EA are back in the world of Star Wars in their second game, since they got the exclusive rights and this time the game offers some substantial offline content, as well as a wealth of online, but is it enough to bring balance to the force?
The game is easily split between online content and offline and the offline is perhaps the biggest addition to the series, as it now offers a single player campaign, in addition to the trials. For the story, you take control of Iden Versio, the commander of Inferno Squadron, think Imperial Special Forces, someone who has grown up in the up Empire and believes in them. Her father is an Admiral in charge of his own Star Destroyer and her friends/colleagues also grew up and went through the academy with her, the story is really a family affair. The game starts out with Iden captured aboard a Rebel ship, but she planned it, as they received an encoded message about the trap that was waiting above the Forest Moon of Endor and when the Rebels defeat the Empire and blow up the second Death Star, things start to fall apart for Iden and her squad.
As you progress through the roughly 6-hour story, it jumps around to different characters and viewpoints, which that is fun, it also lessens the impact on Iden, purely because we get less time with her. But sadly, more time may not have helped, Iden and the rest of the Empire members are all arrogant from the outset, they believe in their superiority, but as the second mission delivers them a crushing defeat, it removes any potential reason for them to be. The problem is further highlighted when things change against Inferno Squadron and some of the members are betrayed, but again, at this point you will have only spent maybe 3 hours with them and 10 minutes in cutscenes, so it is really hard to care about their feelings, when you have no attachments to them as characters. The biggest problem is purely that the story was promoted, from the very rooftops as one specific thing, only for a little way into the game, it does a complete 180 and ends up as something else.
The gameplay on offer changes from on foot to in ships through complex space battles, it will help you learn all about the games online modes as well, which is nice, but the gameplay is basic. A lot of the work you do is move from one point to another, take out the wave of enemies that storm that space and then move to the next, the opening mission is by far the most interesting as the opening moments, have you sneaking around the Rebel ship and this is done in 3rd person mode, which makes sense as you don’t want to be seen and you also lack a gun. Every other mission though will force you into 3rd person to begin with, letting you make the choice to stay there or got to 1st person, the problem is there are some missions, where you play other characters that lock you to third person, which is just strange. Over the course of the story, the characters never really find time to become worth caring about and it jumps around so much in time, that it can be hard to keep track of things, but the biggest issue I have with it, the game simply ends, leaving a massive cliffhanger and no idea when it will be resolved.
Once you start playing with other people though, the game will provide you with a range of different options to enjoy, some are better than others, but still worth your time. The game offers a mode called Arcade, where you can take part in some prebuilt modes, with a friend or solo and aim to get scores, it’s a fun mode, but on your own, it runs dry quickly. The online multiplayer is fun, but of course, there are issues there as well, thankfully, the core of the gameplay is not impacted with the issues.
As you progress through matches, you will earn points, the better you play, the more points you earn and once you have enough points you can unlock a special character or hero for that game. They are four classes that you can pick from, Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist, each class has a pro and con for choosing them, so as you play more you will find one class calls to you the most. As you discover your class of choice, you can level them up using the games Star Cards system, so your Heavy may have a different result in battle when compared to your teammates Heavy. Of course, once you upgrade to a hero character, things will change again, so being used to moving slow as a Heavy and dealing lots of damage will have you rethinking when you select Darth Maul, as he moves a lot faster and nimbler than most others. When you see a hero character on your team run past, they can easily sway the side of a battle to your favour, so while it takes a while to unlock them, it does provide a reason to want to. Even when you take part in space battles, blasting ties out of the sky in your X-Wing, you can earn points to unlock a hero ship, like the Millennium Falcon or Slave 1, so playing with a group of players that will support you, is something you will want to do.
Star Cars are how you level up your characters and sadly, the system is a joke, there is no other way to describe it, as you play through matches, you earn credits, collect enough credits and you can purchase a loot crate. You could, at the start at least, use real world money to purchase crates, helping you unlock more items, the problem is the items are a mix of interesting and utterly pointless. Some Star Cards would grant you the ability to reduce the time it took for your health to recharge, or increase the range of the explosion from a thermal detonator, actual usable functions, the problem is that you would usually be granted with emotes or parts instead. Parts you can use to upgrade a Star Card you already have, but earning either credits to buy or parts to craft takes a lot of time and results in a wait and see approach to things. If you want to have Luke Skywalker as a permanent hero to your collection, it takes a lot of credits, but saving for him, means that you can’t spend any credits on the loot create, which might help you out in the short team. The system has all the parts of a high end casino table, but without any of the charm, those that did use real world money to get credits will have quickly found that getting an emote or part of a card is not worth the money spent, given that EA have pulled the ability to buy credits in game, before the game released to everyone, shows just how broken it was.
Star Wars Battlefront II though, does shine in its visuals, the game offers an incredible range of visuals, some of which will take players to all new locations. Revisiting locations like Hoth is still fun, but its new worlds like Vardos and Pillio that will draw you in, Vardos especially as it is a fully occupied Imperial planet. The locations all look stunning, there is a ton of variety on offer, so chances are if you like a planet or location from the Star Wars saga, it will be here for you. Weapons and ships all look great as well, taking the stick of a Tie Fighter as you fly around the wreckage of a ruined Star Destroyer is a great site, but its nothing all that new. There are a lot of times however where the game would stutter terribly, dropping frames and providing super low res character models as it struggled to load up elements and while never game breaking, it’s a shame that they exist at all. Audio wise, the biggest issue is the music, yes I know that the John Williams scores are wonderful, the problem is, there are times in the campaign and occasionally in the multiplayer, where the music that is being played, does not match the tone of the on screen action. The performance work for all the new characters is great, the classics is hit and miss, Luke and Leia are the worst, with Han and Lando sounding pretty spot on.
Star Wars Battlefront II is an ok game, the much touted campaign is ok, but the promise of a story from the side of the Imperials is a joke, because as soon as it could, it dropped it for another boring and generic story, that we have seen before. Multiplayer is a lot of fun, as long as you ignore the entire loot crate system, the problem there though is that some people are not going to and those that embrace the dark side of Battlefront II’s multiplayer are going to have a significant advantage over those that stay in the light.