EA/Criteron has touted its Star Wars Battlefront II as the definitive Star Wars experience for gamers but sadly this lofty claim is tarnished not only by some questionable design choices, but a game of two halves which fail to ignite the Star Wars spark. So whether you are a fan or not, is Battlefront II worth the price of admission or is it best to wait for the proverbial dust to settle before diving in?
Players are presented with a number of options when they begin the Battlefront II adventure, what with a single player campaign and arcade mode to dive into alongside the online multiplayer which divides itself into four main categories (more about those later). Looking at the solo player options and it’s the campaign featuring the new and rather cool looking character Iden Versio played by the rather sexy actress Janina Gavankar that stands out. Sadly she [Janina Gavankar] has been a pivotal part of the game’s marketing right from the reveal up until now as some sort of distraction as to what actually is (or at least that is how it appears). The promise of playing through the campaign from the perspective of the bad guys at first appears to be a brave and welcome move, but what actually is reveals itself to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors with something quite different to what has been presented (trying not to spoil here). It falls flat, and in a way feels somewhat contrived leaving a sour taste as to what could have been (lips are sealed here).
The story begins with such great promise, offering moments of stealth and all out assault, however it’s short lived and soon becomes a typical shooter with no redeeming qualities aside from the obvious Star Wars aesthetics. Players move through linear levels and simply shoot their way to objectives and rinse and repeat. It’s all rather dull and uninspiring considering the massive amount of potential here. There are some moments of redemption where players take to the skies in one moment, land for a quick shootout and then take off again but this is very formulaic in its approach. Some free-form element would have made events much more interesting within the mission structure. To round things off, there are several cameo moments from the likes of Han Solo where players assume the role of several major characters but some of these are poorly realized and in one instance so badly directed are a bit of a disgrace. The attempt at humor during the Han Solo mission completely falls flat and presents one of the worst or most obnoxious side mission characters known to man. The single player campaign is simply not very good and there really is nothing more to say about it.
The arcade mode which returns from the first game offers more scenario based antics where completion unlocks higher tiers of the same thing but with added difficulty. These are interesting mini-games allowing players the chance to play as more hero/villain characters. However, it’s likely they won’t hold much lasting interest once bested despite the lure of obtaining a better score for fighting off the waves of attackers. Thankfully, these can be played local co-op split-screen as well which is a welcome addition if you have itchy hands wanting to play waiting patiently next to you.
Solo players are going to get an afternoon’s play out of the single-player content on offer unless they replay missions looking for collectibles and wish to boost up held currency for unlocks which is where the multiplayer modes come in to play. There are four main areas of play here which includes big team battle modes for up to 48 players, air combat mode where players take to the skies, Team Death Match close quarters play and then Hero battle where teams of heroes and villains face-off in 4 vs 4 battles. It’s obvious the multiplayer is the meat of the game’s content and features some neat moments in each mode – especially the big team battles – but the underlying design is simply not user friendly enough and relies on players reaching their own personalized goals rather than fighting for a greater good. This is due to a points system which allows players to choose more powerful characters as they play, score more points, then you might be able to choose a character with a light-saber for example and kick some serious tail. This works on the surface but doesn’t always play nice within the rules of objective based gameplay.
There is also another aspect which is at odds with how the game manages its players with the inclusion of dreaded star cards which effectively upgrade players in matches. You can earn these from loot crates or craft them from items gained from loot crates and are key to tipping the balance in your favour. However, it’s a bit of a grind to make progress and severely hampers the enjoyment here. You can purchase loot grates through playing seemingly forever, but the process can be sped up by spending real cash. This whole approach has caused a bit of stir amongst the gaming community and EA has somewhat scaled it back for now. The inclusion of micro-transaction and randomized items are contentious right now and don’t make for fun experience for many players. Whilst it’s fairly obvious there are some players who like the lure of chasing for better items/characters etc, and in a way can be an addictive quality, however there is no middle-ground offered with modes presented without these for those not interested in unfair advantage or having to spend an eternity unlocking the more desirable content.
Battlefront II does look good and runs rather smoothly which is a massive plus. The Frostbite Game Engine presents some highly detailed character models and wonderful looking environments alongside an assortment of lighting and shadow effects. There is no denying Battlefront II is pleasant to look at especially in 4K with HDR enabled. Performance also stays at an impressive 60 fps (on Xbox One X/PC at least) and makes for a smooth gaming experience regardless of the mode being played. Audio is also of a fine quality with familiar John Williams soundtrack pumping through at times alongside some good performances from the voice-over cast. Sound effects are as you would expect which add to the authenticity of the experience. Audio can’t really be faulted. It’s Star Wars to a tee.
As mentioned, the single player content can be bested within an afternoon of solid play but it’s the grindy multiplayer where you will spend most of your time if you get hooked on the baiting being offered here. Expect your hours to easily surpass double figures if you are comfortable aiming for the best unlocks and boosts.
Star Wars Battlefront II comes as a bit of a disappointment all round. After teasing much promise pre-release, the end result is something less than stellar and could have been so much better. On a technical level, Battlefront II ticks all the right boxes and looks awesome plays well, but great graphics and familiar imagery alone don’t make for a great game unfortunately. A dull and predicable story doesn’t help the campaign either, and the fun but tarnished multiplayer seems like going through the motions using the Star Wars name to carry it through. Collectively there is a well-rounded package here but the design choices will either leave you begging for more as you drool over the Star Wars references or annoy the hell out of you leaving you drained of any will to spend more time than you have to in its presence.
Score – 7/10