STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT 2

DEVELOPER: EA DICE; Motive Studios; Criterion Software
PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
EXPECT TO PAY: $40 AUD
AVAILABLE VIA: EA Origin

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is one of the most misunderstood games of 2017. Given the advertising campaign that’s accompanied it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a multi-player shooter. It is, but it is also one of the best single-player Star Wars games out there. Just like Titan Fall 2, it’s two games in one – a massive (and growing, thanks to a recent expansion) single-player campaign, and an ever-expanding multi-player arena. As such, this review will be in two parts, focussing on single-player first.

Single-player



If you’ve ever watched a Star Wars movie and thought it’d be fun to pilot an AT-AT and stomp on a bunch of Imperials, take part in epic space battles full of capital ships trading blistering salvos, or even land atop a failing Star Destroyer and fight your way inside, this is the game for you. Everything about it screams ‘Star Wars’, from the top-notch visuals and animation, to the sounds and the story.

The game follows Imperial special forces soldier Iden Versio (with the occasional mission casting you in the role of pivotal figures like Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia). Starting with the destruction of the second Death Star above Endor, the missions hurl you into a series of spectacular battles and set pieces, any of which could come straight out of the movies. These missions, though it sounds clichéd, really do let you live out some of your Star Wars fantasies.

One of the missions sees you hijacking an AT-AT and stomping all over an Imperial base (I know I’ve mentioned it already, but it was that much fun). Others see you skimming the surface of capital ships whilst taking out their point-defence lasers, or even boarding them, sabotaging their ion cannons before fighting your way back to your ship.

One particularly memorable, and tense mission sees you engaged in a fighting retreated, desperately trying to hold off an overwhelming force of stormtroopers and AT-STs. The huge environment in which the missions take place (and they are huge), range from the spectacular, such as the debris field of the second Death Star or the geo-thermal environment of Pillio, to the eerily beautiful (the gas clouds of Bespin, populated with gigantic, floating creatures).

Really, the concepts in some of the missions, and the fact that the technology is now advanced enough to let the developers pull it off convincingly, is truly amazing. I knew they had nailed it the moment I found myself not wanting to finish all the missions, because I didn’t want the experience to end.

I’m also happy to report that the story, breaking with computer game tradition, is good, with exceptionally animated and voice acted cut scenes. Without spoiling anything, the story sits comfortably alongside the better Star Wars movies, and fills in some of the gaps between The Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens (there’s also one rather enjoyable character called Shriv, a particularly sarcastic Duros). All in all, it’s an extravaganza in the best tradition of the Star Wars movies.

Also, once you’re finished with the campaign, there’s an arcade mode to puddle around in. Basic, but still fun, it lets you step into the shoes of your favourite Star Wars character for a 1-vs-many fight, whether it’s as an Imperial Death Trooper (you know, Krennic’s bodyguard from Rogue One), or as Kylo Ren taking on 500 troops.

Does it get everything right? No. One particular mission featuring Lando Calrissian I found a bit dull (though the environment was still spectacular), but that was the exception. Also, the AI isn’t anything to write home about. You won’t find the clever flanking manoeuvres or cover systems in other shooters (that said, the stormtroopers aren’t that effective in the movies either), but that’s not what it’s about. It’s a Star Wars game, which looks and feels like the movies. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll find a lot to like here.

Multiplayer

The multi-player element of SWBF2 allows players to dive into each of the three cinematic eras, to fight everything from tight matches of 8 players, up to massive battles with 40 players in total. Regardless of era, a number of classes are available to choose from (an all-rounder, a sniper, an officer who boots nearby troopers, and a heavy who can lay down suppressing fire and soak up large amounts of damage), as well as ships, vehicles and heroes – happily, all heroes are available regardless of which map you’re on. Unlike the previous SWBF, vehicles and heroes are now available through ‘battle-points’ which are awarded for playing the objective, rescuing your teammates, or even getting killed.

Each class of trooper, vehicle and starfighter feels noticeably different and will appeal to different players and play-styles. With the starfighters, for example, the interceptors are fast and nippy, if fragile, whilst bombers can inflict and absorb massive amounts of damage though they move rather slowly.

There are some smaller, close quarter type matches – such as the enjoyable Heroes vs Villains mode (pitting two teams of four Star Wars heroes against one another, with each team trying to eliminate a specific target on the opposing team and trying to protect their own marked teammate). The real stand-outs, though, are Galactic Assault, and Starfighter Assault. Both of these will cast one team in the role of an attacker, and the other as a defender. The attacker has to complete multiple objectives to win, whilst the defender needs to hold the opposing team off and inflict enough damage to reduce their reinforcements to zero, or destroy an important piece of equipement.

Just like the single-payer, these battles take place on truly enormous maps. In Galactic Assault, for example, Kachiro Beach, seat on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyk, sees Separatist droids attempting to sabotage a grounded capital ship. MTTs slowly move up the beach, whilst droids, clones, tanks, LAAT gunships and swarms of starfighters join the fray as laser and missiles zoom overhead (nothing quite beats earning enough points to grab a starfighter, then raining down vengeance upon the ground-forces on the opposing team). Crait, from The Last Jedi, serves as another enjoyable field of battle, where Resistance speeders kick up iconic clouds of blood-red salt as TIE fighters try to take them down, and all the while massive AT-M6s march steadily toward the base.

Starfighter Assault is similarly vast – with armadas clashing as fighters attempt to disable tractor beams, shield generators, or eliminate frigates. One battle take place over the cloning facilities of Kamino, with fighters skimming the water, dodging between the pillars of the cloning facility, whilst another sees the Resistance ambushing a massive First Order Dreadnaught. For those looking for Star Wars space battles, this is undoubtedly the best game currently around. The ships are a joy to fly, and you have complete control over your ship – evasive manoeuvres, aiming and target leading (how far you have to aim in front of a moving target in order to hit it) are all up to you.

Personally, I haven’t found one mode or map I haven’t enjoyed playing. There are, though some annoying aspects – such as only being able to pick a mode, not server or map – and there has been a certain amount of criticism, and controversy, surrounding SWBFII, particularly regarding the star-card upgrades. These cards (up to three) can be equipped to confer advantages to particular classes. Early on (before EA suspended it, then totally revised the system to make it a more traditional XP-point based system), players could use real money to purchase ‘crystals’ which could then be used to buy loot boxes, containing a random selection of these cards. This led to accusations of ‘pay to win’. In all honesty, while the cards do confer benefits, these tend to be minor (with the one exception of the Heavy’s sentry gun upgrade which actually makes it useful).The game has been so heavily balanced anyway that they in no way negate the need for player skill.

In fact, my biggest criticism of the multi-player is that it’s too balanced. There should be moments where gameplay is totally one-sided. A jedi or sith should be an absolute terror on the battlefield. Instead, getting into the boots of Vader or Yoda (yes, I know he doesn’t really wear any) forces you to play in a rather defensive manner, as a handful of players can very quickly take you down (it’s still fun though).

A major plus is that the game is actively being updated, with recent patches adding more playable characters (including Anakin and General Grevious), and a brilliant new ‘tug-of-war’ style mode, changes to how Jedi combat works to make them even more fun, playable Droidekas and the TX-130 Tank. Even with the niggles of the multi-player (and they are niggles), this is still one of the best Star Wars games around, and the single-player alone makes it well worth the price of admission. ■ 

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