Someone, somewhere, at some point in time once said that all good things must come to an end. For fans of the Star Wars Battlefront series, 2005 saw Star Wars Battlefront II mark the end of not just a good thing, but a great thing. Of course, since that point EA and DICE have picked up the baton with the attempt of bringing one of the most beloved shooters in the history of gaming to the masses once more, albeit in a somewhat modernised state. But it’s fair to say that things haven’t quite been the same since venturing back into the galaxy far far away. Does EA’s second attempt bring the experience fans have been craving for, or are we in for a long ride with a disappointing shooter? I jumped in with EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II to find out.
Whether you’ve decided to join the series for the first time, or you’re one of those who have continued to dip into Star Wars Battlefront in recent months, the thought of an all–new experience within the Star Wars universe is probably one that brings excitement, especially with the knowledge that the guys in charge of bringing it to life are also behind the popular and highly realistic Battlefield series
So what could go wrong? Well that all depends on what you want from the latest FPS adventure.
If you’re after a Star Wars experience that rings true with all the sound and visual effects brought to life, then DICE have once again done one hell of a job. You’ll find Star Wars Battlefront II is a game that you should be adding to the must buy list immediately. From the sound of the X-Wing coming into battle, to the buzz of lightsaber as you go head to head with Darth Vader, or the “pew pew” of a blaster rifle gunning down the opposition, there is no detail that has been considered too small to include. Of course, DICE aren’t exactly a small indie team, but not every Star Wars game has been a visual beauty and so praise must be given for the impeccable lifelike recreation of the beloved big screen hit.
If you’re looking to Star Wars Battlefront II to provide an action packed and all-round improved experience over the 2015 reboot however, then take a seat, prepare your angry shaking fists and let the disappointment sink. Star Wars Battlefront II is a far cry from being an improvement over the last game, and doesn’t really offer much in the way of being a proper sequel either.
One of the most enticing things about Star Wars Battlefront II for many was having a story driven adventure available this time around. For me, the option to engage in what was sure to be a spectacular story showing was too good to miss, and even as someone who regularly visits the multiplayer side of many first person shooters long after release, it was the story that had me excited to play.
Unfortunately, the folks over at DICE have somehow managed to turn a golden opportunity for a new, unique and exciting Star Wars story into one of the most boring, predictable and uninspiring tales seen in some time.
Other than a few missions in which you take on the role of a particular Hero to perform some oversized bug swatting with your lightsabre, the majority of the campaign is spent in the shoes of protagonist and Inferno Squad Commander, Iden Versio. Inferno Squad are the Empire’s elite battle squad, and as Commander Versio it’s your job and duty to put an end to the Rebellion’s anti-Imperial ventures. This of course means that in a daring move, DICE have finally allowed us the chance to take on the role of the bad guys – which at first sounds like an exciting and unexpected way to play through a universe full of heroes. After a mission that pulls on the strings of the protagonists feelings however, two of three members of Inferno Squad, including Versio, decide to go rogue before joining and fighting for the Rebel cause.
But it’s not the switch of allegiance that left me disappointed in the campaign. Instead the biggest issue was the fact that the only thing that kept me playing to the end was the performance and believable nature of the protagonist.
It’s been known for a while now that the role of Iden Versio would be portrayed by actress Janina Gavankar – known for her roles in True Blood, Sleepy Hollow, Vampire Diaries and Arrow – and as expected this is another role she has played to perfection. With such a huge budget behind Star Wars Battlefront II, and such a well-established and highly credited development team, there should be much more to the experience than just one good character.
As mentioned previously the visuals are certainly impressive, and for anyone hoping to walk around some of the finest worlds and moons of the one of the best sci-fi universes, Star Wars Battlefront II is a great recreation, but from the very first mission to the very last, mission pacing is excessively slow, the set pieces – whilst stunning – are predictable and the story is nothing more than the typical revenge plot we’ve seen so many times before. The ending leaves the story open for continuation in the inevitable sequel, however there is nothing other than the performance of our main protagonist that made me feel I’d ever want to continue on further.
What is also rather disappointing is that the overall experience is excessively short with the story all done with from start to finish within four to five hours, and that’s on the hardest difficulty. Compared to the campaigns of other recent FPS games like Wolfenstein II or Call of Duty, it is obvious that this is certainly nothing to be shouting about. And that’s without mentioning the fact that the entire campaign is riddled with basic grammatical mistakes that really shouldn’t have gone unnoticed.
After finding the story to be nothing like many of us had hoped for, I decided it was time to head into the multiplayer side of things. After all, I was a big fan of the multiplayer in the original, and with such a huge focus on multiplayer last time out, I was sure this would be where I’d find something to shout about.
At first glance there are at least some interesting changes to be found, especially with a couple of new game modes on offer with Starfighter Assault and Strike now available, whilst some of the more popular modes, such as Blast, remain.
Starfighter Assault is the biggest of the new modes and is essentially a 24-player ship-based dogfight in which players battle to attack and defend specific ships. It’s an interesting concept, but with memories of initial Star Wars Battlefront games on the original Xbox fresh in my mind, and the fact that they had a similar game mode but also allowed players to take the combat on foot upon the various ships, Starfighter Assault feels like yet another missed opportunity to create something spectacular. It tends to get repetitive very quickly too, given the lack of maps available.
Strike on the other hand comes in as a replacement for Cargo, seeing teams play both attack and defence across different object based scenarios. It’s not exactly much of a change to Cargo from previous, but Strike works much better and is a lot more enjoyable – provided you have a sensible team to play with.
Another change comes in relation to Heroes, with each of these now unlocked through skill rather than the luck of a pickup find out in the battlefield. This means that players are no longer found scrambling towards the usual pick up zones in a frenzy just to get a five-minute run with Darth Vader. In Star Wars Battlefront II, Heroes come into play by earning a set amount of score points during a game. Points are earned by killing enemies and taking part in objectives, with those that perform better earning more points; unlocking vehicles and playable Hero characters quicker. None of these can be selected without dying first though, so those on a long killstreak will probably find themselves waiting a while to jump into the shoes of their favourite Jedi.
Another change to the multiplayer is the addition of Star Cards. These are essentially unique perks you can use on your current loadout besides the usual ability options, with each class having their own set of Star Card slots, as do each of the Heroes in the game. By levelling up, you’ll get to unlock up to a maximum of three slots. There are a lot more than just three cards available however, and even after just four of five hours of multiplayer I had many more cards available to me than I’d ever actually use. But nevertheless the option and variety is nice to have, especially for those who like to change up their playstyle every now and again.
To unlock new Star Cards players can use in-game credits that are earnt from playing matches and redeeming challenge rewards to buy loot crates, albeit with no real money involved. Crates are cheap enough too, so it’s not rare to find you have enough credits available to buy the best possible crate after just a game or two. Alternatively, if you’ve already found Star Cards you’re happy with, then you can choose to craft and upgrade them for a credit outlay that will then see the card become even better. For example, my favourite class, Assault, saw me using the Assault Training Star Card frequently as it would give a small amount of health for each enemy defeated. This was a card I decided to upgrade as often as possible to ensure I’d receive as much health as possible upon each kill. There are different cards however and all have unique purposes, so it will depend on how you play as to which ones are worth using.
Outside of the Star Cards and easier access to Heroes, the multiplayer in Star Wars Battlefront II feels like much of the same as we saw first time around. In fact, other than the addition of Starfighter Assault, and Strike, there are no other changes to the multiplayer side of things that make Star Wars Battlefront II any different to the original. Sure, you have some new maps, and the few previously mentioned additional features, but overall the experience is pretty much identical. For me that was the biggest disappointment of all. Star Wars Battlefront was certainly a game I found myself enjoying for months after release, but it would have been nice to have seen something more than just a few new modes to change up the experience for the second outing. The changes in place instead feel like nothing more than DLC additions or updated material that could have quite easily been added to the first game with similar effect.
The final option now available comes in the form of Arcade Mode. This is where I found the biggest changes have been made and was actually the mode I found myself wanting to head back to due to it being rather enjoyable. Arcade Mode once again returns with Solo, split screen Co-op and Versus options available. This time however, the mission system has been revamped, and are now known as Battle Scenarios.
Scenarios are specially orchestrated encounters that take place throughout all eras of the Star Wars timeline. There are 16 missions in total, split evenly between the Light side and the Dark. Each mission tasks players with a new challenge, with three Tiers available for each mission – each of these is simply a harder version of the same thing. Completing missions and the respective Tier stages rewards players with stars, with a unique opportunity available for those who collect them all. Whilst this may not sound like the most exciting addition found in a AAA title, the challenges are much more fun to play than those in the original and become even better when played with a co-op partner.
The other option within Arcade mode is the Custom Arcade option, seeing players jump into a custom game of the Onslaught or Team Battle game modes against A.I. opposition with custom settings applied.
In terms of the gameplay, and with this being a big budget blockbuster, Star Wars Battlefront II is exactly what you would generally expect to find. The fast-paced combat is fluid and smooth, the visuals are a spectacle to behold and the sound effects can make you feel like someone just crashed a TIE-fighter into the side of your house. But with very little in the way of change when compared to the first Star Wars Battlefront and a story that falls flat once you look past the protagonist, Star Wars Battlefront II is a major disappointment, and a poor effort from a studio who have become renowned for making top quality shooters.