Republished on Monday 28th May 2020: We're bringing this review back from the archives following the announcement of June's PlayStation Plus lineup. The original text follows.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 has had quite the journey to release, hasn’t it? From the promise of more and better content at its E3 showing to the whole microtransaction catastrophe, this has been a more tumultuous roll-out than an ill-tempered Imperial assault. But with in-game purchases temporarily removed, is the game that’s left a quality one?
Battlefront 2’s single-player campaign is the first video game to tell a standalone story within the universe since 2011’s MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, and if you were at all anticipating it after soaking up all of the pre-launch marketing, you’re going to be left massively disappointed.
You take upon the role of Iden Versio, commander of Inferno Squad. Following the events of Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second Death Star, Versio is out to exact revenge on the Rebels and return the Empire to its former glory. This is an absolutely fascinating premise that takes place during a time period shrouded in mystery and from the opposite point of view to what we’re used to, but it’s all thrown away far too quickly.
The campaign falls victim to the twist everyone could see coming from a mile away, and as such, story beats fall completely flat. Plot points quickly re-align with what you’d expect out of a typical good vs evil conflict, and with a couple of overused clichés thrown into the pot, we couldn’t help but groan upon the conclusion.
This wouldn’t have been so bad if the gameplay was fun throughout, but that isn’t the case. While there is a good mixture of missions battling on the ground, taking the fight to the Empire in vehicles, and duelling in space with Tie-Fighters, what you’re actually doing can be broken down into two very simple objectives of killing someone or destroying something – or, of course, reaching a certain place to hack a terminal. It’s boring, and the levels sprinkled in-between Inferno Squad missions that catch up with fan-favourite Star Wars characters baffled us even more.
It’s here where the campaign truly starts to fall apart, as these one-off levels just feel like an excuse to give you control of a Jedi: Luke Skywalker goes on an escort mission with a member of the Empire; you’ll defend a number of outposts as Princess Leia while a defected member of Inferno Squad repairs defensive measures; and Han Solo takes a slow trudge around Maz Kanata’s canteen in search of information. A lot of what happens is just completely unrealistic, to the point where it feels like fan fiction.
EA had the chance to tell an intriguing tale from the perspective of the Empire, but this is scuppered almost instantly. Instead, we’re treated to a below par campaign that brings nothing new to the Star Wars universe. It feels like EA included a single player story because it had to, not because it wanted to.
Thankfully, however, the multiplayer fares a bit better. Large scale warfare is back with the 40-player Galactic Assault taking up the reins as the standard mode, alongside Starfighter Assault which takes the battle to space with 24 pilots. Heroes vs Villains pits classic Star Wars characters against each other in a four-versus-four brawl, while Strike tasks you with completing objectives with a slender player count. Finally, there's Blast, which is classic Team Deathmatch.
The game plays similarly to the 2015 entry, though this time Heroes and vehicles are attached to Battle Points earned during each round, rather than tokens. Other than that, the biggest difference this time around is the class system, which affects your role on the battlefield: Assault is on the front-line dealing damage, Heavy supports with LMGs, Officer is light on his feet with fast health regeneration, and Specialist hangs back with a Sniper Rifle. Each class can be customised further with Star Cards – ability altering perks that can turn the tide of battle in your favour.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room. We reviewed the game without the presence of microtransactions, which means that every Hero we unlocked and every Star Card we obtained was done through playing the game. EA has stated that the in-game purchases will return at some point, and when that happens, we shall issue a follow-up article detailing how much of an affect they have on the progression system.
Completing the campaign netted us 15,000 credits, which was enough to unlock one of the most expensive ticket items in Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, or a few lesser Heroes such as Iden Versio, Emperor Palpatine, and Leia Organa. After spending those credits, we managed to get our tally high enough to purchase another Hero after about four hours of gameplay and completing challenges.
These Heroes and each class can then be equipped with the aforementioned Star Cards, which come in four different tiers. Some of the abilities and passive upgrades you gain can seem overpowering on paper, but can't make up for poor play. Still, attaching them to the random nature of loot boxes feels unfair. Furthermore, you can purchase upgrades to the Star Cards through crafting parts, but these are gained so slowly that they’re hardly worth mentioning.
As alluded, the title – in its current guise – isn't pay-to-win because no amount of Star Cards will make up for sloppy aim or bad tactics. Thanks to this, the multiplayer offerings are fun to engage with. Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault are the two clear standouts as they offer the biggest maps to support every playstyle. Because of this, the likes of Strike and Blast feel a little redundant thanks to their low player count and smaller skirmishes. Still, with seasons and a whole host of free multiplayer content promised down the line, Battlefront 2's multiplayer is something we can see ourselves continuously returning to.
The 2015 version of Star Wars Battlefront was lauded for its incredible graphics, but two years later, we’ve yet to find ourselves impressed by any vistas or scenery found in the sequel. The game looks fine, but it doesn’t feel like it’s really trying to wow with its presentation this time around. This is actually made worse by the Hero character models, with none of them looking quite right – Han Solo in particular. However, the sound design from DICE continues to put the rest of the industry to shame. The noise of laser blasters hitting a Gungan shield sounds like it was ripped straight out of The Phantom Menace and a Tie Fighter zooming past sounds like an exact replica.
Star Wars Battlefront 2’s saving grace is its multiplayer. A strong offering provides you with a number of ways to play and a variety of locations to battle on, and if it manages to stick to a level playing field once the infamous microtransactions are added back into the game, it’s an experience we’ll continue to return to. But this is not enough to excuse the abysmal campaign. Any uniqueness dissipates all too quickly, and what follows is a boring set of missions that often feel misguided and unrealistic.