Star Wars Battlefront 2 is EA’s response to the heavy criticism received from 2015’s first Battlefront. This sequel includes a greatly needed single player campaign, tweaked gunplay, and even promises free downloadable content for players down the road. On paper, Battlefront 2 looks to be the solution to all the first game’s problems and more, but in reality it just trades in the old problems for a set of new ones. While in some ways a vast improvement over the original, Star Wars Battlefront 2 suffers from a convoluted campaign story and an unfair multiplayer progression system.
Developer DICE never puts out a game that is anything less than visually stunning, and Battlefront 2 is no exception. Every inch of this game is bursting with jaw-dropping visuals, from the life-like cutscenes with state of the art motion capture technology, to the gorgeous landscapes that capture every aspect of the Star Wars universe. Playing on my regular Xbox One I felt no need for the One X, as the game just looked that good running on standard hardware.
The sound design is right there on the same level, too. Everything from the sound of blasters firing to the wonderful orchestral music culminates in a truly living world that will have Star Wars fans drooling. If you’ve played the first Battlefront, you’re probably already familiar with what I’m talking about, and Battlefront 2 takes the ball and carries it even further, making it look and sound like an absolute marvel.
The best part of having faithful and beautiful visuals and sound design is that Battlefront 2 features a campaign for the first time. The story takes place between the events of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and focuses on Iden Versio, captain of the “Inferno Squad,” as the Galactic Empire reaches its demise in the face of the Rebel Alliance.
What makes this story special is that it attempts to humanize the Empire which, until now, has always simply been portrayed as the bad guys. The three members of Inferno squad are interesting, and the first couple of missions actually generated some remorse for the Empire that I have never experienced in all my years as a Star Wars fan. Unfortunately, the captivating story of Inferno Squad is short lived, as after the first handful of missions are complete, the story loses focus and turns into a Star Wars greatest hits, of sorts.
Missions start to push Iden and Inferno Squad to the side in favor of forcing unnecessary cameos of iconic Star Wars characters like Leia Organa, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Lando Calrissian. This intrusion of these characters not only doesn’t fit the story well, but it also forces Iden’s story to become condensed, making what should be a great story feel rushed and unbelievable. It’s sad because it almost feels like a group of executives at EA came to the development team at DICE and handed them a list of characters that needed to be incorporated into the campaign, which is too bad because the story that the game was originally on track to tell seems quite interesting. In the end, the story feels disingenuous and forced, and the pacing makes the character’s actions seem unjustified.
Gameplay wise the campaign is a lot of fun. It’s clear that the campaign was built around the multiplayer, which is the game’s main attraction, but the developers still managed to do a great job of making each level feel unique to the plot and interesting to explore. However, crafting a story mode around a multiplayer game does make some aspects of the campaign feel a little odd. For example, you can’t pick up enemy weapons, presumably because this isn’t part of the multiplayer, but it is a little backwards in a modern shooter to not be able to take fallen emery weapons. The campaign also features a loadout system that is eerily similar the the multiplayer’s. The only way to customize a character’s weapons and abilities is to find loadout crates scattered throughout the levels. It doesn’t hinder the experience all that much, but it is a bit of an odd design choice.
Space combat missions are prevalent throughout the five hour campaign, which made me feel like I spent just as much time flying as I did on foot. I usually tend to not like this kind of gameplay, but the controls are really intuitive, making flight combat easy, even for the most novice of players. That said, there were still one or two more space combat missions than I would have liked to play. For the most part the campaign is a good time. There’s a promising story that unfortunately doesn’t get fleshed out well, but it’s still a fun ride from start to finish.
Multiplayer is where the game gets a little more shaky. Among the eleven maps and five game modes is a decent variety of ways to play. Gun play has been readjusted and shooting feels more satisfying than ever before. Tons of customizable options are available for each fighting class, vehicle class, and even heroes. Aside from your overall level, you’re able to level up your individual classes and then unlock new abilities and boosts, as well as upgrades to your existing weapons. Again, on paper everything sounds great, but the execution results in a pretty convoluted and tedious progression system.
Credits are earned through gameplay and can be used towards the purchase of creates. At the time of writing this review, EA has temporarily disabled all in-game purchases that can be made with real money, so throughout my time playing, credits were the only way I could purchase crates. However, theoretically players would be able to skip the process of playing matches and be able to use real currency to purchase crates, giving somewhat of an unfair advantage over players that are unlocking items the normal route by simply playing matches.
The crates contain everything from new Star Cards, which are used for boosting and upgrading your classes, to new weapons, emotes and victory poses for you characters, vehicles, and Crafting Parts, which can be used to upgrade weapons. When EA announced this overwhelming progression system, players were quite furious, as many saw it as a “pay-to-win” system. After spending hours online in Battlefront 2, I can confirm that I did feel like I encountered scenarios where I was simply underpowered due to the fact that I didn’t have enough unlockables. Those that pre-ordered the deluxe edition of the game, or played earlier before the game was fully released were able to get their hands on some pretty lucrative crates, and as a result, many newer players, like myself, were at a severe disadvantage.
I don’t want to get too into the weeds with how EA should have done things differently, or how their in-game purchases are a poor business practice; there are already plenty of other people on the internet criticizing this game for that. Instead, I want to boil down this fiasco to the real problem that results from this tough progression system, and that’s that Battlefront 2 is significantly less fun.
Modern online shooters have latched onto the idea that players should be rewarded for playing despite their skill level, but Battlefront 2′s approach couldn’t be further from that. If you’re a more novice player, and you don’t play bigger modes like Galactic Assault cooperatively with a squad, you’re probably not going to have a good time. In DICE’s defense, this is largely the type of game they’re known for making, but it’s still a disappointment considering that Star Wars is the most beloved thing in pop culture so naturally this game will entice players from a wide range of skills. It’s just too bad that Battlefront 2 favors more hardcore and skilled players over everyone else.
The more challenging nature of the gameplay leads to a significantly less rewarding progression system for most players, and that’s pretty frustrating when considering how difficult it is in the first place to unlock new abilities and items. Crates aren’t always going to get you what you want. For example, you may receive doubles of the same card, or unlocks for your heavy class when you’re trying to earn unlocks for your assault class. This tedious and grindy approach left me not caring what I unlocked because the rewards simply didn’t seem worth the effort.
Lastly there are the heroes, which have been drastically changed. To play as a hero, you first have to purchase them via game credits, which can take a while to earn. Then once you’ve purchased a hero character, you can customize their abilities and powers through the same monotonous progression system that is used for your regular character. To use a hero in game, you’ll have to earn enough Battle Points in a match. This is done by completely objectives and getting lots of kills. Unfortunately it takes a lot of Battle Points to be able to use a hero, and that mostly limits them to more skilled players. I wish DICE had taken a more Titanfall-inspired approach that offers a chance for every player to use a hero at least once per match. This is especially frustrating when considering that you have to grind so hard just to unlock the ability to use the hero in the first place.
I don’t mean to be completely down on the multiplayer. The maps are well designed, the mode variety offers something for everyone, and there is even Arcade mode, which offers offline multiplayer against AI with up to two players split screen. There’s a lot here, it’s just unfortunate how grueling the progression system is and how much the game skews towards skilled players.
In short, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is in some ways an improvement over its predecessor. Gunplay is better than ever before, the introduction of a campaign is a welcomed one, despite its shortcomings, and the multiplayer offers great variety, despite its unfavorable progression system. It’s hard to think fans of the first game won’t find things to love about this followup, there really is a lot of good here. It’s just too bad that EA let what should have been a huge victory for them become such a nightmare with all the paid content and the messy progression elements. I’m not done with Battlefront 2 just yet, and there is still some promising free DLC on the horizon. I just wish this game came came out swinging like everyone hoped.
For more on Star Wars Battlefront 2, check out our playthrough of “Mission to Pilliar” below.