

  • At high settings, The Division doesn’t look too different than on medium, which is what I was playing on during the open beta. An upgraded GPU has allowed me to push the game a little and gain more frame rates: my old GPU could only run the game at 40 FPS, but I’ve had no trouble maintaining a steady 60 FPS at 1080p with my current GPU. I make my way through the tunnel here, admiring the water effects on the road surface as I push closer to the floodgate.

  • Finch is equipped with a sniper rifle here, and despite being two levels lower than myself, proved to be a challenge to fight because I did not have my own long-range solution. I eventually closed the distance using the RPK to suppress him and managed to best him. For The Division, I will likely write about the game every ten levels and at other interesting milestones, and with this comment, the post comes to an end. Upcoming posts will include a talk on Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! now that we’re past the three-quarters mark, and a pair of posts on some additional content in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. In addition, Battlefield 1‘s Turning Tides DLC is releasing the first two of its new maps tomorrow, so I’m looking forwards to seeing how the new maps and weapons play out.

With the journey projected to last quite a few hours, I look forwards to seeing what The Division‘s campaign has to offer most: at the end game, I may swing by the Dark Zone to try my hand at procuring better gear for kicks, but at the end of the day, I’m largely here to dive into a world that is simultaneously intriguing and terrifying, working towards uncovering the mystery and exploring what is probably the most detailed incarnation of Manhattan in gaming. Coupled with the game’s unique UI and AR-like elements, The Division‘s campaign and atmospherics are easily its strongest points. The game is presently still being expanded upon and patched; one of the recent things I’ve heard is that some of the end-game events and activities have been modified to be more accessible for solo players, and if this proves to be true, it would be quite entertaining to come back once I’ve hit level thirty and see how I do on my own against the enemies of the Dark Zone, as well as some of the more involved challenge missions. In the meantime, it’s time to continue the campaign in The Division: it’s been great to continue on the journey that I started during the open beta.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Starfighter Assault and Space Gameplay in the Open Beta

“It’s no good, I can’t manoeuvre!”
“Stay on target.”
“We’re too close!”
“Stay on target!”
“Loosen up!”

–Gold Leader and Gold Five, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

If I had been active as a blogger back during the early 2000s, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader would certainly have been featured as a game I would write about. Featuring ten single player missions and several bonus missions spanning the original triology, Rogue Leader boasted some of the most sophisticated visual and gameplay effects that could be run on the Nintendo GameCube, allowing players to relive the most famous moments in Star Wars. From the first attack on the Death Star to the Battle of Hoth and the Rebel Alliance’s final attack on the Emperor’s Death Star II, the game’s technical sophistication and enjoyment factor led many critics to remark that this game alone was worth buying the GameCube for, and indeed, even fifteen years after its launch, only Pandemic’s Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2005 can even hold a candle to Rouge Leader. However, this year’s reinterpretation of Battlefront II comes the closest to bringing back the sort of magic that was available in Rogue Leader, for in Battlefront II, there is the Starfighter Assault game mode that pits players against one another in beautifully written space battles. In the Battlefront II open beta, players are assigned to the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire over the shipyards of Fondor. In a multi-stage battle reminiscent of the Rush and Operations game modes of Battlefield, Imperial pilots must deplete the Rebels of reinforcement tickets and defend a Star Destroyer in dry dock, while the Rebels aim to take down the Star Destroyer. Players get their pick of three different classes of starships: the balanced all-rounder fighter, high-speed dogfighter interceptors and the slower but durable bombers, each of which can be customised with star cards to fit a player’s style.

The epic scale of ship-to-ship combat in Starfighter Assault is quite unlike the infantry-focused Galactic Conquest: the space battles of Battlefront II were developed by Criterion, of Burnout and Need For Speed fame. I jumped into a game and attempted to steer my X-Wing with my mouse, but promptly crashed. After switching over to the keyboard, I began learning my way around the controls, and within minutes, was pursing Imperial TIE fighters and firing on objectives. Unlike Battlefront, where starships had the manoeuvrability of a refrigerator, the controls in Battlefront II are responsive and crisp. As I became more familiar with the ships available, I began climbing scoreboards, shooting down more enemy starships and playing objectives more efficiently. The sheer scope of Starfighter Assault and the easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master design of this game mode makes it incredibly fun and with nearly unlimited replay value. While playing the Imperials, I focused on shooting down Rebel ships, and as a Rebel, there was the challenge of finishing the objectives without being shot down. Regardless of which team I played for, there was always a great satisfaction in landing killing shots on enemy starfighters and going on kill-streaks that I never was able to manage in Galactic Assault. It got to the point where I improved sufficiently to have the chance of making use of three of the four Hero ships. Automatically locking onto an enemy starfighter à la Battlefront is gone – aiming and leading shots is entirely a skill-based endeavour now, and while Criterion provides a helpful reticule to assist in aiming, it ultimately falls on players to learn how to best move their ships around. These elements come together to provide a game mode that is exceptionally entertaining to play, rewarding skill and encouraging new-time players to try their hand at flying.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shortly after spawning into my first Starfighter Assault match, I started to use the mouse and promptly crashed into the radar dish; there’s no option to reset or centre the reticule, so if the mouse is moved slightly, it causes the vehicle to drift in one direction. Once I left the mouse alone and began flying with the keyboard, the controls became much more simple to use. Unlike Battlefront, where vehicular handling as as stiff as molasses, the controls of Battlefront II are much smoother. It took a grand total of ten minutes to become accustomed to the system.

  • There are plenty of AI-controlled fighters flying around the map so that players have no shortage of things to shoot at, and here, a seismic charge from the Slave I goes off. They were first seen in Attack of the Clone and create a devastating shockwave that can punch through asteroids. The weapon is fantastic against starfighers, and edges out Battlefront‘s thermal imploders for having the coolest sound in Star Wars; the silence and delay before the full weight of the bass creates one of the most interesting sound effects ever engineered.

  • With their powerful blasters and high durability, bombers are balanced by their lower speeds and manoeuvrability, as well as for the fact that they require more reinforcement tickets in order to spawn into if one is playing as a Rebel. The TIE Bomber makes its first appearance in a modern Star Wars game and I use it to great effect; they’re most useful against the Blockade Runners that appear to reinforce Rebel fighters, but can most certainly hold their own against X-Wings and A-Wings.

  • TIE Bombers were first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, seen dropping proton bombs on the asteroid where the Millennium Falcon was concealed. Players do not have access to the proton bombs for assaulting ground targets, but bombers get access to dual proton torpedoes and missiles. While they have a guidance system that can lock onto enemy ships, secondary weapons can be fired dumb by double-tapping on the button, making it possible to rapidly use them against slow moving or stationary targets.

  • The Rebellion’s workhorse bomber, Y-Wings have been in operation since the Clone Wars, being acquired by the Rebel Alliance before the Empire could scrap or decommission them. The last time I flew a Y-Wing was in Rogue Leader during the “Prisoners of the Maw” mission. In Rogue Leader, the Y-Wing is equipped with proton bombs rather than guided torpedoes, and the ion cannons were forward-facing, only affecting targets in front of the Y-Wing. In Battlefront II, they’re fun to fly, but the cost of spawning in makes it imperative that one focuses on objectives rather than dogfights.

  • TIE Fighters reflect on the Empire’s adherence to Soviet military doctrine: they are inexpensive to produce and the engines are incredibly effective despite their simple design. Lacking shields, a hyperdrive, life-support systems and landing gear, TIE Fighters are incredibly lightweight, and in Star Wars, are shown to be quite fragile compared to Alliance starfighters. However, the TIE Fighters of Battlefront II have a bit more durability and can fire proton torpedoes, making them remarkably fun to fly. TIE Fighters are equipped a laser barrage function that allows the cannons to be fired rapidly to deliver a blistering hail of blaster fire.

  • The Slave I requires only 2500 battlepoints to unlock; it is armed to the teeth, as all of its abilities are offensively driven: besides a concussion missile and seismic charges, it also has access to ion cannons, which slow down enemy ships. Somewhat hard to manoeuvre, it is nonetheless quite durable, and here, I managed to get a kill using the seismic charges. The blast wave is not visible, as I’ve flown from it, but the effects are clear.

  • Light and agile, the A-Wing is the fastest starfighter available to the Rebel Alliance. It is capable of extreme speed, can maintain unbreakable locks onto enemies and is armed with concussion missiles as its secondary armament. I ended up playing the interceptor class far more than I’d expected: the speed of the A-Wing and its Imperial counterpart, the TIE Interceptor, make them incredibly effective in dogfights. Overall, each of the classes have their own merits and are fun to play: they’re versatile to be used in every role, but their abilities and unique strengths allow them to excel at particular tasks.

  • X-Wings gain access to an astromech droid for providing repairs and the power to fire all four laser cannons at once in addition to the standard proton torpedoes that Luke used to destroy the first Death Star in A New HopeBattlefront II brings back the fun I’ve had flying X-Wings in Rogue Leader: for their general all-round performance, I would choose the X-Wing as my preferred starfighter in the game.

  • The visual effects above Fondor are absolutely stunning: space battles haven’t been this immersive since the days of Rogue Leader, and with the Frostbite Engine driving Battlefront II, I find myself wishing for a remastered version of Rogue Leader more than ever. Criterion has done a fantastic job with Starfighter Assault, and looking at the other maps available, it appears that rather than re-living the most famous moments of Star Wars, players will be treated to campaigns set around familiar locations for other Starfighter Assault modes.

  • The battle around Endor will be set in the ruins of the Second Death Star, and players will have a chance to fly Republic and Separatist starfighters in battles set during the Clone Wars. As well, the skirmishes between the First Order and Resistance will also be available in Battlefront II. One of the things I’m hoping to see in Battlefront II will be the appearance of Darth Vader’s TIE/x1, whose innovative designs would lead to the development of the TIE Interceptor and TIE Bomber. One cool feature from Vader’s TIE/x1 would be the inclusion of cluster missiles seen in Rogue Leader, which can lock onto and attack multiple targets.

  • The second phase of Starfighter Assault over Fondor involves Rebel ships attempting to drop the shield generator around the Star Destroyer. Rebel players must fly into a narrow passage way where the generators are held and bombard them. Imperial forces have a simple task: prevent the Rebels from getting into this corridor and damaging the equipment. In the close quarters, I’ve had considerable fun locking onto Rebel ships and, in a manner reminiscent of A New Hope‘s trench run, blowing said Rebel ships away with the TIE Fighter.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I don’t get very much time off elsewhere in the year, making me very appreciative of the extended break. The long weekends also allows me to enjoy a quieter day at home: I spent the morning drafting this talk and reading about overflights in the Cold War, before settling down to a home-made burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese, along with freshly-made oven fries. Unlike last time, we were more careful with the cooking process, so the whole of the upstairs does not smell like grilled burger. By afternoon, the weather remained acceptable, if somewhat windy, so I spent it hanging out with a friend. After enjoying some cheesecake when I concluded the walk, I continued with my quest to get all the intel in Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • Dinner tonight was a tender and juicy prime rib au jus with mashed potatoes. The pleasant smell of prime rib persisted into the evening, which saw the Calgary Flames best the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 at the Honda Center, bringing a 25-losing streak on their ice to an end. Earlier today, in speaking with a friend, we’ve now set aside some tentative plans to watch The Last Jedi: a new trailer has come out, and I’m rather curious to see what the film will entail, for Rey, who will begin training with Luke, and also for Kylo Ren. At this blog, I don’t usually talk about Star Wars, but it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve got passable knowledge of Star Wars lore. I’m quite fond of the films even if the dialogue can be a little poor (especially in the prequel trilogy, where it was downright atrocious) and if the narratives are a bit thin: the scope and scale of the special effects are always fun to watch.

  • While they never co-existed, having disappeared while being transferred to the Jedi Council for investigation, Darth Maul’s Scimitar is included at Fondor. Its most novel ability is being able to cloak and conceal itself from all enemies: I recall shooting at a player with the Scimitar, only for them to disappear. When reappearing, its blaster cannons gain a boost in power. In the thirty seconds I flew it (the match ended shortly after with a Rebel victory), I did not make use of its abilities to shoot down any players. However, the fact that I was becoming sufficiently proficient in Starfighter Assault to acquire the top-tier Hero ships shows that the game mode had been very immersive.

  • This was probably one of the best runs I had in Starfighter Assault: after spawning in as a Y-Wing and going on a seven-kill streak, on top of helping damage the Imperial Cruisers and equipment, I amassed an obscene number of battle points. I was blown out of the sky shortly after but had accumulated enough battle points to spawn in as the legendary Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s signature ship throughout Star Wars.

  • Being Han Solo’s highly modified freighter, the Millennium Falcon is one of the most recognisable ships from Star Wars that goes on to play a major role in helping the Rebel Alliance toppling the Empire. Besides an afterburner that proved fantastic for escaping pursuing fighters and concussion missiles, the Millennium Falcon’s other ability is called “special modifications”, which temporarily boosts weapon damage and reduces overheating. Incredibly durable and agile for its size, the main disadvantage about the Millennium Falcon is that its large profile makes it a highly visible target on the battlefield.

  • One of my favourite features about the Millennium Falcon is not its combat performance, but for the simple fact that after some kills, Han Solo will say something amusing, reflective of his hot-headed, confident personality. The planet and its shipyards were first introduced in a novel for the Extended Universe and accepted as cannon with the 2015 novel Tarkin, although the name Fondor is, amusingly enough, also a brand of German vegetable seasoning.

  • Late was the hour when I managed to spawn into Poe Dameron’s Black One, a T-70 X-Wing that acts as the successor to the T-65B that the Rebel Alliance operated. Requiring more battle points than the Millennium Falcon, I had not intended to fly this, only doing so when I realised I had enough battle points to do so and because the Millennium Falcon had already been taken. Only a few minutes remained in the match, but I made use of Poe’s X-Wing to score a few kills on other players before the game ended. Similar to the standard X-Wing, players can instantly repair with BB-8, and mirroring the T-70’s upgraded weapons, Black One has access to dual torpedoes. There’s also a Black Leader ability, but I never looked into what it does.

  • The Battlefront II open beta ended this morning: it’s a quiet Thanksgiving Monday, and while it would’ve been nice to play a few more rounds of Starfighter Assault, I ended the beta off on a high note: I’ve flown all of the Hero ships in this game mode to some extent. With the open beta now over, regular programming resumes, much as it did two years ago: there’s no GochiUsa to write about, but there is Gundam Origin‘s fifth instalment, which I greatly enjoyed. We’re also a entering the fall anime season now: with Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter airing in mid-November, the only shows I really have on my radar for the presernt are Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I also should write about the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, which, I should note, was note quite as enjoyable as the Battlefront II beta.

The words “pure fun” are the most suitable for describing the Starfighter Assault game mode of Battlefront II: the mode feels a great deal as though Criterion applied the lessons learned from Rogue Leader. The game modes are well-structured into distinct phases, but seamlessly woven together. Instead of purely AI opponents, players now have a chance to engage one another, adding a new degree of challenge; gone are enemy fighters that can be shot down, replaced with superior AIs and human opponents, the ultimate challengers. Because players can be assigned to different sides of the story, there is a fantastic opportunity to explore “what-if” scenarios. While I don’t think any of the most iconic missions from the trilogy or prequel appear in the full Starfighter Assault, the concept has proven remarkably fun in the open beta, coming the closest since 2005’s Battlefront II to re-creating the experience that players experienced in Rogue Leader. Coupled with authentic aural and visual elements from Star Wars, Starfighter Assault has proven to be the remastered experience of Rogue Leader that I’ve been longing to experience again since the days when I played the game on a GameCube: I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how the other maps play out, and through the open beta, it is evident that Battlefront II has made a serious effort to bring a critical component of Star Wars into the modern age. If the version we’ve seen in the open beta is an accurate representation of how the game mode will handle in the full game, this is a very compelling reason for buying this game closer to the Christmas season, when the spirit of Star Wars will be in full swing as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi premieres in theatres.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Galactic Assault and Infantry Gameplay in the Open Beta

“Roger roger” –Any B1 Battle Droid, Star Wars

Compared to its predecessor, Star Wars Battlefront II is said to feature substantially more maps, weapons, vehicles and a more involved progression system. In addition, Battlefront II also revisits the Clone Wars in addition to the Galactic Civil War and the latest conflicts between the Resistance and First Order. Having caught my eye back in June, the open beta became available during the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and I’ve put in some hours into the game’s available modes during the beta. The first of this is arcade, a simple primer into the game mechanics. I subsequently jumped into the incredibly entertaining Starfighter Assault, before switching over to the two available infantry-focussed game modes, Strike, and Galatic Assault. Strike is similar to Halo’s Bomb mode, which pits two teams against one another; one team must grab an objective and carry it to a destination, while the other team must stop them. Galatic Assault is a variation of Battlefront’s Walker Assault mode: two teams slug it out in a larger, objective-based game mode. In the open beta, the Republic clones fight the Separatist droid armies. The latter are aiming to capture Theed Palace on Naboo to force Amidala to sign another trade agreement, while the Republic must stop the MTT from reaching the palace, and failing this, drive off waves of battle droids. Like its predecessor, Battlefront II possesses a different set of mechanics compared to the shooters I’m familiar with. Blasters do not handle as projectile weapons do, and their low damage results in a longer time-to-kill (TTK) than I’d like – players can duck behind cover once I open fire on them to regenerate their health, and overall, getting kills in Battlefront II feels more difficult than it did in Battlefront for folks starting out: I’ve heard that star cards can boost one’s ability to score kills immensely, but I’ve never been too fond of the system.

Looking past the difficulties I’ve had in scoring kills, Galactic Assault turned out to be much more enjoyable once I understood that kills do not seem to matter in Battlefront II compared to other shooters. In the open beta, Battlefront II certainly seems to be emphasising team play over kills, and it seems that kills are less relevant compared to helping one’s team out. In the scoreboard, the number of deaths a player accumulates over the course of a match are not shown. Assists count for as many points as kills, and the simple act of spotting can yield a large number of points, as is playing objectives. Thus, with this knowledge, I took to the specialist class regardless of which team I was with. Armed with a longer range DMR and a pair of macro-binoculars capable of revealing enemies even through physical obstructions, I settled into a pattern of starting Galactic Assault matches with the specialist class, spotting enemies for my team and picking off the occasional foes from a distance. Once the MTT reaches the Theed Palace, I would switch over to the heavy class, which is equipped with a repeating blaster that is excellent for close quarters engagements, doing my best to either push onto the capture point in the throne room (as a Separatist) or defending the throne room from the droids (as a Clone). By sticking close to my teammates and playing objectives, Battlefront II becomes significantly more fun: towards the end of the beta, I was doing much better, but I find that matches always seem to end too quickly before I can spawn in as a hero. The Strike game mode is oriented around closer-range combat, and I’ve found it modestly enjoyable, similar to drop zone in Battlefront II‘s predecessor, although the mode seems to favour the Resistance: I’ve never lost while playing the Resistance, and I’ve never won as the First Order.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My immediate impressions of Battlefront II are that it runs surprisingly smooth: I did not configure my game and used the automatic settings, which set everything to the “ultra” preset. Even with everything on full, the game ran at around 80 FPS: considering that my machine’s four and a half years old now, this certainly isn’t bad. Like my original experience with the beta, the first few hours in the game were met with a bit of a learning curve, as I was trying to figure out the game and scoring mechanics.

  • The specialist class is Battlefront II‘s counterpart to Battlefield 1‘s scout class, equipping a semi-automatic marksman rifle and being able to spot enemies with macrobinoculars that can see through walls. These long range weapons are the only viable weapons for engagements beyond 50 metres, and Battlefront II definitely does not reward long range precision shooting over playing the objective with respect to how points can be earned.

  • On the other hand, assists are worth as much as kills, so throughout my time in the Battlefront II beta, I got numerous points for damaging an enemy that was subsequently finished off by a teammate. Battlefront II takes the “Assist counts as kill” mechanic and goes one step further: kills don’t seem to matter as much, and I recall an instance where I got 1200 points simply by helping clear one of the control rooms and then proceeding to unlock the palace doors. I got maybe one kill from it: the grenade I threw slightly damaged the players inside. Here, I sit inside the composite laser turret of the LAAT/i gunship and managed a lucky kill on someone down below: the weapon’s surprisingly challenging to use owing to the laser’s pinpoint precision.

  • I’ve long wished to fly a Naboo Starfighter in a game that isn’t the Nintendo 64 incarnation of Rogue Squadron: after taking to the skies above Theed, I saw an enemy fighter and spent a good three minutes dog-fighting with them before taking them down. The MTT reached the palace shortly after, and the game kicked me out of the Naboo Starfighter elegantly, re-spawning me as a heavy class driod.

  • I’m not sure what the powerful medium range weapon that specialist classes can equip while using infiltration mode is called, but it is quite capable of close range engagements, offering specialists a fighting chance at ranges where faster-firing blasters dominate. The only class that I did not make use of extensively was the officer class: armed with a blaster pistol and able to buff players, it’s a style of play that I’ll need more time than the open beta has available to become familiar with.

  • While providing an infinitely smoother and more enjoyable experience than the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, there are still a handful of UI issues that linger in Battlefront II. The first is that the score feed sometimes displays that I’ve killed a player twice even though I know there was only one target to shoot at, and secondly, the heat metre can sometimes persist after death and not accurately reflect the weapon’s state. Beyond these two minor issues, Battlefront II‘s open beta has been silky smooth to get into.

  • The heavy class gains access to repeating blasters (Star Wars terminology for “automatic weapon”), which are fantastic for clearing out rooms and dealing out a large amount of damage quickly. Accompanying their base loadout is an impact grenade, a turret mode that exchanges mobility for firepower, and a front-facing shield that can absorb incoming fire. It’s the perfect choice for close-quarters combat inside the palace, and the heavy class is surprisingly effective even outside the palace.

  • Here, I manage to shoot a clone trooper off the AT-RT he was piloting to bring his killstreak to an end. The Battle Point system in Battlefront II is a straight upgrade from the battle pick-ups of Battlefront by removing the random chance of finding a power up on the battlefield. Instead, playing the objectives and skill is how to get to the upgraded abilities. However, my gripe with the new system is that matches do not always last long enough for players of decent skill to get to the hero unlocks before the game ends.

  • Over Theed, the amount of detail in the cityscape is incredible, and if this is how Theed looks, I am very excited to see how the rest of the maps look: besides Naboo, Battlefront II will feature Kamino, Takodana, Yavin IV, Kashyyyk, Starkiller Base and even the Second Death Star. Returning from Battlefront are Tatooine, Endor, Hoth and Jakku. I wager that Bespin, Geonosis, Utapau and Mustafar could also come with the DLC.

  • While great for laying down destruction against the MTT and strafing infantry, air vehicles in Battlefront II move a bit too quickly to be effective in a close-air support role. It would make sense to lower the minimum speed for some starfighters to make them slightly more effective for an anti-ground role; care must be taken here to ensure that they do not become too effective, otherwise, game balance would evaporate.

  • The Strike game mode is set on Takodana in and around Maz’s castle, which was destroyed during the events of The Force Awakens. However, I’ve never been able to replicate the First Order victory in this game mode: every game I’ve played with the Resistance, I won. Here, I’m equipped with a faster-firing blaster for the assault class, which has access to a thermal detonator, shotgun and a tracer dart gun. While Battlefront II has proven enjoyable, I sorely miss Battlefront‘s thermal imploder, which has one of the coolest sounds of anything in the Star Wars universe, second only to the Slave I’s seismic charges.

  • I soon jumped over to the specialist class when it became apparent that First Order soldiers would always be coming from the woods and so, I could sit back a distance and put down pot shots. Strike is an infantry-only game mode, and battle points go towards unlocking more powerful infantry units, rather than heroes of vehicles. Like Naboo, Takodana is beautifully rendered. While fun from the Resistance perspective, Strike has been less than amusing when I’ve played as the First Order, whose white armour causes them to stand out from the forest, and whose spawns leave them open to attack from the Resistance.

  • Scope glint is still very much a thing in Battlefront II, helping players quickly ascertain the presence of an enemy sniper and duck for cover. In the long, open spaces in Theed, the specialist class is a great way to open things, allowing one to spot other players and put them on the mini-map. Overall, I’m not too fond of the way the mini-map in Battlefront II works: it highlights the general direction an enemy is in if they fire or sprint, requiring a specialist to manually spot opponents. One of the things that I succumbed to frequently in this beta and the Call of Duty: WWII beta was accidentally mashing “Q” trying to spot enemies.

  • Most players will suggest playing in third person mode, as it offers a bit of a tactical advantage with respect to spatial awareness and in allowing one to peek their corners. For the purposes of discussion, I’ve chosen to stay in first person so that the weapon models can be seen. Iconic weapons, from the Battle Droids’ E-5 blaster, to the Clone Trooper’s DC-15 series, appear in the beta, and one must marvel at the detail placed into rendering them.

  • Frustrations gave way to fun once I slowly began learning Battlefront II‘s mechanics, and what was originally an “unlikely to buy” verdict turned into a “I’ll buy it if there is plenty of content available at launch”. Looking back, I similarly had a bit of a learning curve going into Battlefront‘s beta back in 2015, and it was only after I unlocked the repeating blaster that the gameplay changed. Battlefront II is a bit more skill-based than its predecessor, and after some eight hours with the beta, I’m a bit more comfortable with all of the functions and controls.

  • The MTT assault on Theed is only one of the galactic conquest game modes, and one of the things I’, most curious to see is if iconic battles from the original trilogy and prequels made it into Battlefront II: while Battlefront was stymied by limited content and a low skill ceiling, walker assault proved to be immensely fun, allowing players to re-live the most famous battles of Star Wars in an environment that was of the same scale as those seen in the Battlefield franchise.

  • The only thing left on the schedule for tonight is chocolate cheesecake, and Thanksgiving Monday will afford me with a rare opportunity to sleep in. The Battlefront II beta ends tomorrow morning, which marks a return to Far Cry 4. For Thanksgiving this year, I give thanks for great food and family, warmth, and the fact that there is good in the world worth preserving. Things do look quite grim, but it is my aim to work my hardest and contribute in what manner that I can to things that are for our benefit.

  • With a bit more familiarity in the game, I switched over to the assault class and performed moderately well during one of my last matches, earning enough battle points to unlock Darth Maul. The match ended before I could spawn in, however, and one of the things I’ve noticed while taking on Hero classes is that they’re noticeably weaker than they were in Battlefront. In the close quarters frenzy of Theed Palace, I’ve encountered both Darth Maul and Rey before. In a blind panic, I opened fire on them along with my teammates, and they promptly died before they could retaliate: their lightsabers are no longer one-hit-kills.

  • I feel that the Heroes should have at least fifty percent more health, but the health should not regenerate, and the Heroes with lightsabers should be able to one-shot opponents since they are entering melee range (whereas Heroes like Boba Fett and Han Solo can stay back to engage in ranged combat). Overall, the Battlefront II beta’s infantry combat isn’t terribly difficult to learn, and there are some fantastic set-pieces. I look forwards to seeing what the full game will entail, and wrap up by remarking that the other game mode, Starfighter Assault, was so exhilarating that I’ve got a separate post on it.

The infantry gameplay in Battlefront II is above average on the whole: movement is quite smooth, and I’ve had fun playing in both third and first person mode, but the long time to kill and dependence on abilities over steady aim means that Battlefront II is ultimately less about good shooting and more about who can best manage their abilities, using them effectively during the right times to turn the tide of battle in their team’s favour. The larger maps and spawn system also can make getting back into combat after death a frustrating experience: one can go for long periods without seeing anyone, then die unexpectedly and be sent back to a far corner of the map, resulting in yet another long walk into things. With this in mind, the walk certainly is a visually impressive one: the graphics in Theed, from the large piles of leaves blowing about, to the fantastic architecture and colours, are breathtaking. On several occasions, I’ve wasted some of my battle points spawning in as a fighter for the sole purpose of flying over Theed just to admire the cityscape. One thing is for sure about Battlefront II: it captures the sights and sounds of Star Wars as effectively as its predecessor did. While an absolute audio-visual treat, perhaps even more so than 2015’s Battlefront, the multiplayer infantry gameplay seen so far, while entertaining, alone does not inspire a purchase of Battlefront II at launch price. However, it is still early to be making a decision – we’ve not seen some of the other modes available yet. In addition, the beta does not provide a chance to try out the campaign or single-player arcade modes; if these turn out to drive replayability to a reasonable extent, Battlefront II could very well be worth the price of admissions at launch.