Developer: EA Dice
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
NOTE – Whilst we’ve skipped over severe spoilers, we do talk about the campaign in detail in this review.
Oh, Star Wars Battlefront II. You haven’t had the best of launches, mostly due to the fact that so much criticism has been aimed at the loot box system, the lack of in-game credits, and also the sheer amount of money it’d actually cost players if they wanted to unlock everything. It’s caused quite a stir, both in gaming communities and also in the mainstream media (even a US State Senator tackled it), so needless to say this hasn’t been the smoothest of game releases that EA have been involved with over the years.
It has caused a lot of gamers to revolt against the series, with many boycotting the game and threatening to skip over it in its entirety. EA have tried to implement a bit of damage control by cutting out micro-transactions in time for launch (though an uncertainty over when they’ll reappear has left a sour taste in some gamer’s mouths) whilst DICE have come out and said themselves that they’re taking all criticism on board and finding ways to address it.
Still, with the disdain surrounding the game still at a high, it’s not clear if Star Wars Battlefront II is going to get the attention it deserves. Yes, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it, and yes, EA have made a few bad decisions regarding micro-transactions – however, none of these thing stop Star Wars Battlefront II from being a thoroughly entertaining experience and one that I’ve had a lot of fun playing.
Firstly, one of the biggest and most sought after additions to the game this time around is the single-player campaign. It manages to feel like a proper meaty story too, with you taking on the role of Iden Versio: the commander of the Inferno Squadron that take on a series of special missions for the Empire. Following the destruction of the second Death Star and the Rebel’s victory, Iden finds herself questioning the actions of the Empire though and wondering if she really is on the ‘good side’.
It’s a neat little tale and hey, it’s considered canon in the Star Wars universe, so it’s worth taking seriously. Whilst it’s enjoyable to see the narrative play out though, it took a few turns that I wish it didn’t; whilst I don’t want to spoil too much here, I was quite looking forward to seeing how everything played out from the view of the Empire. We all see them as the evil, nasty villains who justify their actions through their twisted viewpoints, so why couldn’t we see that viewpoint explored throughout? I think the game missed a trick there, though at the same time it’s still worth seeing it through to its end. It certainly feels like it belongs in the Star Wars universe, with the locales, music, and even the screen transitions helping it absolutely nail the vibe.
The campaign sees you travel across a variety of different locales as you complete an assortment of different missions. They typically consist of taking down enemies or defending certain points, but there’re a few clever objectives thrown in for good measure here and there too. As you work through each mission you’ll also come across a few familiar faces, some of which you actually get to play as – I won’t spoil anything here, but just know that you don’t spend the entirety of the campaign in Iden Versio’s shoes…
Unfortunately, some of the level design in the game felt a bit lacking. They’re mostly linear and never really push you to explore, but instead put you in the same shooting situations over and over again. Other titles like Call of Duty and Wolfenstein have managed to nail set pieces in shooters recently, but some instances of Star Wars Battlefront II just felt a little bland and even boring at times. It’s not a constant issue and there’s certainly fun to be had, but just don’t expect the same levels of excitement that we’ve see in other more recent first-person shooters.
The space battles on the other hand are superb. You can see that a lot of improvements have been made to the ship combat from Star Wars Battlefront II’s predecessor, and it’s really paid off – space combat is action-packed and full to the brim with explosions and gigantic ships, some of which simply dwarf yours. They’re a lot of fun and I actually think that they could work well in a game of their own. Bravo, Criterion.
Still, it’s not the epic campaign that some people might have hoped for, though it’s still certainly enjoyable. It’ll last players around four to five hours so it shouldn’t take long to play through, but it’s clear that it plays second fiddle to the game’s multiplayer aspects. It’s decent enough though and I did enjoy seeing the story play out, but don’t expect to be blown away by any aspect of it – it certainly isn’t worth buying the game for if you aren’t interested in the multiplayer side of things.
Star Wars Battlefront II’s multiplayer is jam-packed full of things for players to do though, with five different game modes available in total: Galactic Assault, Strike, Blast, Starfighter Assault, and Heroes Vs. Villains.
Galactic Assault is probably my favourite of the game modes, with it putting players together in teams of twenty to face off against one another in a huge objective-based battle that sees you fighting across land and air. With forty players battling in all, it gets incredibly hectic but never stops being fun – it really is all-out action and if you’re not switched on, you’ll quickly find yourself dying time and time again. This is where I’ve spent most of my time playing the game and is the mode that I’ll probably find myself hooked to for some time. You’ll really feel like you’re caught up in a huge battle between the Rebels and the Empire, and it is epic.
Strike and Blast are smaller affairs; Strike offers eight-on-eight objective-based gameplay, whilst Blast is a ten-on-ten mode that feels like a traditional team deathmatch. These modes are a little simpler and a lot less hectic, but fun nonetheless. You’ll still need to work as a team if you’re going to succeed, but they’re a lot more forgiving than the likes of Galactic Assault.
Starfighter Assault sees twenty-four players battling it out in space ships, with the likes of Tie-fighters, X-wings, and even the Millennium Falcon facing off in objective air-based combat. I’ve already spoken about my love for the space combat in Star Wars Battlefront II, so naturally this is a mode I’ve spent a lot of time with. It’s absolutely epic – I’ve took part in countless battles and they’ve all been frantic, all-out affairs where you’re never given a moment to rest. There really is nothing more satisfying than stalking a rival in the air and then taking them down with a swift barrage of laser blasts.
Last but not least is the Heroes Vs. Villains mode, which sees you taking classic Star Wars heroes and villains into four-on-four battles. These iconic characters are the most powerful in the game and are equipped with a variety of special skills, so naturally facing off against them is a lot of fun. It’s a surprisingly balanced mode too; even the likes of Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, and Princess Leia are great to use despite the fact they don’t have lightsabers. It’s the most gimmicky of the game modes, but being able to set up dream battles with the likes of Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren makes it one of the most interesting of the game.
In all, there’s a good variety of modes that each demand something different from the player; some you can run through just shooting away with minimal fuss, but some absolutely demand some degree of team work if you’re going to succeed. There’s definitely something for everyone and with each mode proving to be a lot of fun, you’ll easily find yourself spending hundreds of hours blasting through them.
There’s a decent amount of variety to be found in the different character classes you can play as too (each of which have their own weapons and abilities), whilst the eleven different maps ensure that you’ll be battling across a good variety of locations including the likes of Starkiller Base, Naboo, Hoth, and even the Death Star II. If you include the different heroes that are available, you’ll quickly find there are a lot of different ways to actually play Star Wars Battlefront II. EA have promised to introduce free heroes and maps over the coming months, so it’s only going to get better in time – it should certainly keep players coming back for more.
As you play through each match, you earn Battle Points that can then be spent each time you respawn to give yourself access to better characters or space ships. You earn Battle Points just from playing, but those who kill more enemies or who play as a team and complete objectives earn more. Once you’ve earned enough, you can really swing a match in your favour by bringing out one of the big guns – they cost a fair few Battle Points but are certainly worth it. It’s a neat little system that gives everyone the opportunity to play as their favourite characters, with the last game often making those opportunities come a bit infrequently.
Whilst there’s a rich selection of iconic characters to play as from the get go including the likes of Darth Maul, Kylo Ren, and Han Solo, some of them you need to unlock before you can use them in multiplayer. You’ll earn credits whilst playing the game, with characters like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Chewbacca requiring a sizable amount before they can be unlocked.
This is where some of the game’s controversy came in, with some players miffed at the price of them. EA rectified this issue a bit by dropping their price, though it’ll still take a bit of work to unlock everyone. Still, it gives players something to work towards, so there’s always the satisfaction of knowing your credits can go toward unlocking someone cool – I’ve already unlocked Darth Vader and am currently working my ways towards getting Emperor Palpatine too.
However, saving up to unlock these heroes and villains conflicts with the game’s Star Card system. As you play through the game you’ll unlock different Star Cards which you can equip to improve your abilities – this might be something like making you reload your weapon faster, have stronger weapons, or even better health regeneration. Naturally, players who have better Star Cards will have more of an advantage on the battlefield.
You earn these Star Cards from loot crates or by crafting them from the parts you unlock. However, to unlock loot crates you need to spend your credits, so you’re put in a situation where you have to decide if you want to invest your hard-earned dough in loot boxes or extra characters. It’s a tricky area of the game that I don’t think is properly balanced yet, especially since purchasing loot boxes doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get the Star Card you’re looking for. Things like the ‘Daily Login’ loot box and the bonuses you earn from completing challenges do help, but still, it can be a tricky decision to make when other players online seem to have an unfair advantage over you.
At least micro-transactions have been ditched for the time being, so no one is currently able to buy their way to victory. EA will certainly have to be careful how they address these issues in the future though because it could make or break the community; they seem to be doing alright so far, but we’ll have to wait and see…
Those who clear the campaign but still want a bit of offline action can take part in Star Wars Battlefront II’s Arcade mode, where you face a series of challenges over varying difficulties. They’re all bog-standard in what they offer, but the different restrictions and objectives you have to complete ensure they stay fun. You can actually try out some of the locked heroes in Arcade mode too, plus you can also take part in split-screen co-op action. Who said AAA games didn’t care about couch co-op anymore?!
I’d be remiss not to mention the game’s visuals, which are absolutely spectacular and fit the Star Wars vibe perfectly. The surroundings are simply luscious in the natural environments, whilst the interiors look incredibly shiny and like they’ve come straight out of the movies. Character’s faces and animations are absolutely on point too, whilst the game’s stunning lighting effects simply bring the world to life. It really is a hell of a pretty game.
Star Wars Battlefront II is a game that has been marred by controversy, but is actually a hell of a lot of fun to play. I’ve had some epic battles in the multiplayer modes, the space combat is glorious, the arcade mode gives you plenty of single-player challenges, whilst the campaign itself has its strong points too – it really is a nice little package for gamers to sink their teeth into.
The loot box system is always going to divide players and there’s absolutely no doubting that EA got a lot of stuff wrong, but it doesn’t make the core experience a bad one. Don’t get me wrong, it has some issues with the campaign proving to be a little linear and unimaginative in level design, whilst some online matches could feel a little unbalanced at times, but I don’t think that there’s anything here that’s making it deserve a lot of the flak it’s been getting (though that’s probably because EA fixed it before I started playing).
Still, with the controversy surrounding it and the improvements EA have made, Star Wars Battlefront II is treading a fine line in regards to how the experience will end up. The promise of free content is great and everything about the game feels fun right now – hopefully the experience will just keep getting better and we’ll be able to put a lot of the ‘bad stuff’ involving the game behind us.
For now, just know that Star Wars Battlefront II is a thoroughly entertaining game and certainly delivers the action-packed experience that Star Wars fans have been looking for. Here’s hoping it stays that way.