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Review: Star Wars: Battlefront II (PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

Quick review

The good
The not-so-good

The new “Star Wars” title promises big battles and the chance to experience the action of the franchise with the best graphics yet. Does it deliver?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, EA Dice and Motive Studios has built one of the most beautiful and detailed environments you’re likely to see. It’s a shame it disappoints with a rushed and predictable campaign, not to mention infuriating multiplayer gameplay.

Maybe we were just expecting too much. It’s a “Star Wars” year, because there’s a new “Star Wars” film out, and we already know there’ll be a cute and fuzzy animal in the next film to keep us busy. The Porgs at least have cute going for them, unlike the Ewoks, which has us reminisce for the days of the old Star Wars films simply because Battlefront II felt like a tribe of Ewoks were simultaneously stabbing and screaming on the inside of my skull.

We probably spent more time cradling our head in our hands than actually playing, thinking of how much better this game would be if perhaps a real Ewok had materialised to the side and started squawking at us. At least then we might have a chance at killing something.

Hold on, we’ll explain, but first…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

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A new yet familiar campaign

The latest entry in the long running Star Wars games that have graced practically every console including the arcade, “Battlefront II” follows Iden Versio, an Imperial Special Forces soldier who commands the super secretive Inferno Squad. She’s technically a bad guy (or a bad girl in this case), and even though you may not want to be on the Dark Side, that’s kind of where you start, kicking the game off with a bit of a realisation that you’re playing for the wrong side (hush).

Despite the campaign having the most mundane opening of all time (we hope you like controlling a drone and weaving through a Rebel ship’s ventilation shafts to shock unsuspecting soldiers), we found ourselves thoroughly enjoying subsequent missions, all of which truly showcase the developer’s attention to detail across different and unique Star Wars environments.

If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in Star Wars canon, the combination of what graphical hardware can nowadays do mixed with the excellent artistry of Battlefront II really helps to bring that dream to life.

Unfortunately the game-play quickly becomes repetitive and the story predictable, with every line being guessed before the voice actors got the opportunity. In fact, as far as character development goes, Battlefront II doesn’t offer a lot, despite the twist of an underlying love story.

At least you’re not forced to stay as the bad girl. During the campaign, you’ll get the opportunity to play as some of the series’ most beloved heroes, including everyone’s favourite carbonise-encased Han Solo (no longer a statue, because that would be dull). While it’s a nice nod to Star Wars fanfolk, this unfortunately detaches you from building a personal connection with Iden Versio, and the missions can end up falling flat.

While we might love the characters, there was nothing particularly exciting about playing these heroes in the game, with the gameplay remaining much the same, not helped by some rather basic and boring guns. You almost get the feeling Battlefront’s developers have thrown them in solely for the fans to have something to cling to, such as the totally mundane missions like where Han Solo looks for ‘some guy’ in a bar, while Luke Skywalker kills a bunch of space bugs that were protecting one of the Emperor’s secret vaults. Half-way through that particular mission, we raced to the kitchen and grabbed a can of Mortein, shouting “Let’s be done with it already!”

We get it, EA: these missions are supposed to feel like a lovely homage to what happened, but they drag down the game, and are a rather irrelevant attempt to save the thoroughly predictable four hour campaign. It honestly felt like the entire Battlefront II team was sitting beside me in my living room and whispering in my ear “you’re now Luke Skywalker, isn’t that cool?! Bet you didn’t expect that.”

You know what we didn’t expect? Luke Skywalker to look like a mad man in black pyjamas sporting a bowl cut spitting inspirational quotes to anyone that will listen. Seriously, if you’re going to give us Luke, at least make him look properly presentable, like those lovely environments provided.

It’s not all ugly and predictability, mind you. There were some exciting moments during the campaign, such as sniping rebel scum on the Forest Moon of Endor and destroying a fleet of X-Wings in an epic space battle.

These moments really immersed you in the Star Wars universe, pulling you into the scenes that we grew up with, offering graphics that are so incredibly rich and detailed that we often called out to the girlfriend and made her stare at the uncanny resemblance to the real thing. Except Luke, who just didn’t look the part.

What is no doubt the bread and butter of every Star Wars, you’ll come away from TIE Fighter and X-Wing battles feeling like the Imperial scum or Red Leader you’ve always wanted to be, ever since starting with “A New Hope”, “Empire Strikes Back”, or any of the movies which we all acknowledge as awesome (not those other three). Despite having a fenced in space fight, the battles are fun, and you will find yourself navigating through floating wreckage, escaping enemy fighters and spiraling towards objectives.

At least the gameplay definitely feels like an upgrade from the previous title, and we always love the opportunity to switch from first to third person in combat. And even though some of the characters seem irrelevant, the special abilities each offers are particularly fun, all of which come in use during particularly heated moments on the battlefield. At times you can be faced by a small squad who will mostly shoot from behind cover, and at other times you can be sprinting across a landing pad filled with enemy soldiers hitting every shot along the way, giving you ample time to give those special skills a bit of a work out.

Good skills are handy, too, because Battlefront’s weaponry as a whole isn’t that diverse, but you won’t really care. Enjoy the sweet, sweet moments shooting your enemy in the head and blowing them to smithereens with the occasional rocket launcher.

These are not the friends you’re looking for

So, multiplayer.

*deep breath*

Guys, it’s simply not that great, and we need to tell you why:

Not only did the title receive a digital rebellion from fans across the globe due to its in-game purchases policy, but the multiplayer progression system is totally bonkers.

Again, Battlefront’s multiplayer environments are beautifully designed, offering the same attention to detail that makes the campaign truly stand out, but the gameplay is incredibly dull and infuriating.

In the entire time that we played online, there was no indication that players should be strategic or offer support for fellow teammates, despite the game even rewarding randomly grouped players with battle points if they work together. Rather, Battlefront II is a tornado making its way through a sanitary plant, and if you don’t die from a sniper head shooting you from across the map, don’t worry, because the wave of grenades that will be thrown in your general direction by every enemy player will finish you off shortly.

If you manage to actually play the objective and kill a few enemies along the way, you have the opportunity to play a series of heroes who can either be slightly stronger than the regular classes or a special character like Yoda or Darth Maul. And if you see an enemy Jedi — like Yoda or good ol’ Darthy — RUN! Don’t even attempt at shooting them unless you’re in a group of your 20 closest mates. Seriously, you will be killed, and the weighting of the game is such that anyone in that position will likely happily trounce you regularly, almost like they held that position in the film and you were just a peon ready to be thrown about like the ragdoll you knew you were.

We’re not even sure why people stick with the Jedi gameplay, either, outside of maybe knowing you’ll mow down players. We played as a Jedi in multiplayer and despite being able to decimate everyone in our path, the lightsaber gameplay is quite dull, we quickly went back to the trusty pistol and rifle gunplay.

You’re actually much better off upgrading to a slightly more powerful character that has a jetpack or selecting a space craft to take your destruction to the sky, because as fun as it seems being a Jedi is, Battlefront II makes Jedi-life seem more like collective chores of destruction. Up next: Jedi sweeping.

Battlefront II does offer a Co-Op Arcade style of gaming for friends looking to not only communicate via a gaming headset. You and your friend can unlock levels in series after completing tasks in previous stages, such as eliminating a certain amount of enemies before the clock runs out.

From the first level players are able to play as a Jedi, but like multiplayer, it gets old really quickly. The first couple of minutes you really enjoy testing out certain Jedi’s special abilities such as throwing Darth Mauls lightsaber and choking enemies to death as Darth Vader, but there’s no real development after that point. Co-op is perfect for entertaining your nephews when they’re over, but will bore you and your friends very quickly. Real life foam lightsabres are more fun.

It’s a trap!

The game’s progression system — and to a degree your sanity — relies on “Star Cards”, which can be purchased with points earned from online gameplay or opening daily crates, now that EA has removed the whole spending of real money after players complained in unison.

These cards reward you with class specific upgrades, but the entire process is extremely disappointing and slow. Most of the time you will receive cards you already have or ones you simply don’t want, making it a bit like card collecting, and really detracting from the process.

You’ll spend hours slowly equipping more and more powerful cards, only to eventually be consumed by the dark side and start screaming at your reflection in the TV that you have promptly turned off in dissatisfaction. Who knew Star Wars Battlefront II had more in common with Breaking Bad?

The game can even come across a little chaotic, helping you to celebrate a two man kill streak. Seriously, if either Fett celebrate the death of two targets, the Empire wouldn’t have relied on him.

Two people? That’s nothing. Darth chokes more than that an hour, although that says as much about Empire ineptitude than it does for an effortless telekinetic chokehold.

Ultimately, Battleront II promises a lot of fun, but only if you like the sort of experience that says the same and doesn’t really evolve. And that’s totally cool, because some people will adore that.

Essentially, Star Wars: Battlefront II will give you every opportunity to immerse yourself in the Star Wars world through beautiful graphics and an otherwise classic soundtrack, only to disappoint you through a chaotic multiplayer progression system and predictable single player campaign. If that doesn’t bother you, there’s load of fun to be had, and if it does, well, there’s always foam light sabres and your memory of every Star Wars line to get you through the holidays.

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