Title: Star Wars Battlefront 2
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: EA DICE, Motive, Criterion
Release date:Out now
TL;DR: Solid shooter that’s let down by core design failures with regards to progression being based on microtransactions.
Price: Xbox One £60 / $60
PlayStation 4 £60 / $60
PC £55 / $55
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information.
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, the evil galactic EA empire was at war with the rebel Reddit alliance.
Welcome to my review of Star Wars Battlefront 2, the latest instalment of the Battlefront series and a game steeped in controversy before it was even released. The original Battlefront was actually one of my most played games last year, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, what with its attention to detail to the Star Wars universe, amazing graphics and replication of characters, vehicles and sound effects, also accompanied by the famous unmistakable soundtrack by John Williams. So, with already having expectations based on the previous game, how does Star Wars Battlefront 2 compare to the hype?
First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room – loot crates. Before the game had officially released Star Wars BF2 was trending away on Reddit after some players had calculated how long it would take you to unlock lore heroes like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. User MBMMaverick made a post and the EA response ended up becoming the most downvoted topic in Reddit history, and with so many responses, EA made the decision to lower the number of credits needed to unlock these iconic heroes. Then the emphasis shifted to what some players called “pay to win,” loot crates which offered Star Cards to enhance a class’s performance in multiplayer games. Now these loot crates can be earned by playing the game, but if you wanted to spend money on the in-game gem currency, you could purchase a lot more loot crates in a more timely manner, and this is what seems to have also upset a lot of the gaming community. Again, EA responded to feedback by disabling in-game purchases for the moment. But, the big question is, do the Star Cards actually make that much of a difference?
Well in my experience so far, I would say no, they do not. I was able to run around and dispatch opponents in multiplayer with no Star Cards equipped, but there are some definite benefits from certain cards, and a good player with a card that has a 25% damage reduction buff from explosions is going to have an advantage over someone that doesn’t, so it may enable you to stay alive a little longer and get a few more kills. So, if the cards aren’t that game breaking, what is all the fuss about? In my opinion, it’s more to do with the fact the progression mechanic of Star Cards is based on a game designed around monetisation; the Star Cards don’t really offer any great depth or customisation, but more a way of generating income from a game over a period of time after the launch price has been paid. And now that purchasing loot crates are currently disabled, it leaves the game feeling unfinished and a bit of a hot mess.
Battlefront never had a campaign, and a lot of people didn’t like this, saying that the original was too shallow and not a lot of game for the AAA asking price. This has been addressed in Star Wars Battlefront 2 by adding a story-driven campaign that ties in with the lore and films in the Star Wars universe. Our hero and the main protagonist is Iden Versio, the commander of Inferno Squad, an elite imperial special forces unit. Iden Versio also happens to be the daughter of Admiral Garrick Versio who oversees what remains of the imperial fleet after the destruction of the second Death Star, and the death of the head of the Galactic Empire, the Emperor/Senator Palpatine.
I was impressed by the visuals and graphical accuracy of the recreated ships, settings, and the motion capture and acting, especially by Janina Gavankar (Iden Versio) who was above par. The cutscenes were the highlight of the campaign for me, as the actual gameplay was a little flaccid and disappointing. Gameplay wise, we follow Iden Versio as she carries out the orders of her father, and battles enemies on land with blasters or in the sky and space with a starfighter. The levels are quite short and very linear, with layouts of the maps suggesting that they are borrowed from the multiplayer and not the other way around. Yes, the maps look good, but they don’t seem organic and I often found myself wandering out of the area and encountering a countdown clock after passing through an invisible barrier.
The gunplay was also lacklustre, as different weapons didn’t seem to do much damage, and what with the enemy AI causing them to stand still most of the time, you could headshot them as well with a pistol as you could with a scoped rifle. In contrast to the ground-based combat, the starfighter missions were a lot better; the areas were large and the AI of the other ships gave a lot more challenge in trying to take them down, and the scenery was outstanding, with a real sense of scale as you’re flying your tiny one-person fighter next to a large capital ship.
The story started off strong but is diluted a little, when some levels seem to have been added so that you can play as one of the game’s hero characters; some make more sense than others, but don’t really add to the story, and feel more like side missions. Overall though the campaign is a welcome addition and I did enjoy playing through it and it managed to give that Star Wars movie feel, whilst fitting in well with the lore that is already present from the movies. An example of this is that we get to see the battle of Jakku, which ties in with The Force Awakens movie.
Now, the multiplayer, the real meat and bones of what Battlefront is traditionally all about; what have they done this time around? At first glance, the game seems more laid out like a Battlefield title, with the four different classes available such as Assault, Heavy, Officer, and Specialist.
- Assault offers the standard automatic or three round burst assault rifles, with grenades and shotguns as specials.
- Heavy gives you large blaster rifles with less accuracy and damage but higher rates of fire, with shields and impact grenades as your specials.
- Officers are equipped with a pistol, but offer buffs to your comrades as well as having a turret or group shield.
- Specialists are the snipers of the bunch, armed with long-range scoped blaster rifles, with binoculars and stun grenade as its specials.
Each of the classes abilities can be enhanced or changed via Star Cards that are earned through the loot crates, so that does offer a little customisation in your load-outs, but this is severely limited to start with, as you have to play an awful lot of games to earn the credits to purchase the loot crates. This, in turn, is hampered by RNG, you could be lucky and get max powered cards from the start, or be super unlucky and get duplicates of the cards that you already own.
The classes don’t feel very balanced, with Assault by far being the easiest and most durable to get kills on when starting out in Battlefront 2. The Officer class is incredibly weak and very situational; if however, you are playing with friends and can communicate so that you can play as a support role, then it starts to pick up, but that’s it. The turret is weak and the same goes for the pistol. The Heavy class is great at holding choke points and the Specialists are only any good on maps that are more open, and where a long-range rifle would outshine something that can be used in mid to long-range encounters. And, just to state that thermal detonator grenades are the most annoying, and yet also overpowered death delivery device in the game. On quite a few matches I topped the leaderboards by just throwing these puppies into doorways and bottlenecks, often getting four to five kills at a time.
Weapon customisation is also locked behind milestones. You can jump straight into the fray with the first-tier weapons and do fine, but if you want to change things up, or pick a more appropriate weapon for a particular level (say close quarters) then you have to complete milestone on each weapon to unlock the next tier, and so on. Eventually, you will unlock them, but the game forces you to stay on the same weapon so that you can get the kills to unlock the next; the same goes for the upgrades for weapons, and for me, this is very frustrating.
Controls are simple and functional, using the usual shooter layout. All specials are controlled with the shoulder buttons, with the D-pad being used for any bonus weapons and emotes. You can also still switch between first and third-person modes, and switch shoulder positions via the D-pad as was available in Battlefront.
The maps that you get to play on seem well designed, with multiple ingress points into areas, so that even if the opposition are camping one door, there are always choices for routes to get behind them; this stops the game from being locked down at one objective and helps to keep a good flow in the game modes, and of course provide some excitement as you try to keep an eye out for enemies coming from absolutely anywhere.
These multiplayer maps also manage to keep the looks and feel of the Star Wars universe as you traverse through them, and the scenery is exquisitely detailed and vibrant. Cover is carefully crafted into the maps in the form of crumbling walls, supply crates, railings, or massive metallic objects, but one annoying feature of this game is that it is nearly impossible to navigate over the top of the cover. You are sometimes left floundering about as you can’t jump over an obstacle that is not even up to your waistline – you must always walk around said objects. Also, unless you are stood behind a building the cover never seems to be high enough, that even when crouched your head is still protruding out of the cover, begging an enemy to bless your noggin with a few shots.
There is a good selection of modes for multiplayer: Galactic Assault, Star Fighter, Blast, Heroes vs Villains, and Strike, although I do miss a “domination,” type mode that was Drop Pod in BF1. This may, of course, be added in later in one of the content updates. Some of the modes do, however, have long wait times to get into games, as I guess fewer people are playing them, but Galactic Assault is usually quick and is a blast with 20 vs 20 person combat. I found that balancing was an issue between attacking and defending sides and that there was no real reward for doing your best and winning. I couldn’t see any discernible difference in scoring, and this took away a lot of the emphasis on completing objectives.
There are also some annoying bugs in multiplayer that need to be addressed quickly, as after having played Battlefront 2 solidly for a good week, I’ve found instances of enemies and teammates becoming invisible, and the only way to resolve this is to quit out of the match. Another annoyance is getting kicked from matches and the multiplayer map rotation with “Error 327,” which in turn causes horrendous load times when coming out of matches to unlock crates and upgrade cards.
Unfortunately, I found that there were other greater problems with the game rather than the original credit prices of heroes and loot crates; for me there were issues with the menu system being very clunking and slow, with the player being forced to leave games to upgrade cards every time, instead of being able to do this between matches, and even with EA disabling microtransactions, the game seems to be a little disjointed and just doesn’t feel finished. Classes don’t feel like they have many options to them at first until you start unlocking the required Star Cards, and the whole of that customisation is hidden behind getting these cards/crafting materials from loot crates.
Limited access to weapons is really annoying as well, although I’m sure you will be able to purchase the unlocks for these at some point, as that’s usually the case with the EA Battlefield games. The multiplayer wasn’t as fun as in the first Battlefront, in my opinion, and that’s really unfortunate. The larger scale maps in Galactic Assault didn’t seem as large and as open as the maps in the prequel, either. In contrast, the starfighter multiplayer was great, with the enhanced ship controls being an improvement on BF1, but unlocking cards for your starfighter required you to play more of the other game modes, to unlock the crafting materials from the milestones.
Overall this is a really solid shooter, let down by its dependency on the Star Cards system to provide the depth, customisation, and longevity of this title. With crafting materials being very thin on the ground, and the ability to get them from purchasing loot crates disabled, it’s now very slow progress to get anything done. If there was a way for EA to completely remove the Star Cards system and just introduce unlocks based on XP, rank, or level, it may provide a little more fluidity to the game progression, but at the moment, I would describe Star Was Battlefront 2 as an unfinished and disjointed game that has the fundamentals and potential of a great Star Wars skinned shooter.
- Great campaign story
- Likable main hero in Iden Versio
- Beautifully recreated and detailed Star Wars environments
- Star Cards
- Loot crates
- AI causing the enemy to stand still
This game has been rated ESRB: Teen, PEGI: 16. The game contains some moderate violence in regards to pointing laser guns at each other and shooting things, with the occasional death.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Xbox UK for the purposes of this review.