*Editor’s Note* Due to the current issues and changes happening with the multiplayer component of Battlefront we have decided to hold off for a period of two weeks before giving our final verdict. In the meantime here is our look at the solo side of things.
Star Wars Battlefront II – The Single Player Review
When Disney assumed creative control of the Star Wars licence and then swung the axe on countless of expanded universe stories, millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. While many despaired, there were several others that suggested t this was a wise move, one which would see the destruction of many of the barriers of entry that confront those looking to tell new stories in the Star Wars universe. To this point we’ve seen two new films (with The Last Jedi to come soon), the Rebels animated TV series and several books, but now gaming gets its chance to take centre stage courtesy of Star Wars Battlefront II. The original Battlefront was a purely multiplayer affair and received some degree of backlash for it, it was enough though to prompt DICE and EA to add a campaign to the sequel, a campaign that is now canon, and a campaign that is the subject of this review.
The story of Star Wars, and in particular the original trilogy, is well known, but the story of Iden Versio, the leader of Inferno Squad, and the character whose role you primarily assume in Battlefront II begins as the final act of Return of the Jedi plays out. The game begins with Iden imprisoned by the Rebel Alliance, she’s resourceful though, and soon escapes her captors, in the process discovers the Rebel plan to destroy the Death Star Mk 2. As we all know, this discovery means little as the Rebel plan succeeds and the Emperor is killed. It’s at this point that the scramble for survival begins, big questions are asked, many difficult decisions are made, and chaos reigns supreme.
Iden and her team will cross paths with a host of key characters from several eras of the Star Wars story, and those interactions are massive influences upon Iden specifically. These cameos are a little jarring, however; they smack of a LucasFilm executive tapping a DICE member on the shoulder and declaring “It needs more Skywalker”, ultimately amounting to no more than fan service, while the handling isn’t as sleek as it is when you’re controlling Iden. Battlefront II’s campaign is not a long one, clocking in at approximately 5 hours, so whilst the 20+ minute tangents that you go on to assume the role of Luke, Leia and co. are in context, they do break the flow of Iden’s story. The Battlefront II story is at its strongest when it’s exploring the relationship between Iden and her father Garrick, as well as their shared relationship with the Empire, but unfortunately, these interactions are few and far between. Garrick is an Admiral of the Empire and following the death of the Emperor, becomes a prominent player in the Empire’s attempted rebuild. As inner turmoil begins to affect Iden, an enormous strain is placed upon their relationship as their loyalties face the ultimate test.
Battlefront II doesn’t hesitate to try new things in its storytelling. It’s quite interesting to see how the story of Iden and Inferno Squad crosses over with several key players, and iconic locations, from the Star Wars lore, whilst still doing something new with it. For these reasons alone, the Battlefront II campaign is well worth experiencing, that said, due to the almost obsessive need to link in to the lives of the iconic character, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Battlefront II story was a fun ride, but ultimately an opportunity missed for the franchise to do something different.
The campaign in modern video games tends to serve as an extended tutorial for the much larger multiplayer suite. In the case of Battlefront II, the campaign does a wonderful job of introducing the player to the many different gameplay styles available to you, once you reach the multiplayer. From Iden’s first and third-person perspectives to the way in which you handle the heroes (such as Luke and Leia), and of course the space combat, the campaign grants you a wide number of ways to experiment with the play styles at your disposal in the multiplayer.
As with the multiplayer, it’s horses for courses when it comes to your arsenal. While there is going to be a section of the audience who loves an opportunity to long range snipe their targets or get up close and personal, there is a large number of scenarios where this simply isn’t feasible. This is fine if it weren’t for one of my major complaints with the campaign – there are not enough opportunities to change your weapon. Unlike most modern FPS’ where you can arm yourself with the weapon of a fallen opponent or ally, in order to switch your gun in Battlefront II, you must visit one of a small number of crates scattered throughout each level, and then change your preferred weapon. It’s a lot of fooling around required to implement a mechanic that is consistently executed better in other FPS’ for decades and stands out as a major misstep in an otherwise quite polished single player experience. At the same crates, players also have the opportunity to equip up to three cards which will grant you a series of different perks, from changing the types of grenades you throw, to added health perks. This added layer to the campaign grants players a small opportunity to tweak Iden to suit their playstyle, but the difference is ultimately quite subtle.
The third pillar to the campaign experience is the space-faring portion, in it, the camera locks you into a third person perspective and casts you into a series of different dogfights involving both X-Wings and Tie Fighters. Most skirmishes rarely amount to much more than destroying the waves of opponents that emerge, but each trip into space ends up being a refreshing change of pace.
Battlefront II is a truly exceptional cinematic experience. The campaign will take you through a wide range of locations, stemming from many different eras of the Star Wars story. Your adventure will take you to Naboo, Endor and even off to see Maz Kanata on Jakku, and each of these locations has been wonderfully realised. The attention to detail in these locations as well as the several others you visit, from Imperial cruisers to Iden’s war-torn home of Vardos, left me at times executing the slow camera pan to take it all in. While the attention to detail in the environmental design is incredibly impressive, the same cannot be said for every aspect of the audio. While the soundtrack and the environmental sound effects are astounding (the sound of gunfire in particular), some of the voice-acting is a little less convincing. All the new cast, including Iden, Meeko, Del and Hask have been excellently voiced, however, those assigned to recreate Luke, Leia and several other famous faces, stand out as extremely poor in comparison.
While there are certainly some imperfections, there’s a solid core to be found in this campaign. Despite the cameo appearances being a little jarring, the overall presentation is stellar, and if you can look past a poorly implemented weapon swapping mechanic, then you’re in for a rollickingly good gameplay experience. The campaign is at its best when you’re looking down the barrel of Iden’s gun, while the space combat segments give you the thrill you could only dream of from piloting a Tie Fighter or X-Wing. Despite some rough edges, Battlefront II gives players a wonderful look at the ongoing conflict from a new perspective and in doing so, is a story, that’s well worth experiencing.