D23 Expo 2015: Hands-On with Star Wars Battlefront and Disney Infinity 3.0


Disney’s D23 Expo may not be exclusively about Star Wars, but the franchise has perhaps the largest presence at the convention out of all the Mouse’s various properties. Today’s live-action panel will likely be dominated by any revelations about The Force Awakens, and there’s another event geared toward news about the theme parks later this afternoon that’s expected to announce a new Star Wars-themed area.

D23 EXPO 2015: A Star Wars Fan’s Guide

That sphere of influence extends to the gaming arena. A big selling point of the upcoming Disney Infinity 3.0 is that the developers are integrating Star Wars into the game for the first time. Meanwhile, Star Wars Battlefront has cemented itself as the game to beat this year, targeting a slightly older but wider gamer demographic with its combination of the franchise’s imagery with first- and third-person shooter dynamics.

I got the chance to play both games on the show floor on the first day of D23 Expo, and even though my playing sessions were brief, they still gave me a sense of where each game is at and what they offer at this stage. Check out my thoughts below on both of them:

Disney Infinity 3.0

There were a few stations to play Disney Infinity 3.0 set up around the show floor, including one for the basic launch version of the game and a handful of levels from the Star Wars expansions, Twilight of the Republic (I-III) and Rise Against the Empire (IV-VI). All of the demos were on PS4.

You have about two dozen characters to choose from, mostly Star Wars characters. There are even a few options to play as characters from the Star Wars Rebels TV series. I played as Darth Maul first in the basic version of the game. Maul was able to do a Force push and wield his double-bladed lightsaber as a weapon, and he even had a nifty dash move to move around.

For the purposes of the demo, there wasn’t much exploring I could do, so instead, I played a few minigames. One was a turret mission where I manned a drone gun on the deck of a spaceship and tried to take TIE Fighters flying above me. Another was a racing mission around a track themed around the movie Aladdin.

But my favorite game was a paintball free-for-all that part of the Monsters University world. In this game, you could switch to an over-the-shoulder while tagging various monsters that pop up in an obstacle course, but you could also use your character’s abilities to gain an advantage.

Later on, I played the Rise Against the Empire playset as Boba Fett. My first mission was re-enacting the Battle of Yavin aboard an X-Wing, which functioned as a mostly on-rails shooter ending, of course, with firing the proton torpedoes into the Death Star. The second mission found my character on Hoth defending the Rebel base against an onslaught of Imperial AT-ATs. This included a mixture of vehicle combat inside a snowspeeder, and trying to attack the AT-ATs on the ground by climbing up their legs and disabling them.

A key feature of Fett is that he can fly and even shoot from mid-air, making him an appealing choice for a lot of minigames. He’s not quite as powerful or quick as Maul, but he does have a sweet special move where he fires the rocket attached to his back.

Overall, the game still seems rough around the edges, which is concerning considering it’s headed for an Aug. 28 release date. The game’s input sensitivity and response times are a bit sluggish, making it tough to aim or maneuver just the way you wanted to.

The vehicle combat fared much better, though. Even though it was guided, the Death Star level constantly switched up the level layout and the objective to keep me on my toes and constantly trying to pilot my craft to safety.

The environments and character designs still look perfectly cartoony, and it seems like the minigames aren’t just mechanical rehashes of past challenges but rather creatively designed to fit each franchise’s strengths. Hopefully, it gets some more polish before it ships.

Star Wars Battlefront

Simply put, I got just the opposite impression with EA’s Star Wars Battlefront.

I got to play a session of the game’s Survival mode on the Tatooine map, also on PS4. Me and another player were playing as Rebel soldiers tasked with surviving six waves of Imperial infantry and vehicles, and although we both failed, it was such a fun experience that I immediately got back in line for a second trial.

There is a third-person mode available, but I never switched out of first-person, not because I didn’t want to but because I was so into the game that I simply forgot.

The demo allowed me to select four primary weapons, ranging from a pistol to an assault rifle-like weapon, which I eventually settled on. Five of the waves were just Imperial stormtroopers, some of them equipped with flamethrowers, although one of the waves was just a lone AT-ST. At first, the objective was just to eliminate all the enemies, but in later waves we were supposed to defend a small crashed battle pod.

Although the controls weren’t adjusted to my liking, making my aim a bit off, the game felt phenomenal. The radio chatter and laser sound effects, the swelling and falling music, and the unobtrusive HUD all contributed to a seamless experience. There is a third-person mode available, but I never switched out of first-person, not because I didn’t want to but because I was so into the game that I simply forgot.

You also are equipped with an anti-vehicle weapon, a set of three shield powerups and a rocket boost to help you jump to high plateaus. Although it’s a limited arsenal, it felt just right for the bare-bones Survival mode.

I also really enjoyed the co-op element. I’m not a huge multiplayer gamer, but there was a nice sense of teamwork between my gaming partner and I on both run-throughs. Both times, my counterpart and I instinctively backed each other up and focused on different parts of the map to clear out. It’s a tribute to the game’s structure that it encourages this type of collaboration.

The game almost feels like it’s ready to ship today instead of Nov. 17. The Tatooine canyons looked gorgeous, and the flailing stormtrooper bodies were incredibly convincing. I was worried that the Star Wars property would fail to make Battlefront stand out with so many hallmark FPS elements included, but it turned out to be an enthralling, seamless experience.

Next: J.J. Abrams on The Force Awakens Secrets