21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Star Wars’ Has Already Bought Over $50 Million in Superior Tickets.

Fandango tells Variety that the picture is the biggest pre-seller in the history of the ticketing company, trumping the first “Hunger Games.” Most Imax screenings have sold out, but outside of those premium formats, there are tickets remaining to many shows on opening weekend.LOS ANGELES — Riding galaxy-sized expectations, the new “Star Wars” movie is already setting records for pre-opening ticket sales, with still a month to go.Some movies never earn $50 million throughout their entire theatrial run (here’s looking at you, Jem and The Holograms), but Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already reached that number in advance ticket sales.“It can be anything you want it be,” Lawrence Kasdan, screenwriter of “Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” and the forthcoming “The Force Awakens,” said about “Star Wars” in a recent interview with “Wired.” In its nearly 40 years, “Star Wars” has been made into everything from breakfast cereals to bed sheets, discussed as evolving into an official religion and inspired the name for a species of acorn worms.

If you are a fan of Luke, Leia and Darth Vader, there are moments in Star Wars: Battlefront that will leave you as giddy as a child watching A New Hope for the first time. There’s racing across a snowy Hoth underneath the massive AT-AT Walker, or targeting and taking down a TIE Fighter while behind the controls of an X-wing, or playing as Luke Skywalker himself and doing crazy stuff like this: But here’s where Battlefront is interesting: it’s clearly trying to appeal to a broad Star Wars loving audience with arguably one of the most unforgiving types of games out there — the competitive first-person shooter. MovieTickets, the country’s other major online ticketer reports that advance sales for Star Wars represent the most tickets ever sold for one film by the company when compared to all other films at the same point in roll out. The movie is on track to have the biggest December opening ever, topping “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which took in $85 million in the U.S. and Canada on its opening weekend in December 2012. The movie released its first batch of presale tickets on Oct. 19, but demand caused numerous ticketing sites to crash, including Fandango, AMC, and “Last night, we had the single biggest simultaneous surge for movie tickets our industry has ever seen,” Tim League, CEO of Alamo Drafthouse theaters, told EW last month.

Developed by DICE, the Swedish studio behind the “Battlefield” games, “Battlefront” is a revival of a series of third-person shooting games from the mid-2000s made popular by the now defunct Pandemic Studios. The game overflows with sharply detailed “Star Wars” iconography that has been detached from its narrative framing and turned into centerpieces of ceaseless war.

The third installment of Battlefront for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 — developed by Electronic Arts studio DICE — will focus largely on multiplayer. AMC Theatres broke its single-day advance sales record by more than tenfold, and reported its highest traffic in the site’s history.

With five tutorial missions, nine multiplayer game types and two single player modes, spread across 12 maps, “Battlefront” feels massive yet most of its modes wind up feeling like chores. Battlefront offers several ways to get players’ competitive juices flowing, from simple Blast matches where two teams battle to notch the most kills, to the 40-person Supremacy, a tug-of-war style battle where rebels and imperial forces fight to control key check points. The centerpiece is “Supremacy” a 40-player pell-mell in which teams compete to sequentially capture one of five control points spread across the map. Stormtroopers, blasters, AT-ATs, X-Wings, and more have all been faithfully captured in marvelous detail and come with fittingly authentic audio effects to match. Whether it bests the biggest grosser of all time — “Avatar,” with $2.8 billion worldwide — depends on word of mouth and whether fans love it enough to watch it multiple times through the new year. “Star Wars” will have the advantage of having weak competition for months.

Only four of the 13 maps are big enough to accommodate this mode, which often feels like trying to play tug of war as a group of ants. “Walker Assault” is a more interesting 40-player mode that has one side escorting a giant AT-AT toward a rebel base on the far end of the map. If the rebels defend the stations long enough to complete the transmission, the Y-wings will begin a bombing run that makes the AT-ATs temporarily vulnerable to damage. That’s 87 percent more than this summer’s “Jurassic World,” which opened domestically with a record $208.8 million in ticket sales and owns the all-time No. 3 spot with $1.7 billion worldwide.

There’s another mode dedicated to aerial combat called “Flight Squadron.” Every map is set high above a planet’s surface and offers little topography to play with. And sitting beneath all these familiar characters, battered vehicles, and awesome sounding blaster belches is a noticeably aging, mostly middling game that in some places verges on sloppiness. As for the all-time high, one thing “Avatar” had going for it: It rode a wave of consumer interest in 3-D, which costs a few dollars more than regular tickets.

This includes weapons such as Homing Shots, Thermal Imploders (Battlefront’s answer to grenades), gear like Jump Packs, or abilities including Focus Fire to hone in on an enemy target. The core of the experience – a pair of modes called Supremacy and Walker Assault – are the stuff of DICE’s Battlefield games, with big groups of players on large maps running around and fighting on the ground, manning emplaced turrets, and occasionally jumping into a variety of land and air vehicles. You may be engaged in decidedly Star Wars-ian tasks – such as attempting to arrest the slow march of a caravan of massive AT-ATs before they can hammer the Rebels’ power generator – but it’s just the veneer on what ends up a pretty familiar experience.

Players also have a selection of Blasters and preset looks for their rebel or stormtrooper, but without the deep customization they might see from similar games. These modes sound interesting, but the emphasis on lightsaber attacks, lightning blasts, and shoulder charges feel loose and weightless –more like placeholder ideas — that never quite mesh with gunplay. And in lieu of a single player story mode, DICE has repurposed a number of multiplayer maps into skirmishes against AI bots in the form of “Battles” and “Survival.” In “Battles” you’ll try to beat a team of bots to 100 by collecting gold tokens that drop when you kill an enemy. “Survival” leaves you stranded in a large map and asks you to hold out through 15 waves of increasingly difficult enemies and vehicles. The first installment of “The Hunger Games” was the leader in advance sales, but topped out at a worldwide gross of $693 million, not even in the all-time Top 10.

Both modes are exhaustingly monotonous in their own way, too easy on lower difficulties, and too punitive on higher ones, highlighting big flaws in map sightlines, cover placement, jetpack recharge times, and the frequently nonsensical AI. The movie also has a much bigger Chinese box office to tap. “Avatar” pulled down a monstrous $204 million in China through 2010, but the theatrical market there is now at least three times as big. In multiplayer you earn experience points for kills, capturing strategic objectives, and completing challenges (e.g. have 25 kills with a heavy blaster, destroy 10 AT-ATs). It could make the difference between the so-so reaction to the “Star Wars” prequels in Episodes 1 to 3 — with heavily parodied characters like Jar Jar Binks and video-game-like action scenes — and the satisfying revival that fans are hoping for. “The brand name alone and the excitement for the franchise will get huge numbers in the door,” Rentrak senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “But for very long-term prospects, you have to have a movie that delivers. The economy is haphazard, with jet packs and grenades available from the outset in “Survival” and “Battle” modes but locked away in standard multiplayer, adding to the uneven sense of play.

Cargo is basically capture the flag with backpacks instead of banners; Droid Run has players battling over standard control points, save that the control points are GNK robots that wander around a bit; and Blast is basically just deathmatch with blasters. A couple of game types that strive to incorporate the hero and villain characters are briefly thrilling and do a good job of showing how a character like Darth Vader can quickly carve his way through waves of rebels, deflecting blaster fire with his lightsaber and using Force choke to strangle enemies from afar. But one of these two modes – which sees the stormtrooper or rebel who lands the final hit on the hero or villain become a hero or villain him- or herself – just feels like tag. Another mode called Fighter Squadron places squads of TIEs and Interceptors against throngs of X-wings and A-wings in swarm-like aerial combat reminiscent of the big space battle above Endor in Return of the Jedi (except that, weirdly, none of the Fighter Squadron battles are in space). For Kasdan, “Star Wars” was appealing because its malleability was always oriented toward the promise of self-discovery. “Even when you get to be my age, you’re still trying to figure that out,” he told Wired. “It’s amazing but it’s true.

The game also boasts a solid, free Companion app for iOS and Android where players can customize their card options and earn in-game credits playing a turn-based tactical game called Base Command. What am I, what am I about, have I fulfilled my potential, and, if not, is there still time?” “Battlefront” inverts this idea, using the fantasy of military heroics to lure players into an escapist pyramid scheme, a grunt-eye view of someone else’s happy ending.

However, the level of depth Battlefront offers could present an issue for veteran players, while newcomers to shooters may yearn for more solo adventures — like a standard campaign with narrative — because of the challenging, competitive multiplayer space. Survival, which is basically a Star Wars-themed horde variant that allows two players to work together to fend off waves of attackers, begins with some promise. And Missions mode – a simple take on Call of Duty’s Kill Confirmed mode, with players collecting the tokens left by slain AI enemies dumbly rushing toward them – is merely moderately fun to play once, and unlikely ever to be revisited. Maps set on Endor, for example, are so thick with floor vegetation that you often can’t see the roots of giant trees, some of which are too big even to jump over. Hence, the frequent sight of players trying to run between trunks getting stuck on things they can’t see (usually just before being picked off by opportunistic enemies).

Another map set in an Imperial hanger full of catwalks stretching up to the roof has railed stairwells so skinny that characters can’t pass each other without awkwardly turning or jumping, creating annoying logjams. Battlefront might have been able to at least partly get away with its lacklustre collection of modes and keep players interested beyond the dozen or so hours it takes to try everything out a few times, but only if it had a compelling progression system. Collecting experience points does little more than provide slow and gradual access to a modest collection of primary weapons, plus a handful of secondary weapons and special abilities found on unlockable Star Cards.

The only truly game-changing ability I encountered is a jump pack that comes available early on and greatly enhances your ability to quickly move around the battlefield and dodge enemy fire. Perhaps players will find something to rekindle interest in the quartet of expansion packs due to arrive next year (a season pass is valued at nearly the price of the game itself, so we should expect it to nearly double the amount of content). Could the right people with fresh ideas not just evoke the aesthetic we love but also create an engaging sci-fi soap opera that feels new and relevant and cool? But while my issue has been reported by others – more than 2,000 people viewed a post that describes my problem to a tee on the official Star Wars Battlefront forums, several commenting that it was happening to them as well – it doesn’t seem to be very widespread, and none of my friends or colleagues have experienced the same difficulty. I attempted to keep the issues I encountered from colouring my review or affecting my score, but I’d be lying if I said being unable to connect most of the time didn’t leave me a bit frustrated.

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