Star Wars Battlefront has always been exciting. But you know what’s better than exciting? Giga-exciting. And fortunately, that’s exactly what DICE’s game now very much is, after its Hoth-based E3 gameplay demo.

It looks insane. It plays like someone just threw a first-person camera into a Star Wars movie battle. It has all the exciting, flash-bang bombast you want, and all the chaotic, intimate, human focus Star Wars needs. It is, quite frankly, a relentless, giddy, air-punch generator, and if you haven’t watched that demo yet, you must do so immediately

The demo begins on the forest moon of Endor with a group of rebels running through the forest. Three speeder bikes carrying Stormtroopers screech across the screen, and a firefight ensues with more Stormtroopers arriving. Soon this skirmish is interrupted by a gigantic AT-AT stomping through an opening in the forest. Regular firepower is completely ineffectual, even picking up a powerful weapon pick like a missile launcher is no use against the walker’s thick armour. The rebels reach a communications terminal and call in an airstrike from a nearby base. Within seconds, Y-Wings fly just above the forest’s canopy dropping bombs, destroying the AT-AT. (The footage switches between first- and third-person perspectives, emphasizing how Battlefront can be from either view.) The rebels run under the wounded AT-AT as it burns, emphasizing its impressive size, and leave the open forest for the safety of a bunker. Inside, one of the rebels runs ahead, but is stopped and scooped into the air by an invisible force; he reaches for his throat; he’s choking. Lord Vader comes into shot, throws the rebel to one side, and marches directly towards the camera; shots are fired in his direction but he deflects each one effortlessly with his lightsaber. Vader continues to walk forward until his mask dominates the screen.

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo 5 Guardians will feature an Online Multiplayer Beta later this year. All copies of the upcoming Halo: The Master Chief Collection will include the beta to Halo 5 within the Extras Menu. The Master Chief Collection releases this November.

As if Halo: The Master Chief Collection wasn’t bursting with goodness already, the Christmas period bought something extra that Halo fans would find unmissable: access to a limited beta of Halo 5’s multiplayer. It’s a glimpse of the Halo we should be playing towards the end of 2015, with a weekly programme of maps, modes and challenges. We’re now into the second week with another week to go, and it’s already clear that Halo 5 multiplayer sees some major changes from Halo 4, not just in terms of what has been added, but also in terms of what has been taken away.

Let’s get the most significant changes out of the way. For the first time Halo 5 has a Call-of-Duty aim-down-sights view when you squeeze the left trigger, though 343 Industries describes it as a ‘smart scope’. It works across all weapons though the degree of zoom and narrowing of vision differs according to the weapon type and sights, so that those weapons with the biggest zoom also have the most limiting effects on vision.

At first it feels alien, like a chunk of Call of Duty grafted onto Halo multiplayer, but with time you realise that some serious thought has gone into smart scope and how it’s used. Zooming in lessens the spread of bullets, making your fire more accurate at distance, but you need to work out whether the benefits outweigh the loss of vision and response time when an enemy appears at mid to close-range. Use smart scope all the time and it will simply get you killed, but learn how to use it when it works and fire from the hip when it doesn’t and you’ll find that it enhances your long-range capabilities without compromising your chances at close quarters.
I will admit that my days of competitive shooter play are mostly behind me. I’ll be lucky if I can ever crawl my K/D ratio back up to even after a rocky start, and chances are all the college buddies I used to play Halo 3 with are now too busy with jobs and families to join me when the game is released. But I do know that I felt something tick in my brain that made me feel like I was really playing the kind of Halo I loved again, something I never felt with 4 or Reach. 343 has turned back time and so far, seems to have brought the series back to something vaguely resembling its golden age. Again, it’s too early to make a full judgment, but so far so good, and I’m curious to see more.

Batman Arkham Knight

Arkham Asylum, the first Batman game from Rocksteady Studios, had the sense of a fresh beginning for superhero action games. Batman: Arkham Knight has a sense of finality. It builds on the revolutionary strike-and-counter fighting style with powerful new moves  and enemies; it expands on Arkham City’s open world with a larger, more detailed version of Gotham; it introduces a new fully playable Batmobile and makes it an important part of the action and puzzles; and it brings all of Batman’s closest family of Gotham superheroes and rogues together for an amazing, great-looking finale.

On with the show!

It’s impossible, at least for me, to encounter the fourth big entry in a wildly popular Batman series and not think of Batman and Robin, the disastrous 1997 Joel Schumacher movie that starred George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Uma Thurman. Batman and Robin did what the Joker, Riddler, and Penguin had been trying and failing to do for almost 60 years. It killed the Dark Knight (as a film franchise, at least), at the time seemingly for good.

Batman: Arkham Knight, the fourth major title in the Warner Bros. series of video games that began with 2009’s Arkham Asylum and the third to be helmed by the London studio Rocksteady, is not a debacle on the order of Batman and Robin. But well into the game, I feared that it would be. For several hours, it seemed that the opening lines—“This is how it happened. This is how the Batman died”—were not an omen that might or might not be paid off by Arkham Knight’s ending, but rather were a foreshadowing of what Arkham Knight was going to do to the reputation of the Arkham games as the only great superhero series in video games.

After a stylish opening, Arkham Knight miscalculates, badly. The decision to revolve so much of the game around the new Batmobile is an alienating move that robs Arkham Knight at the outset of the fantasy of becoming the Dark Knight. The great joy of the Arkham games has been how well they allow players to embody the Batman, gliding and grappling and duking it out with criminals using a combination of fists, feet, and gadgets. Arkham Knight jettisons much of this during its first couple of hours in favor of teaching the player how to drive the new Batmobile and use its weapons in tank battles on the streets of Gotham.

If this is in fact the last Rocksteady-developed Batman game, the series will end on a high note. Arkham Knight is the biggest Batman game yet, not just in map size, but in the wide range of different types of gameplay, and its collection of characters. The addition of tank combat thematically clashes with everything Batman stands for, but it is fun, and having access to the Batmobile for the first time gives us a new world of possibilities for interacting with Gotham City. Arkham Knight is an outstanding game on almost every level.