Star Wars

Battlefront 2 — Story Mode Hands-On Preview

For decades we have seen the Star Wars saga play out through the perspective of Rebel “terrorists.” But in the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2 story campaign we are able to see things through the eyes of Iden Versio, an elite Imperial Soldier and Commander of the Inferno Squad. Finally, we will be able to get a clear picture of how things actually went down between the Imperial Empire and the Rebel Scum. #TheEmpireDidNothingWrong

All kidding aside, earlier this week Goliath had the opportunity to travel to Montreal, Canada to EA’s Motive Studios for a hands-on preview of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 single player campaign. We were able to get a 90 minute behind-closed-doors look at the much anticipated collaborative effort between LucasFilm and Motive Studios. Our gameplay session took us through the first the three chapters of the game including the Prologue (entitled The Cleaner), Chapter 1: Battle of Endor, and Chapter 2: The Dauntless.

EA

Game Director Mark Thompson and Producer Paola Jouyaux were on hand to introduce the game and answer any questions that we had. The presentation began with Thompson discussing the three pillars of Battlefront gameplay: the trooper, the pilot, and the hero. The single player campaign aims to provide a compelling character that allows the player to experience all three of those pliers and still fit within the Star Wars universe. The Motive team found that the best solution would be to have the protagonist be the commander of an Imperial Special Forces Unit.

So while past Star Wars films (and games) have predominantly focused on the role of the hero only, the Battlefront story will be experienced on the frontlines of the battle between good and evil. The single player campaign is built upon the multiplayer foundation, and consistent controls between the two gameplay modes was of great importance to the team. The results of their efforts definitely paid off, as the controls were a carbon copy of what I had grown to love during multiplayer sessions.

EA

The campaign’s story takes place in the 30 years between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, a time that remains a significant gap in the Star Wars timeline. The first section of gameplay features Iden Versio being interrogated by rebel officers while being held captive. We soon discover that Iden has purposely been captured in order to obtain intel on the rebel’s strategy. This section of gameplay involves taking control of Iden’s ID10 Seeker Droid in order to steal enemy intel and free Iden from her cell.

Guiding the droid through the halls and air ducts of the rebel ship took a few minutes to get used to but I was soon flying the drone-like droid like a pro. The stealth gameplay section was complemented by an effective pulse ability to reveal enemy locations and a stun attack used to take out the more pesky rebel soldiers. Eventually you reach Iden, free her from her cell and begin your quest to escape the ship. Once you’re given some freedom as to how you approach the situation, you can either go the stealth route with the aid of your ID10 droid or you can pull out your blaster and start shooting.

Eventually you escape the ship by… simply jumping out of it? (yes that’s how it actually happened). Iden is apparently wearing a special suit that allows her to fly through space with relative ease. After safely landing on an Imperial ship, we are treated to a cutscene that sets up Chapter 1: Battle of Endor. I felt like the prologue was a good introduction to our main character and did a great job of slowly introducing the core gameplay mechanics. We are able to establish that Iden Versio is a dedicated Imperial Commander that has spent her entire life training for the role.

EA

Chapter 1 begins with Iden leading her squad, which consists of fellow soldiers Hask, Miko and Dell, through the forests of Endor. These new characters add a good amount of personality and humanity to a side of the Star Wars story that has been mostly hidden until now. The banter between the squad really adds depth to Iden’s story and showcases some of her motivations — and her relationship with Dell is particularly endearing.

As you navigate through the forest you come upon groups of rebel soldiers among the ruins of the preceding battle. Endor is an open world map that as we were told is the exact layout featured in the multiplayer beta. Again, you’ll have the option of approaching the situation in several ways, you can either use stealth and the aid of your droid to thin out the rebel soldiers quietly or go in with your guns blazing.

After accidently lobbing a grenade into a pack of rebels and alerting them to our presence, I was forced to use option two. Weapons crates are scattered amongst the map and I used them to customize my weapons and abilities. There was a nice mix of blasters, sniper rifles, and heavy weaponry as well as abilities upgrades such as shields, grenade upgrades, and increased weapon damage. After several fire fights, the Inferno Squad is forced to witness the destruction of the second iteration of the Death Star and the imminent fall of the Empire. Seeing the squad’s reaction to the destruction, as they realize many of their friends and colleagues are now dead, was a powerful moment.

You can really feel the sense of fear and uncertainty among a squad, now faced with surviving in world no longer controlled by the Emperor. There’s a real sense of urgency as the squad is suddenly tasked with taking over a platform full of rebel soldiers in order to commandeer some TIE Fighters and make their escape from Endor.

After escaping Endor in the TIE Fighter, Chapter 2 begins with a follow mission that introduces the game’s flight mechanics. This section of the game was easily my favorite. The space battle portions of Star Wars Battlefront 2 were crafted by renowned EA studio Criterion, who were responsible for the Burnout series of racing games. Criterion’s stamp on the game really shows and after a few early crashes I was able expertly control the TIE Fighter and navigate through the objectives of the space battle.

EA

In previous games I found that dog fighting in space’s gravity free environment could be very disorienting. However I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to complete tasks and follow the objectives. At this point in the story, we are already seeing some personal growth in our main character. She is already beginning to question some of the Empire’s motivations and is clearly asking too many questions. After the space battle, we’re treated to another cutscene in which we learn that although The Emperor is assumed dead, he appears through a messenger droid to introduce his last command — Operation Cinder. When our protagonist asks who the target is, she is told that she is not authorized to receive that information. Once again Iden Versio is conflicted by this revelation and we get some more insight into how her character’s progression may play out.

I left my gameplay session impressed with the early chapters of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 campaign. I’m looking forward to see where they go with Versio’s storyline and I am curious as to whether it will go beyond the predictable outcome. I would hate for the story to be a simple case of Commander Versio realizing that “Hey, maybe we’re really the bad guys” and then joining the Rebel Alliance in order to save the day. The gameplay itself was excellent, and I really enjoyed the ability to approach situations in different ways, with loadouts to suit my play style.

The first three chapters featured some nicely varied gameplay types and environments, but the TIE Fighter section stood out the most. On the technical side, I did notice some framerate dips while playing on the PS4 Pro but overall it performed very well. Graphically, the game doesn’t set itself apart from 2015’s Battlefront game but considering the original was one of the best looking games of all-time, it’s safe to say that this game is gorgeous.

Battlefront 2 features some amazing lighting and particle effects as well as some of the best facial animations around. The voice acting and sound design is top notch and feels like you’re hearing scenes from the movie. I asked Battlefront 2’s producer Paula Jouyaux how long of a campaign player can expect? We were told it should last around 5-to-7 hours, which isn’t bad considering the numerous amount of other co-op and multiplayer modes included with the game.

We’re eagerly awaiting the game’s release on November 17, for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stay tuned to Goliath for a full review.

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