Star Wars: Battlefront 2 review

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Battlefront 2

This review was based on Star Wars Battlefront 2 played on Xbox One X in True 4K.

 

There is a great disturbance in the force.

Following positive reviews based on the beta, things were looking pretty good for EA and Dice’s follow up to the maligned 2015 Star Wars Battlefront reboot. However, when a Reddit user uncovered the truth behind micro transactions, EA was left scrambling after it was revealed that the retail release would take players around 40 hours to unlock certain characters like Darth Vader, and that the game was heavily favoring a pay to win model.

As the plot thickened, the collective fanbases of both gaming and Star Wars started spitting fire, resulting in massive cancellations of pre-orders, some suspect backtracking from EA, an angry phone call from Star Wars rights holder Disney and a crisis that even made national news as it had an effect on EA’s stock numbers.

This unfortunate decision, and the backlash that EA has faced in its wake has marred a game which could actually be considered an improvement on its predecessor, and a worthwhile addition to the Star Wars franchise.

Story

Battlefront 2 features many familiar Star Wars locations, and also a few new ones.

Bridging the gap between the Original Trilogy and the Force Awakens, Battlefront 2 tells the story of Iden Versio, leader of Imperial Specialist group Inferno Squad. An introductory level familiarizes the player with Iden, and the mechanics of the game as she finds herself a captive of the treacherous Rebel Alliance.

Following her daring escape from Rebel capture, Iden’s Inferno squad find themselves planetside during the Battle of Endor, bewildered as the Death Star is soon destroyed and the Empire is thrown into chaos.

The story serves as a bridge between Return of the Jedi and the Battle of Jakku, whose aftermath is the setting of the most recent Star Wars film – the Force Awakens. The story itself is not without its quirks, however the single player feels incredibly rushed, and even ends on a cliffhanger that begs the question – will Iden’s story be completed as part of EA’s free DLC plans, or will it be a part of an inevitable cash grabbing sequel or DLC sometime down the road?

The single player campaign is fairly short, and most levels left me wanting more. Hero levels were shoehorned into the story, almost comically to help remind us “Hey, this is a Star Wars game” for some reason.

Coupled with this bizarre storytelling tactic was a disappointing decision to have Iden switch sides midway through the game. The Rebel defector narrative is a popular one in the Star Wars universe, however I felt that it would have been easier for the story to standout, and perhaps have a better tale to tell of how the Empire became the First Order while connecting the dots between the original trilogy and the new series. 

To date only the classic Tie Fighter flight simulation game stands as the only one where you play the entire storyline as a member of the Imperial Empire.

Gameplay

Following a bout with EA Access early 10 hour trial, I have to admit I was hooked on this new game, and hadn’t really become aware of the storm brewing online. The mechanics have been tweaked in the right ways, and the game is a lot of fun. In fact, if it weren’t for the bizarre decisions EA made on microtransactions, this game may have competed for some top awards this year on it’s multiplayer alone.

Single Player

When not playing through Iden’s story, players are forced into hero-controlled levels that happen in conjunction with her timeline, playing as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian and Kylo Ren. While it’s always great to play as your favourite heroes, the truth is that the end product feels rushed, and frankly out of place.

What I mean is that Battlefront takes too much from the Halo playbook – the lone soldier/walking tank variety. These Hero levels feel very much like you’re controlling an invincible juggernaut, and while I experienced a few deaths during the playthrough it was relatively easy to just beeline to the objective. This shortened the single player campaign, and showed that there was very little in the way of tactical finesse required to pass the levels.

Where Battlefront 2 shines is where it mimics the original Battlefront 2, particularly in Iden Versio’s storyline missions involving space battles. There are levels where you jump in a fighter, battle through space and then board another ship to destroy it within. These were some of the cornerstone moments of Lucasarts’ original Battlefront 2, and as I was playing them I was wondering why not more.

The truth is there isn’t enough in the Single Player story. There are a few of these levels scattered through the entire single player campaign, but they can also suffer from the juggernaut syndrome. It’s a shame, because when they hit the right notes (for instance the Battle of Jakku levels) it seems like it could be so good. Battlefront has always been best when you feel like one part of a large squad or army, and this mechanic was simply missing from the Single Player campaign. It’s also unfortunate when you consider this is the core mechanic of EA Dice’s other blockbuster wartime game.

 

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Multiplayer

Many of Battlefront’s best modes have made the cut in Battlefront 2.

Battlefront 2 is definitely a big improvement on the first game. The multiplayer feels very much like what you’d expect from a Star Wars Battlefront game you’d want – fast paced, easy to get into and very exciting. Instead of squads of two, you are now queued up with three other players and loaded into the game as a squad. It was a very painless experience getting into a game, and as player familiarize themselves, I noticed squads starting to work together.

The levels are incredible; most of the more popular game modes from 2015’s Battlefront have made the cut, and the improvement of space battles is nearly worth the price of admission alone.

Now for the bad news – as we’ve all heard, micro transactions hurt this game. I don’t believe that you should open a game on day one and everything should be unlocked. EA is correct in saying that unlocking characters is part of a sense of accomplishment that gaming gives its fanbases. Many of The Loot Gaming’s writers totally agree on this notion. However, it’s the impact of micro transactions within Battlefront that are truly concerning, and how the game has been tailored in such a way – very similar to a free-to-play type of game with thousands of hours of grinding required to fully unlock all the content.

EA has backpedalled over the past few days on the micro transactions, however it will take some time to see how their mishandling may have a broader impact on the game’s sales and the community which is so critical in a game that is so heavily focused on multiplayer.

 

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Unfortunate timing.

Arcade Mode

Arcade Mode feels a lot like Battlefront 2 should. Couch co-op gives players an opportunity to play scenarios, just like the old Battlefront games. These modes and scenarios definitely stood out as a good add on to the game, however they were marred by a countdown timer which removed the credits earned after playing a few levels. Once again the blight of EA’s microtransaction decisions were on full display.

Space Battles

Once again here’s another good improvement that just left me wanting more, however I felt like it was worth mentioning. The space combat in this game is good – some of the best I’ve played since Crimson Skies (full disclosure, I love that game). As someone who spent countless hours on PC playing the X-Wing versus Tie Fighter series, I felt this was a welcome and necessary change Battlefront 2 needed to make over the prior reboot.

Dear EA, more of this please!

The controls are fluid, and the space battle levels typically stand out as some of the most fun I’ve had with the game to date.

That being said… I wanted more. I wanted the Death Star run. Both of them, actually. Perhaps EA has more plans for these in future DLC releases?

Graphics and Sound

Developed using EA Dice’s Frostbite engine, Battlefront 2 is an Xbox One X enhanced title – and it delivers in stunning 4K. The image quality is crisp, and the vibrant alien worlds of the Star Wars universe are brought to life in dynamic fashion.

As has been the narrative in the weeks since Xbox One X stress tests starting showing up online, Battlefront 2 continues the trend of high quality textures and almost entirely stable framerates even in the midst of large scale battles (a few minor one off stutters did occur, but very infrequently).

As for the sound – Star Wars is the penultimate space opera, and this game delivers the classic soundtrack and sound effects that we’ve all come to know and love. While the story left a lot to be desired, the soundtrack was definitely a standout. Characters and sounds from all three eras of Star Wars make their way into the repertoire, and it’s a nice thing to hear.

 

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Summary

Nearly two years to the day after releasing the re-imagined Star Wars: Battlefront, Electronic Arts released Star Wars: Battlefront 2. In an effort to distance themselves from a game which was maligned by both critics and players for its costly DLC model that fragmented the online community, and lack of substantial single player/couch co-op content, EA Dice had promised that Battlefront 2 would put our fears to rest. Instead, the controversy that has come out of the micro transaction debacle has overshadowed some of the good that has been done in this sequel, namely all map content being free, amazingly improved space battles and an intriguing set of free post launch content.

Hindsight being 20/20, EA should have opted for more feedback on their pay to play model. Disappointing considering there’s actually a very fun multiplayer game here, lost among the online jargon. While we only have information on EA’s first wave of post content launch plans, one has to wonder if there are more single player missions potentially on the horizon that could complete Iden’s story, and most would welcome more levels with emphasis on starfighting, perhaps akin to the original Battlefront games.

That being said, in its current state I can’t recommend Battlefront 2 to anyone but the hardcore Star Wars fans until EA sets the record straight and makes amends. This game feels more Attack of the Clones than Empire Strikes Back.

 

Star Wars: Battlefront 2

5.5

Story

6.0/10

Gameplay

8.0/10

Multiplayer

5.0/10

Space Battles

7.5/10

Microtransactions

1.0/10

Cool

  • Space Battles - we need more of these.
  • Some of the levels were akin to the original Battlefront 2. Once again, we need more!
  • Audio and visual treat for those who have Xbox One X.
  • There is a single player campaign, albeit a short one.
  • The game is a lot of fun, despite the flaws.

Not Cool

  • Microtransactions
  • Not enough of the meat, may be included down the road.
  • Lackluster single player.
  • The botched launch could fragment the player base, all over again.