The build-up for Star Wars: Battlefront II is somewhat reminiscent of the hype and build of 1999’s The Phantom Menace. Episode I was promised to herald in a new era of Star Wars, it was the first film released in 22 years, and the community could not wait to sit in movie theatres around the globe and watch the rise and subsequent fall of Anakin Skywalker. After the film had finished, however, all the excitement and joy were largely replaced by apprehension and disappointment. To this day, many, many Star Wars fans will cite The Phantom Menace as ‘the worst’ in the saga. I, for one, do not share this view, and I am a massive fan of the Prequel trilogy, but that is a whole other argument for another day, so let’s get back to the original point. Star Wars: Battlefront II’s hype was extremely positive for most of the lead up to the release. EA had not only promised to abolish paid DLC, they promised heroes and locations across the entire saga and, most importantly, they promised a campaign mode where the story will be completely canon to the entire saga. Fans rejoiced like the Rebels on Endor after the destruction of the Death Star II, but in the end, the initial reaction to the game just prior to and after release was more like the Death Star blowing up Alderaan than the party on Endor. But, like my feelings towards The Phantom Menace, this is not an opinion I share.
One of the main things missing from DICE’s first Battlefront release back in 2015 was a campaign mode. The first priority for most big first-person shooters is multiplayer, but Call of Duty, Halo and Battlefield all have campaign/story modes to help cater to a wider audience. EA did listen to this request and announced that not only would Battlefront II feature an offline campaign mode, it would also be canon to the Star Wars saga. There have been plenty of stories told over the numerous Star Wars video games that have been released, but none of them until now were ‘officially’ recognised to be a part of the main saga’s story. Battlefront II’s story is told from the perspective of a soldier in the Galactic Empire, which also proves to be a great change. You play as Commander Iden Versio, the leader of a special forces division known as Inferno Squad. Of course, this being Star Wars, it is a tale of redemption, and Iden soon finds herself questioning the Empire’s plan after the death of Emperor Palpatine.
The 5 or so hours it took to complete the campaign felt relatively short, but it is all about quality, not quantity, people. Iden’s story is excellently-paced, and her story is broken up brilliantly by players jumping into the shoes of some of our most beloved characters from time to time. The action is perfectly split between intense shootouts on the ground and heart-racing space battles. There were also a good number of opportunities to utilize some stealth tactics throughout. One criticism I keep reading with regards to the campaign is that it doesn’t really tell a ‘coherent’ story in the same way Call of Duty’s does, for example, but you can’t look at Battlefront II’s story like this. This campaign mode is more of a companion piece to the saga overall rather than a standalone epic tale. This is not more evident than when two characters make cameos by name only. I won’t spoil who these two are, but when they are mentioned, you can really appreciate just how much work goes into tying the whole Star Wars story together.
Aside from the brilliant campaign mode, you’ll find two other ways to spend your time with Battlefront II. First, there is the arcade mode, which can provide a difficult challenge to even the most gifted players. You can play through the challenges which range from defeating a certain number of enemies in a specific time to just wiping out the entire other team. The challenges have three difficulty levels, and let me tell you, trying to kill 60 odd Rebels in 40 seconds is a challenge. You can also set custom matches where you can just jump into the action, a bit like the old quick action that featured in the original Battlefront games. This is a great way to kill 10 minutes while waiting for something, or if you’re just in the mood to sit and shoot, then this can also keep you occupied, especially since you can set the opposing team to have 500 troops!
The multiplayer for Battlefront II improves on its predecessor’s efforts in 2015. The same basic elements are there, the maps look fantastic, the sounds of the blasters and ships really do sound like they are taken straight from the films and, most importantly, it is fun. There are some big changes to the multiplayer, one overwhelmingly positive change and another that has caused the pre and post-release issues for EA.
Let’s get the obvious out first. Yes, EA made a huge error in the progression and loot crate system. They saw an opportunity to make a lot of extra money from fans’ passion for one of the most beloved franchises in the world. The reaction became so bad that Disney themselves stepped in to speak with the big wigs at EA. What was said? No one will know for sure, of course, but EA decided it was best to get rid of the paid loot crate system instead of requiring players to play near 40 hours’ worth of gameplay to unlock, say, Darth Vader. Loot crates do remain in Battlefront II, but they can only be purchased from in-game currency. You can also save the number of credits (this will do fine) needed to unlock Vader in a couple of hours’ worth of gameplay. The two ways of looking at this backtrack are that either EA have admitted to their poor judgement and are trying their hardest to fix it, or they were just seeing how far they could push this loot crate stuff, and this was always in the grand plan. What side do I fall on? Honestly, I didn’t and don’t care. Paid for content is nothing new, especially to an EA game. How much extra money have FIFA players spent over the years? It is always just an optional extra. Yes, it always has the potential to get out of hand with people potentially spending 100s of extra pounds/dollars/euros on these loot crates or to unlock the heroes that are not available from the start. That seems to be one of the biggest complaints against Battlefront II, that Luke, Vader and other iconic characters are not available from the start. EA’s defence was that they wanted players to have a sense of achievement when they unlocked these characters, something which was commonplace in video games in the 90s, but in 2017? We are all impatient and need everything from the start, don’t we?
Now with that out of the way, let us get back to what makes Battlefront II’s multiplayer so much fun. Firstly, there is content from all the eras of the saga. The one thing I missed most from Battlefront was the inclusion of the Clone Troopers. The Prequel era may not be universally loved by the community, but if there is one thing everyone can agree on, it is that the Clone Troopers were awesome. The original Battlefront II encapsulated this perfectly with the game really centred around the Grand Army of the Republic’s finest. Thankfully, they are back in 2017’s Battlefront II, along with the Droid army of the Separatists, as well as the First Order and Resistance from the new era. Along with these troops also come maps set from the three time periods, and like the character models, they all look and feel great. While playing on Theed, you can really lose yourself and feel like you are actually there, running around, shooting clankers in the head just outside of the Royal Palace.
Another huge addition to Battlefront II is space battles. The vehicle combat was a lot of fun in Battlefront, but it was just missing that epic feel we saw in the movies due to all of them (apart from the Scariff DLC) actually taking place on a planet. The matches also last a lot longer now thanks to actual objectives as opposed to just eliminating the other team. The downside is that they can seem to drag on a bit longer than they should, but this really is dependent on if you have two full teams going at it. When you have two full teams, these really do feel as epic as the battles we have seen in the movies and the two animated shows, with lasers firing from every direction.
Most people will spend the majority of their time in Battlefront II’s multiplayer playing Galactic Assault. This is where Battlefront II truly shines as an online shooter. It’s a 40 player playground with various objectives and scenarios to complete. The battle of Theed, for example, will see the Clone Troopers attempting to stop the approaching Droid army’s MTT (Multi-Troop Transport). If they cannot be stopped, then the battle moves on to the Troopers trying to repel the Droids from entering the Royal Palace. If you fail to do this, then it comes down to protecting the Throne Room. The battles can last anywhere between 10 minutes to beyond 30 minutes. To help achieve victory for either team, heroes and vehicles are still available, but the way you can play as one of them has changed dramatically from Battlefront. Now, instead of finding a random power-up card somewhere in the map, you need to obtain a certain amount of points. Taking control of an X-Wing, for example, will cost you 900 points, which really doesn’t take long to get, and even the less-skilled players will be able to fly around in an X-Wing or even control one of the heroes before long. Speaking of the heroes, there are some fantastic new additions, none more so fantastic than Darth Maul. All his acrobatic attacks which made him so popular are here, and it is so much fun playing as him. With Maul’s inclusion though, it seems strange that DICE have left out his nemesis, Obi-Wan; perhaps he will be included in the planned, free, DLC. Battlefront II does really cater to players of all skill, and a Star Wars fan who really isn’t that good at online shooters (like yours truly) will still have a blast. You might die a lot, but the game is still a lot of fun.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 17th November 2017