When Star Wars Battlefront got here out in 2015, the main focus was on the way in which it re-created key moments from the unique film franchise. Players had been ready to participate in multiplayer battles on planets like Hoth and Tatooine, dropped at life with by the crew at EA DICE with an as-of-then unprecedented stage of realism and element. For a movie franchise that was relaunching itself on a worldwide scale, Battlefront was the right, shiny gaming companion, reminding audiences at each flip why they like Star Wars within the first place.
The solely downside was that when that preliminary thrill of taking part in on Hoth subsided Battlefront felt slightly wanting. Expansion packs introduced new places like Cloud City and the Death Star to the combo, but it surely was nonetheless a multiplayer recreation, and with the essential mechanics not essentially in-line with different top-tier shooters, it merely didn’t age effectively.
All of which brings us to the large effort that’s Star Wars Battlefront II. Three completely different gaming studios collaborated in an try to handle all the weaknesses of the unique recreation. There are extra characters, extra environments, a greater load-out system, and numerous different tweaks and tips designed to broaden upon the bare-bones unique. But Star Wars is a franchise constructed round epic narratives, and this time Battlefront II additionally has a single-player marketing campaign. Developed largely by EA’s new Motive studio in reference to the Lucasfilm Story Group, it tells the story of Iden Versio, an elite Imperial particular forces officer that has to grapple with the fallout when the second Death Star is destroyed on the finish of Return of the Jedi. It’s been billed as an thrilling new story that’s a part of the official Star Wars canon — sure, there’s even a prequel novel — and an opportunity for gamers tackle the position of the unhealthy guys for as soon as.
After burning by means of the marketing campaign this previous weekend, I used to be happy to search out it’s the satisfying solo mode the primary recreation all the time cried out for. Not solely does it spotlight lots of the greatest attributes of the brand new Battlefront, it additionally comes tantalizingly shut to truly being the riveting, standalone Star Wars story the advertising and marketing hype has promised — if solely that pesky spectre of nostalgia didn’t get in the way in which.
Warning: Minor story spoilers for Star Wars Battlefront II beneath.
This piece goes to solely give attention to the single-player marketing campaign of Battlefront II, and as my colleague Chaim Gartenberg wrote in October, it’s constructed across the identical primary mechanics as the primary recreation. You shoot, you throw thermal detonators, you crouch, you are taking sniper photographs; it’s the meat and potatoes of any recreation of this ilk, however people who had been pissed off by the primary Star Wars Battlefront will instantly discover and recognize the distinction in really feel. This recreation is tighter and extra responsive, resulting in a baseline gameplay expertise that I discovered rather more satisfying than the unique. While the brand new Battlefront has a number of elaborate choices within the multiplayer mode, single-player is streamlined and simple, however that’s additionally the purpose: it’s about shifting by means of the narrative second by second, set piece by set piece.
As for that narrative, it’s to the credit score of each Motive and writers Mitch Dyer and Walt Williams that I discover myself pondering of Battlefront II not as a recreation with some narrative connective tissue, however as a Star Wars film that I used to be really in a position to play. Told over 13 chapters, the story follows Iden Versio, commander of the Empire’s elite Inferno Squad, and begins along with her simply moments earlier than the climax of Return of the Jedi. She’s on a mission to destroy proof that may warn the Rebels in regards to the Empire’s secret badault close to Endor, and after pulling that off she’s despatched to run a mission on the forest moon — the place she sees the second Death Star blown aside. Her father, an Imperial Admiral, brings her in to badist provoke the final directive from The Emperor — one thing known as Operation: Cinder.
That mission takes Iden to varied new worlds, together with her homeworld of Vardos, the place she’s tasked with killing Rebels, dealing with intelligence, and making her method in her TIE fighter by means of swarms of X-wing fighters and Rebel cruisers. But it quickly turns into clear that following Operation: Cinder requires Iden to do issues that fly within the face of the peace and order she’s all the time felt the Empire stood for, and because the recreation progresses she finds herself torn between the orders of her father and her personal inside judgment of right and wrong.
Actor Janina Gavankar, who voiced and offered movement seize for Iden, delivers some actual pathos along with her efficiency. She could also be an Imperial, however she’s additionally a hero within the basic Star Wars custom: she fights for the beliefs which were instilled in her from delivery, and carries along with her the form of devil-may-care swagger that made Han Solo a family title. But she can be a personality that evolves and adjustments, pulled between two opposing worldviews, and it provides a human dimension to all the storyline.
If you’re pondering that the Battlefront II single-player isn’t as simple as “play as a bad guy” for eight hours, you’re proper, and that brings with it each upsides and disadvantages. With all the lead-up, I used to be frankly excited to only embrace my darker instincts and play because the Empire for the whole lot of the sport; it gave the impression to be a part of the edgier tone adopted by each Rogue One and the upcoming The Last Jedi. Things aren’t in the end that straightforward, however Iden’s story is however satisfying unto itself, significantly as the implications of the Empire’s actions trickle down from her father, to her, and the members of her crew.
Where Battlefront II appears to make a misstep is that it doesn’t stick totally with Iden at some point of the storyline. While all the marketing campaign is chronologically a part of Iden’s personal narrative, completely different chapters soar to completely different characters and planets — presumably, to focus on all the improvement work that EA DICE did in creating them within the first place. At one level, gamers tackle the position of Luke Skywalker, serving to a member of Inferno Squad full a mini-mission. In one other, it’s Princess Leia, or General Lando Calrissian. One of essentially the most nice standalone chapters is when gamers tackle the position of a bearded Han Solo, who begins issues off with a protracted alternate with Maz Kanata from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (If you thought it felt slightly off that Han had a long-standing relationship with an alien creature that by no means confirmed up earlier than, don’t fear. Battlefront II has you coated.)
It’s not that these bottle chapters, for lack of a greater time period, aren’t enjoyable to play. They’re really fairly delightfully designed — the Lando chapter takes gamers by means of a lava-fueled AT-AT manufacturing unit on the planet Sullust, for instance. It’s simply that the Iden chapters do such a superb job of organising a brand new character, and a brand new battle I wished to find out about, that it felt like a chore to energy by means of what looks like a biggest hits album as compared. Given that the unique recreation didn’t have any form of narrative marketing campaign in any respect, this feels a considerably low-cost criticism. But it’s one thing that can doubtless hinder replayability. Why waste time when over a 3rd of the chapters step away from essentially the most intriguing character?
There is one lone exception to the standalone chapter rule… one very intriguing exception, that I’d love to debate in additional element. But a part of the enjoyable is discovering its existence within the first place, in order that’s one thing most likely higher left for additional dialogue later.
Story issues shouldn’t detract from the technical execution of the sport, nevertheless, and Battlefront II is a outstanding enchancment over the unique on virtually each stage. The environments are richly detailed (at one level I simply stopped and marveled on the texture of the waves rolling beneath a touchdown platform), and the sound results and music cues seamlessly re-create the temper and environment of the movies, promoting the setting and environment flawlessly. When one thing is that this steeped within the language and aesthetic of a universe, even the smallest misfires stand out, and the most effective praise can merely be that nothing ever appears amiss. Battlefront II pbades that take a look at throughout the board; whether or not I used to be stalking by means of a Star Destroyer or the platforms of Bespin, the feeling was merely of being inside Star Wars, full cease.
While the overall responsiveness of the controls was a noticeable enchancment, the opposite huge step up is the flying sequences. Vehicles had been by no means a excessive level of the primary recreation, and within the single-player marketing campaign Battlefront II is raring to indicate off simply how a lot work Criterion Games put into crafting the area battles. Over the course of the storyline, gamers pilot the Millennium Falcon, TIE fighters, X-wings, they usually’re typically full-scale, galactic area battle situations. Ships are extra responsive, rolls are extra intuitive, and whereas it takes a bit to get used to among the new nuances, taking part in among the battles feels a lot nearer to the World War II dogfights that impressed A New Hope than the kludgy, sluggish battles of the primary recreation. The design of these ranges can be improved throughout the board, with the battles organically bringing gamers close to Star Destroyers and different cruisers till they’re virtually skimming throughout the floor. They don’t simply echo moments from the movies; they add a newfound sense of hazard to the battles.
To say that the top of the single-player marketing campaign is satisfying could be to overstate it. There’s a compelling conclusion, however issues are additionally left on a little bit of a cliffhanger — and certain sufficient, her story will proceed with a DLC growth in December. It’s additionally simple to see how her story may proceed even additional, within the inevitable Star Wars Battlefront III, or in some future novel, TV present, or film reference. But I additionally couldn’t badist however consider the large potential of a full-blown narrative journey set on this world — one the place the emphasis wouldn’t must be on using multi-player parts, or delivering fan service by roping in basic characters that had already been constructed for a pre-existing “hero” mode.
For a very long time, Uncharted creator Amy Hennig’s mysterious Star Wars recreation appeared like the nice hope for a story Star Wars journey. That might not be within the offing, however Battlefront II simply appears to underscore the unimaginable alternative inherent in such a challenge. People love Star Wars, however they don’t simply like it due to battles, fights, and area fight. They like it due to the characters and themes in play.
Star Wars Battlefront II understands that the majority elementary of truths about this franchise. Now that I’ve gotten slightly style, I need to see the place it will possibly go subsequent.
Star Wars Battlefront II launches November 17th on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.