The original “Battlefront” games were some of my favorites on the PS2, bringing together two of my favorite things in “Star Wars” and video games. Being able to play in battles across all the films was the a treat, and the care put into them was very apparent. When EA was announced to hold the exclusive rights to “Star Wars” video games after the Disney buyout and said they were bringing back the series with the help of DICE, developers behind the highly-praised “Battlefield” series, fans like myself were optimistic for its return. What we got in 2015’s “Star Wars: Battlefront” was a solid shooter set in the galaxy far, far away, that lacked any substantial single-player content and actual maps and modes. For “Battlefront 2,” EA promised a single-player campaign and multiplayer with enough content to support it, as well as free DLC updates to support it well after launch. Though it began with a rough launch, I think they accomplished what they set out to do, with a few problems.
The promise of a canon story for the campaign was more than enticing, before we knew of playing from the perspective of an Imperial after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” You step into the boots of Iden Versio (Janina Gavankar), Commander of the elite Inferno Squadron who has been loyal to the Empire since birth. While this is a very minor spoiler, I think the biggest reason the campaign was received negatively is how much the marketing pushed that it would be a strictly Imperial story-line, even though the protagonist turns to the Rebellion after the first three missions. Other than that, the campaign itself is a fun-time throughout, doing a good job at connecting the various books and comics that have covered what happened post “ROTJ.” It’s one fault is the story itself feels rather disjointed at certain points, like some parts were just outright cutout making certain mission transitions feel rather awkward. What you do get is a story that feels worthy of being told in the “Star Wars” universe, and introduces us to both new and old locations and characters.
Janina Gavankar delivers a commanding presence as Iden, and her passion for “Star Wars” is clearly shown through it. Throughout the story you also get a chance to play as iconic heroes like Luke and Han, most of these further serving as connective tissue to what we know from other canon material. The standout mission though is with Lando Calrissian and a newly introduced sarcastic rebel named Shriv, with the always smooth Billy Dee Williams reprising his role as the former Cloud City administrator. I give props to whoever wrote the mission in particular, because the way the two play off each other is some of the funniest dialogue in any piece of “Star Wars” media, and its safe to say Mr. Williams still has it after nearly 35 years. I suppose my one warning is if you are not as into the stuff passed the films like the shows or even the books, the campaign may feel just like your typical “Call of Duty” campaign, which isn’t inherently bad.
While the campaign is solid, the multiplayer is the main attraction to most players, which has been subject to the most controversy. From the standpoint of actual gameplay and content depth, the game is what any “Star Wars” fan has been looking for since the original “Battlefront II” released years ago. The maps across all three eras look absolutely stunning, with some of the maps looking better than what they did in the films. Gunplay is fun like it should be, and having the option to switch between third-person and first-person like the original is a nice point of familiarity. The new Starfighter Assault mode is really a standout, with the ship controls entirely up to you, putting you in a variety of objective-based scenarios. Pulling from the prequel, original, and sequel trilogies provide more than enough content, and sets themselves up nicely for upcoming free updates. The first DLC tied in with ‘The Last Jedi” sets the bar very high, with Finn and Phasma as heroes being fun to play as, as well as the new map on Crait being one of the best in the game so far. While I think the wealth of OT content is fine for now, I am very excited to see what else is in store for prequel and sequel era films.
In the last game playing as Darth Vader meant camping one of the many spawn locations of the hero tokens on the map, meaning any random Joe could get the token regardless of their place on the scoreboard. Thankfully this game fixes that with the new battlepoint system, which is your in-game score adding up to be spent on playing as a death trooper, an X-Wing, or one of the costly heroes like Yoda or Darth Maul. This rewards players who are actually contributing to their teams performance, and even if your not getting kills but are playing the objective you can have the chance to play as Vader.
If there is anything to takeaway, it is just how immersive and authentic this game is to “Star Wars.” Just as important as the visuals are the sounds and music, and there is no better feeling than hearing a Tie Fighter screech overhead and one of John Williams brilliant scores kick in as things in battle begin to heat up. The maps all feel accurate to their movie locations, as well as TV, with the Kamino Galactic Assault map playing out just as the episode in season three of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” does. Another good example of the care they clearly put into this game is using Dee Bradley Baker as the voice of the clones, who provided the voice of many beloved clones like Captain Rex or Fives in “The Clone Wars,” and we still get to hear what would be the movie-accurate version as Temuera Morrion in Boba Fett. My favorite faction to play as is the Separatists, as playing as the humorous battle-droids and their humorous quips is something I will never grow tired of. While many of the heroes and villains are voiced by their actual actor like Lando and Boba are, the unmasked variant of Kylo Ren sounds nothing like Adam Driver in the slightest, though I do give props to Matt Sloan who does a good Darth Vader as it is incredibly hard to even come close to James Earl Jones.
Now for the part many were most worried about, the actual progression system. The game ties your ability upgrades to three star cards per class, hero, or ship, and the only way to get this card is through the loot crates or crafting them from an in-game currency. As it stood shortly before launch, the game allowed another in-game currency called crystals to be purchased with real money, meaning players with big wallets could get an easy leg up on the competition. While its clear this is EA’s way of making up for the lack of season pass income, it amazes me why they did not just go with purely cosmetic micro-transactions given the sheer amount of skins that can be put on heroes, similar to “Overwatch.” EA quickly withdrew this at launch day by turning off micro-transactions to implement a new system, which appears to be moving in the cosmetic direction based on some of the development teams responses on social media. I think this was a case of EA trying to push further to see how much they could get away with before fans got mad, though why they did it with their biggest IP is anyone’s guess. DICE has recently updated the game to give a higher credit payout to players after each match, especially those in the top three of the scoreboard, as well as unlock all three star card slots for the trooper classes from the start. The in-game challenges also provide a good amount of credits for earning these, as does the recently introduced “The Last Jedi” event which should happen similarly for each DLC as well. While I think these are steps in the right direction, there is still a bit of ways to go if the game is to thrive well after launch.
I have seen many online comparing both the original “Battlefront II” to this current iteration, with many putting the early micro-transaction debacle as fuel to why the original is superior. As someone who put an insane amount of hours into the early “Battlefront” games as a whole and recently played the original “Battlefront II,” it’s safe to say this iteration is a big step up from that game in multiple ways. From a gameplay standpoint, the gunplay has never been better as is the ship combat, with the quality of maps only backing that up. The edge I would give is the story-line, which is only because the narration between missions by Temuera Morrison is some really good stuff. “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” is a game I have sunk 90 hours into so far, and one that I plan on coming back to constantly. While I am anxious of what capacity micro-transactions return in, it was great to see the fight the community put back against EA on it, and is something I wish would happen in a number of other games (such as “NBA 2K”) where their systems are even worse. It’s a shame that the great game DICE made, which was clearly crafted with fans in mind, had poor initial reactions because of the systems EA implemented to make a quick-buck. Regardless of micro-transactions though, I do think this is a game any “Star Wars” fan will get a great deal of enjoyment from.