Developer: EA DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One [reviewed]
Released: November 17, 2017
Copy supplied by publisher
EA’s 2015 reboot of Star Wars Battlefront was met with some mixed reactions, to say the least. Longtime fans of the series had been waiting for a nearly a decade to receive a proper follow-up to the critically acclaimed Star Wars Battlefront II, and while the reboot featured some excellent gameplay and some of the greatest visuals and sound design ever seen in a video game, it was pretty light on content. The game featured a few basic multiplayer modes and a decent, but barebones horde mode that could be played co-operatively. However, the most glaring omission from the game was its complete lack of a story campaign. Two years later, I’m happy to report that the trifecta of EA’s DICE, Motive, and Criterion studios have come together like Voltron to craft an experience that is loaded with content spanning the entire Star Wars Universe. Unfortunately, the overwhelming progression system and pay-to-win aspect of the loot crate unlocks keep Battlefront II from being an instant classic.
The original Battlefront (not to be confused with the actual original Star Wars Battlefront) was heavily multiplayer focused, leaving many fans pining for a single player story experience running on the gorgeous Frostbite 3 engine. This time around, EA decided to enlist the help of the newly-formed Motive Studios out of Montreal to craft an actual campaign mode. Having several studios each focus on a certain section of the Star Wars Battlefront II experience has proven to be a wise decision on EA’s part, as the campaign hits on all of the story beats fans are looking for and is packed full of Star Wars goodness.
The story takes place in the 30 years between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens; a time period that remains a significant gap in the Star Wars timeline. The lead character is Iden Versio, Commander of an Imperial Special Forces Unit called the Inferno Squad. I enjoyed experiencing the story campaign from the Imperial perspective and for the most part, Motive Studios and Lucasfilm have crafted a compelling narrative. Creating a campaign that features perspectives from both sides of the conflict is no easy feat and I felt that the two teams were successfully able to incorporate most of the franchise’s iconic characters without it feeling forced. The campaign also does an excellent job of retaining the same control scheme of the multiplayer modes, which makes for a seamless transition between the two. Without spoiling the campaign, it’s safe to say that the 5-7 hour experience should satisfy even the most die-hard Star Wars fans.
While it was nice to finally get our hands on a legitimate Star Wars Battlefront single player campaign, the game’s primary focus is its multiplayer ecosystem. EA’s DICE Studio has a long history of building compelling multiplayer experiences with their decade-long run of Battlefield titles. With 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront, the team proved they could make a successful transition into the Star Wars universe; with Battlefront II, DICE has once again proven that they are among the industry’s best when it comes to crafting a complete multiplayer experience that is also a ton of fun.
There are five main multiplayer modes included in the package, along with an Arcade Mode that can be played offline against computer A.I. opponents. The arcade mode is an excellent way to get your feet wet with multiplayer and taking some time to complete a few of the missions will be beneficial once you enter the more competitive modes. Arcade mode is also a great way to be able to play as some of the series most iconic heroes without having to spend tens of hours with the game in hopes of unlocking them.
The signature mode of the game’s multiplayer lineup is Galactic Assault. The 20 vs. 20 battles are played out on large objective based maps and feature just about every character and vehicle in the Star Wars Universe; it’s complete chaos in the best way possible. In one particularly memorable match, I began the round as an Assault Trooper, spent some time as Darth Maul, and finished the round patrolling the skies in a Tie Fighter. Galactic Assault’s greatest attribute is its ability to provide the player with a sense of experience that rivals that of the epic battles in the films. The next mode, Starfighter Assault, is new to the series and is easily my favorite mode in the entire game. Whereas Galactic Assault focuses on battles within a planet’s atmosphere, Starfighter Assault allows players to live out their fantasies of taking control of the series most iconic ships and dogfighting in space. Criterion Studio, famed creators of the Burnout racing series, took the reigns on the creation of this fast-paced, kill-or-be-killed objective based mode. The controls in Starfighter Assault are smooth as butter and after a couple matches, you’ll be weaving your ship between asteroids, enemy battleships, and other combatants. Criterion did a fantastic job of giving players a sense of control and perspective in an antigravity environment where what’s up now may be down a split second later. Being able to control all of the series’ most iconic ships like the Millennium Falcon, Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing, or Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter is also a nice bonus. With tight controls and a decent variety of objective-based maps, Starfighter Assault is a fantastic addition to the Battlefront series.
Next up is Blast Mode, a classic 10 vs. 10 team deathmatch variant where two sides face off in smaller, action-packed maps. This is the mode for people who enjoy the typical multiplayer experience where the goal is to simply eliminate members of the other team. While I found the mode to be a lot of fun, I preferred the objective based maps featured in other multiplayer modes. Admittedly, this is mostly due to the fact that I’m just not great at first-person shooters. I enjoy being able to contribute to my team by playing the objective and appreciate that I can earn points and rise up the leaderboard without having to have the most kills. Moving along, Strike Mode is an 8 vs. 8 is a class-based mode where the variance of skills between the Assault, Heavy, Specialist, and Officer come into play more than any other mode. Strike requires teamwork and planning to effectively seize or sabotage the objective. I felt that development team did a great job of creating a sense of urgency with the various objectives and well-crafted maps.
The final multiplayer mode is one that fans are going to both love and hate. Heroes vs. Villains is a 4 vs. 4, team-based mode where players get to take control of Star Wars’ most memorable figures. This is a no-holds-barred battle where players take turns being the “Target.” If the targeted player is on your team, your goal is to defend them; if the target is on the opposing team, your goal is to eliminate. It’s an interesting and highly enjoyable gameplay mode that allows for some crazy combinations of characters, but this is also where the negative aspect of Heroes vs. Villains — and of the game in general — comes into play. Many of the Heroes are locked behind a progression system that can take 5-10 hours of gameplay time before you acquire enough battle points to purchase your favorite hero.
When the Star Wars Battlefront II multiplayer Beta gave players a glimpse of the overwhelming progression and loot crate system attached to the multiplayer infrastructure, the community was outraged. This was mostly due to the fact that you could attain weapons and character upgrades by paying real life currency in order to gain an advantage in online matches. While EA has taken steps to adjust the system (for example, the best items are no longer available in crates), they arguably would have been better off changing the system to only allow cosmetic upgrades. More recently, it was estimated that it would take up to 40 hours of gameplay in order to unlock each of your favorite heroes. Spending that much time with a game is something that only the most hardcore players will do, leaving the average player unable to experience a good portion of the game. EA says that it’s listening to fans and has since released a statement saying that they have cut the points required for character unlocks down by 75%. This would cut the amount of time needed down to the 5-10 hours per character which I noted earlier. It’s nice to see that EA is making these changes, but the overall controversy doesn’t reflect well on the company and has understandably left a bad taste in many consumers’ mouths.
It’s unfortunate that such a fantastic game is going to be covered in such a cloud of negativity. I feel like the goodwill that EA could have built by providing the fans with the Star Wars game they’ve always wanted may be marred by trying to squeeze every cent out of the game that they possibly can. Star Wars Battlefront II is a fantastic game that features an extensive amount of content and the addition of a single player campaign will be welcomed by both casual and hardcore gamers alike. Unfortunately, the game’s overwhelming progression system and pay-to-win loot crates keep it from being an instant classic.