I am left disappointed with the recent debacle surrounding EA and microtransactions, since that completely overshadowed the appreciation that the gaming community should be showing to DICE for making such an incredible Star Wars game. Battlefront 2 is quite possibly the most beautiful game that I have played on a current generation console, and the game has released at the perfect time as the Star Wars fan base eagerly anticipates the release of The Last Jedi. I’m not suggesting that Battlefront 2 is the best game that EA has delivered. If I had a choice, I’d still prefer playing Battlefield over this, only because I believe that the progression system in Battlefront 2 is a tad unforgiving at times. However, when I view the sales statistics of Battlefront 2 in comparison to its predecessor, I believe it is completely unjustified. Perhaps this could be due to the launch of Call of Duty, but I am sure that the microtransactions-gate has been very detrimental to the sales. The real loser is DICE, as the developers have done a phenomenal job recreating the essence of Star Wars.
This is perhaps one of the greatest attributes of the game. Battlefront 2 is truly a gorgeous game, and the world of Star Wars just so happens to be picturesque. Famous locations like Endor and Naboo on a current generation console, on a 4K projector look stunning. The quality of sound whilst flying ships such as the Millennium Falcon whilst playing the game through a Dolby Atmos setup is jaw dropping. Even the characters within the world are incredibly rendered, and all of the famous personalities are very easily distinguishable. Often when you watch single player trailers for the first time, the hype gets the better of you when it comes to graphics. However, Battlefront 2’s single player mode lived up to all of my graphical expectations, and ended up looking even better than I could have imagined. The only nagging point is that the actors are not voiced by their real-life counterparts. It’s not the biggest deal, but in order to make the game truly authentic, I would have loved for Harrison Ford to voiceover Han Solo. There’s no surprise that the main protagonist of the game sounds the best and most real.
Although I have already mentioned this before, I must emphasize the importance of having good sound quality when playing this game. Sound is often an important factor in shooting games, but in Battlefront 2, it completely defines your experience. Star Wars is nothing without roaring Tie Fighters, blasting lasers and whizzing lightsabers. Despite the voice acting lacking authenticity, the sound effects are perfect. In addition, Star Wars is widely recognized for its brilliant musical score. Different characters have certain theme tunes. These scores also make their way into the game, and a particular encounter with Luke Skywalker in the early half of the game really had my Star Wars juices pumping.
There is no question that the first half of the campaign is more enjoyable than the latter half. I felt that after the first half, I had pretty much done it all. I had controlled a variety of ships (I won’t specifically mention which ones in order to avoid spoilers), controlled plenty of characters and mastered the art of the blaster gun. Versio is the main attraction of the campaign, as her journey is a welcome addition to the Star Wars saga. She is essentially a female version of Finn when it comes to personality. Whilst the followers of the Empire are recognised as ruthless and heartless, Commander Versio is able to show empathy and compassion for those who are in need. The setting of the campaign is perfect too, as the game helps bridge some of the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens (although don’t expect the game to fully bridge the gap). My biggest problem with the campaign was how the story developed. Versio’s journey takes her down a path that I didn’t want to experience. There is a pivotal moment in the campaign as you’re performing a rescue as part of the Inferno Squad, and at this point, the gamer should have been able to choose what direction to take Versio.
There is no backstory to Versio. She starts off as a commander, and you just have to accept that. Although the campaign largely focuses on her journey, it will at points digress and allow you to play as other characters, which involve some of the members of her squad. I personally have no problem with this – I appreciate that it may have been the only way for the writers to fit in the popular locations and characters that we have grown to love. After all, they are what will sell the game. Do they actually help develop Versio’s journey? Not at all, but they did help prolong the campaign. Luckily, the missions are very short, so you don’t spend too long digressing from the main story.
For those who have never heard of Operation Cinder, this is essentially the new weapon that the Empire plans on developing. I would have thought that the entire campaign would be devoted to shutting this down, however half way through it, even that was neutralized. There are too many time jumps in the campaign and due to this, I stopped caring so much about the story and focused on just enjoying the various visuals, gameplay and audio. Lando’s appearance was the most surprising welcome – any Star Wars story that has Lando is worth a shout. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more of him.
I played the campaign on the medium difficulty, but even then it was really easy to complete. When on the ground, the formula is pretty straightforward; run to a place, shoot out the enemy whilst taking cover and repeat. You have a mini drone that can shock enemies, which comes in very handy in the unlikely case that you get overwhelmed with enemies. You will often encounter crates which have new abilities for you to use. The turrets are clearly overpowered, but in a single player campaign, who cares? In starfighter missions, as long as you keep moving, you’re unlikely to get blown up. I found myself being blown up more often due to crashing into some debris. I enjoyed participating in the dogfights more than the missions on the ground, but at least the ratio of missions in the air versus the ground was spot on.
The campaign won’t last you more than 8-9 hours, and with that in mind, the main attraction of the game is clearly the multiplayer component. Unlike many other games, Battlefront 2 successfully takes the Star Wars experience online. It’s a lot easier to theme a single player experience to a particular franchise but many other games fail to carry that into the multiplayer component. Battlefront 2 however, celebrates Star Wars even when you compete online. A lot of the maps are based on areas you visit in the single player campaign. The sounds of the blasters, the lightsabers, the spaceships and of course the heroes all add to the authenticity of this multiplayer Star Wars experience. There are four main classes to play as: assault, officer, specialist and heavy. Each one of the classes has special abilities and weapons. It is clear that specific classes are often preferred, but each class is surprisingly useful in certain situations. If you play as a cohesive squad, you’ll find use for each of the classes. There is also an active reload mechanic similar to what you see in Gears of War, to ensure that players aren’t spamming the trigger.
There are many ways you can earn points in the game, but the best way is to play the objectives. The points system will encourage you to play the objectives and also stick to your squad. You get more points and bonuses for completing tasks as a group. This mechanic is no different to what we have seen in Battlefield. It’s how all multiplayer games should reward its players. The points can be spent in a match to unlock special characters, spaceships or even heroes. The special characters are essentially beefed up versions of the normal classes. They may be droids with better weapons, higher defences and the ability to jump higher. However, a lot of gamers save up to play as the heroes. With enough points, you can play as characters like Darth Maul or Rey, depending on what team you’re on and what hero is available. You cannot play as a hero if someone else in the game is already using that character, which is a great way to ensure that a team doesn’t suddenly come rushing out with 5 Darth Mauls.
As expected, these heroes will decimate all opponents who are alone. I personally used to target enemies who would run off on their own and punish them for doing so. However, each hero is also defeatable, and in the right situation, a hero can very easily drop if shot enough. I don’t believe that every hero is perfectly balanced. There is a reason why most people like playing as Yoda. He’s hard to shoot as it is, but he’s also a frustrating cretin to deal with. If of course you have control of him, you’re loving life. Most of the time, he will be jumping towards you.
There are five modes to play online. The largest modes have you competing in 40-player dogfights where you need to complete multiple objectives in order to win. The Galactic Assault is perhaps not eSports friendly, but is clearly the mode that makes you feel most at home with Star Wars. The matches can last up to 15 minutes and during that time, you’re taking out AT-ATs, fighting in the air and watching Vader fight Skywalker on the ground.
Strike is more complimentary to eSports. Here, two teams of 8 each fight to complete objectives. Whilst one team defends, the other attacks. Team-based play is very important and if you’re playing the mode alone, it can get very frustrating. That is usually a mark of an eSports mode in the making, and if Battlefront 2 ever kicks off as a competitive multiplayer title, Strike will be at the heart of it.
Starfighter Assault allows you to take part in space warfare. Up to 24 players can compete in the mode, and all of the action takes place in the air. This is where Criterion’s experience really shines through, as the gameplay is superb. I don’t think it has the legs to be an eSports mode, only because after a while, the novelty wears off and you realise the mode doesn’t require as much skill as some of the other modes. However, if you have friends coming round to play Battlefront 2 and you want to show off the game, Starfighter Assault is what you’ll want to show them. You even have access to a lot of the franchise’s most well-known spaceships.
Blast is the blandest of the modes, which is just a 20-man deathmatch. The maps are smaller than their original counterparts, and it may be a good mode to help you get to grips with the gameplay, however I would much rather take part in objective-oriented gameplay. Blast doesn’t give you that flexibility.
For the fans of Star Wars who may not be so interested in shooting guns, but just want to play as their favourite heroes, they will love Heroes vs Villains. This mode lets you play as all of the famous characters from the game including Luke, Boba Fett, Vader etc. This 4v4 mode is simple – you just fight each other. This is much more enjoyable than Blast, because you all get to control these overpowered characters and can act out your Star Wars fantasies in a beautifully-looking game. A lot of gamers aren’t good enough to unlock the heroes in Galactic Assault. This mode gives you access to play as them, albeit against other characters of a similar stature.
EA has promised some free DLC further down the line to keep the game feeling fresh. However, my biggest problem with the multiplayer experience is that it fails to give me enough reason to carry on playing. We live in an era where the need to feel that we’re constantly progressing (towards something) is key to keeping us hooked. Battlefront 2 doesn’t have anything of the sort. I would like EA to release a progression system, but it needs to come ASAP, else people will move on.
The game’s loot box system is not something I am a fan of. Consider these the equivalent of Ultimate Team packs in FIFA. Although EA has temporarily removed microtransactions from the game, I’d much rather play a game where I can earn special abilities through an intricate progression system. I want to play a game where I know what I need to do in order to unlock a specific ability. Even with FIFA, I can choose to either get lucky by opening up a pack, or I know I can work towards buying an item/player on the market. In Battlefront 2, you’re entirely reliant on the loot crate system. This wouldn’t have been an issue if the loot crates were more forgiving. However very early on I started getting duplicates. The cards that you unlock also have different levels of rarity, and to upgrade a card to its rarest form, the amount you need to play is just not worthwhile. The game demands that you put an insane amount of hours in to get those cards. I have no problem with that, as the playing field is levelled. However, I know members of the community who do not want to invest so much time, clearly do have an issue.
A large part of the community has argued that Battlefront 2 promotes pay-to-win techniques. I’m not a firm believer of that. It doesn’t matter how good your abilities are as a stormtrooper – if you’re being approached by a hero, you might as well put your controller down. The better players always win, even if the losing team has a huge amount of abilities that they paid for (through loot crates). There are other games in the industry (FIFA included) that I believe are more deserving of the ‘pay-to-win’ title.
Battlefront 2 is a game that deserves more praise than it has received. Fans cried out for a single player campaign, and they got more than what they asked for. The multiplayer experience has enough depth to keep you coming back for more, but I fear that the damage around microtransactions has already been done. As a standalone video game, this is perhaps one of DICE’s (and Criterion’s) most ambitious titles to date and if the main aim was to create a game that captures the essence of Star Wars, the studios deserve complete credit. I don’t believe that there are enough modes in the game for it to work in the eSports sector, however if future DLC focuses on delivering more modes for the competitive gaming scene, I have faith that Battlefront 2 can potentially be the first Star Wars eSports title to feature at EGL.