If you cast your mind back to November 2015, Star Wars fever was running high ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the promise of two more movies in the new trilogy and spin off movies.
This was when Electronic Arts resurrected Star Wars Battlefront, and had the perfect opportunity to create a successful new era in the series’ history, but yet somehow managed to ultimately fall short, despite a visually impressive and immersive Star Wars experience.
It would be safe enough to assume that two years later, armed with the experience from their 2015 effort and with plenty of critic and fan feedback, that EA would deliver with Battlefront 2 what they couldn’t with Battlefield.
EA were quick to shout about the new single player campaign which was a core component of the game and not just an add on, and improved character progression, both of which, if handled well had the potential to elevate Battlefront 2 to great heights.
Unfortunately, the game fails with both of these endeavours.
The campaign is around five hours long if you’re lucky, with repetitive, unimaginative objectives, forcing you to clear and area of enemies then defend your ally while they hack a panel/plant a bomb, which simply means shooting wave after wave of dumb AI who simply walk towards you slowly, barely ever taking cover for longer than a few seconds.
The locations are even more frustrating as they give you a look at well-known Star Wars locales and introduce some new ones, but the moment you step even slightly off course, you’re met with a “Return to Mission Area”, making each level feel like a slog through a linear shooting gallery.
This is incredibly frustrating, as a lifelong Star Wars fan I so badly wanted to wander around these iconic and new locations, exploring and immersing myself in the world but no, the game ruthlessly kicks you back to the mission.
It controls fine and the shooting feels satisfying, and there are a large selection of weapons and abilities for you to try out during the campaign, although due to the aforementioned dumb AI, it doesn’t really matter what you choose as you’ll gun them all down with ease.
When you’re not running around on the ground fighting, you’ll jump between space combat and on-rails vehicle sections, the former isn’t bad but is shockingly easy and gets repetitive fast and the latter is average at best and broken at worse (the AT-AT section in particular is jarring, it’s as if nobody in EA actually tested that section).
You play as Iden Versio, the leader of Inferno Squad, a special forces unit in the Galactic Empire and daughter of an Imperial admiral. When the Death Star is destroyed and Emperor Palpatine is killed, what happens to the Empire next will define the future of the galaxy…
At least that’s the vision EA promised us with the trailers and marketing. Instead we get a generic good versus evil story, and without spoiling the plot, there’s massive changes happen in the story, ones I expected to happen, but not so soon or in such a sudden way as to make the story so very bland and predictable.
Considering the campaign is so short, it’s odd that DICE decided to dedicate five separate missions to a hero, such as a Princess Leia mission or a Luke Skywalker mission, the latter of which is mainly spent killing alien beetles with your lightsaber… seriously.
It’s frustrating as Iden isn’t an uninteresting character, and voice actor Janina Gavankar does a great job with the material provided, but so much time diverted away from her character and story feels like speedbumps more than anything else.
Most people will be interested in Battlefront 2 for the multiplayer though, so if the campaign is bad, at least they can rely on a new and improved multiplayer, right?
The negative media storm surrounding the in-game purchases and loot boxes is well-known by now, and although EA backed down and temporarily removed the ability to purchase in-game currency, the damage is already done.
The entire multiplayer progression system has been designed from the ground up to encourage players to pay, rather than wait for what they want by grinding and actually you know, playing the game.
You’d think the logical way to handle progression is; you play as the Officer class a lot and by doing so, you unlock new weapons, abilities and boosts for that class. The more you play as that class and the better you play, but that’s using logic, and there is no logic in how progression works here.
You earn credits when you finish a match, usually around 3-400, and an Infantry loot crate costs 4000 credits. Inside each crate you’ll get a random array of boosts, upgrades and more often than not, emotes and victory poses, the latter two having absolutely no impact on gameplay.
Cosmetic items in loot boxes are bearable in a game like Overwatch, where that’s all there is. Nothing you get in an Overwatch loot box gives you an advantage over another player, but in Battlefront 2, getting an emote just means that’s one less actually useful perk or ability you’re missing out on.
After a dozen hours, there’s a good chance that you still won’t have unlocked the upgrade you want for your favourite class, or maybe none at all for that class.
You can craft the upgrades you want using crafting parts but they also come from loot crates, so the whole system makes you feel as if it doesn’t really matter how well you do in a game or if you win or lose, either way you have just as good or bad a chance of unlocking what you actually want.
There’s also no squad system or voice chat, so team work is essentially non-existent and even in objective game modes, most players simply run around fighting as if it’s team deathmatch.
And it’s hard to blame them too much, even if you come out on top of the scoreboard, you’ll still get a paltry amount of credits at the end, so there’s barely any incentive to play the objective beyond keeping the match going on a bit longer.
It’s such a shame as the game itself is fun to play, especially if you like Star Wars. If you told 5 year old me that I would be running around Endor as a Stormtrooper in an almost-lifelike world, I’d have probably called you a liar.
Galactic Conquest is the main mode and it’s a huge 40 player battle, usually with one team attacking while the other defends, and if you find a good game with decent teammates, it can be exhilarating. An insanely annoying aspect of the multiplayer are Battle Points, which are earned in-game and only last for that match. You use them to play as special units like rocket troopers, use jump into battle as one of the Heroes.
Of course, you have to spend credits to unlock a lot of the heroes first, adding more steps to enjoy one of the games’ biggest selling points. If you want to cut down Rebels as Darth Vader (and who doesn’t?), you first need to spend 15,000 credits to unlock him, then while in a match, earn 6 to 8,000 credits to actually spawn as him.
Of course, this means that you can’t play as rocket troopers, Wookie warriors and other special units who cost less, as that’ll just eat into your savings for Vader.
For most players, myself included, this means you basically save up all your points and hope that the match doesn’t end before you get a chance to play as Vader, or even worse, you manage to spawn as him and after barely doing anything, the match ending.
The same problem applies to vehicles, instead of simply being like Battlefield 4 for example, where the vehicles are left empty in each base ready to be used, you have to spend battle points to get them, which usually leads to simply the very best players hogging them (there are limits to the number of vehicles allowed at once).
These are baffling decisions which harm the game, but could so easily have been avoided. The 2005 version of Star Wars Battlefront 2 was amazing. It had Battlefield-style conquest mode, vehicles were free to use for anyone, players were given control of heroes at random, meaning everyone had a chance to play as them, and the class system worked perfectly.
EA and DICE could have literally remade that exact game with improved graphics and sound and had the game of the year on their hands, but instead greed won out.
All of the messy, confusing points system and unlocks ruin what could have been amazing. The visuals for example are practically flawless, the lighting and character models are absolutely gorgeous, it genuinely does look like a Star Wars movie at times.
And as you’d expect from DICE, the sound design is perfect, honestly, it’s practically impossible to find a fault with the audio. Composer Gordy Haab blends the usual Star Wars score we’re used to with new themes, from across all three trilogies.
Everything in-game sounds spectacular too, the nose of lightsabers, blasters and my personal favourite, the roar of a TIE Fighter are recreated perfectly and it’s a game you really need to experience with some kind of surround sound system or headphones.
Ultimately EA and DICE had the potential to create something amazing. The enormous well of Star Wars lore across almost 9 movies, combined with the visuals and audio DICE is known for, could have made Battlefront 2 incredible.
Unfortunately, we got a mediocre shooter ruined by the greed of micro transactions and if it didn’t have the Star Wars name attached, I doubt we’d be talking about it at all.
Star Wars Battlefront II was reviewed using a review copy supplied by EA on an Xbox One X.