When EA announced the rebirth of the Star Wars: Battlefront series, fans of the franchise felt a mixture of elation and skepticism. The original games received monumental praise, particularly the second title, which is still a favorite among many PC gamers due to a few fan-made mods that have kept the game fresh. As such, a series reboot excited fans, who hoped the first installment would live up to its predecessors while using current-gen graphics. The skepticism, however, stemmed from EA’s uncanny ability to release unfinished projects in the pursuit of quick commercial success. Unfortunately, that skepticism was well-founded, as 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront, while praised for its visuals and online gameplay, was criticized for a lack of single-player content—heavily featured in the original duo—and the use of microtransactions to get the full experience from downloadable content (DLC).
EA, through subsidiary developer EA DICE, is attempting to remedy the reboot’s downfalls with Star Wars: Battlefront II through the implementation of a single-player campaign. Sadly, OnlySP did not get to experience any of that campaign during a recent hands-on demo, and whether or not more single-player content outside of the campaign will be available upon the game’s release on November 17, 2017 is unclear. On the upside, a LAN party did offer valuable information regarding Battlefront II’s gameplay , and while single-player is this site’s focus, the LAN party provided an idea of what playing EA DICE’s upcoming sequel will entail.
Unsurprisingly, Battlefront II’s graphics are relatively equal to those of its predecessor. Showcasing the supreme quality of current-gen consoles (mainly PlayStation 4, as the platform on which the demo was played), the game is a visual testament to the skill, experience, and technology brought to the table by EA DICE. Clone troopers (from the Star Wars prequel films) wear their iconic armor; mostly white, Clone Trooper Armor shines bright even in the midst of battle, somehow ignoring warfare’s grit and grime. The armor’s detail is sharp and crisp, making soldiers appear simultaneously fierce and conspicuous. With their helmets in a state of constant Frown Town, clone troopers rush into battle to meet their mechanical enemies: the emotionless battle droids who have annexed the Naboo city of Theed.
Monotone and ruthless, Battlefront II’s battle droids are picturesque recreations of their theatrical counterparts. The average droid sports a thin, sandy frame and solid black eyes, with a communication device that looks like a backpack hardwired into its back. Their more formidable, evolutionary successors, however, are bulkier and comprised of a dull silver armor plating. The former droids carry their weapons, such as blaster rifles or sniper rifles, while the latter raises one of their arms and fires blaster bolts directly out of a slot on their wrist. These droids are the backbone of the Separatist army, and EA DICE did a splendid job of making them representative of their cinematic inspirations.
Each side of the battle featured different heroes players could use to devastate the enemy. Some of those characters, however (Rey, Han Solo), were not prominent figures during the time period portrayed in the demo, but such inaccuracies must be overlooked for the sake of gameplay. One of the most exciting heroes available for play was Darth Maul, a fan favorite since his appearance in The Phantom Menace. Darth Maul’s black robes, red flesh, black tattoos, small cranial horns, and red double-bladed lightsaber are spitting images of his depiction in the first prequel movie.
Clone soldiers and battle droids are not the only aesthetically pleasing Star Wars prequel iterations debuting in the Battlefront reboot’s sequel. Alongside Battlefront II’s infantry, iconic vehicles spring into view. For example, the V-Wing Starfighter (shown below) soars in the skies above Theed as the ship’s pilot battles with Vulture Droid Starfighters that sport twin blaster cannons at the tip of each horizontally curved wing. Both ships’ threatening builds augment their vivid novelty as they race for dominance in the skies above Theed.
The rest of Battlefront II’s visuals blend together to create a contrasting picture. The blue sky spreads over the city like a soothing blanket, deceiving gamers into believing Theed to be a peaceful place. With the battle raging below, resulting in explosions, debris, death, and blaster burns, the sky’s tranquility is utterly subverted. The city’s buildings, some towering and others modest, are every bit the sophisticated regalia associated with a monarchical society. Being shaken and battered by an intense war is a lamentable position for an otherwise resplendent metropolis.
The smooth graphics are further enhanced by audio unique to the Star Wars universe. The whirring hum of Darth Maul’s menacing lightsaber will awaken a sense of familiarity to those who played the original Battlefront II (2005) and watched The Phantom Menace (1999). Blaster bolts “pew pew” across the battlefield in red and blue streaks, zipping into their targets, where they fry circuits and char battle armor as they deliver fatalities across the city. Similar to the Battlefield series, another EA DICE product, Battlefront II’s explosions are cacophonous; aircraft produce whining pitches wedded to threatening cries from their weapons, and ground vehicles add their mechanical rumblings to the mix. Altogether, Battlefield II’s audio, while impressive, is standard fare for both a first- and third-person shooter developed by EA DICE and the Star Wars universe.
Like the reboot, Battlefront II’s starfighter controls require a little bit of an adjustment period, but nothing too arduous. Thrusters (speed) are controlled with the left analog stick while the right stick controls direction (turning, climbing, and descending). The left trigger locks onto targets while the right trigger fires blaster cannons, and the left-and-right bumpers activate a ship’s special abilities, such as missiles or speed boosts. Moreover, the directional pad offers evasive maneuvers, such as barrel rolls and one-eighties. These controls seem clunky at first, but once a player becomes familiar with the setup, navigating a starfighter becomes rather facile.
Arguably the most interesting mechanic new to the Star Wars: Battlefront series is the use of ‘Battle Points’ to unlock different classes and characters. Battle Points are acquired by completing objectives, killing enemies, or helping teammates. If a player wishes to play as Boba Fett or Darth Maul, for example, they will have to obtain 5,000 Battle Points (BP) to spend on the hero in question. However, BP can also be used to purchase character upgrades, thus improving a gamer’s arsenal and tech, as well as vehicles, such as the aforementioned starfighters. Following complaints from players of the first Battlefront (2015) that users could camp the boost pickup locations in multiplayer modes, EA DICE decided to create the BP system to level the playing field and suit different gamers’ styles.
Battlefront II’s objective-based gameplay is a refreshing addition as well. Flowing seamlessly into different phases, objectives range from disabling troop transports to overriding security systems. Whatever objective one faction has, the other team has a counter-objective they must complete to prevent the opposing team from succeeding. This system adds more depth, making each battle feel like a real, purposeful engagement rather than a single-minded altercation. With the return of classes to the Battlefront series, objective play feels more tactical than the game’s predecessor.
The class system mentioned above warrants at least a modicum of attention. Each class has a different purpose, allowing for different approaches to accomplishing an objective. Specialists, for example, act as sniper support, picking off enemies from a distance to help pave the way for troops closer to the frontlines. In contrast, Heavies pit themselves in the middle of the fray, using their durability and brute force to either hold the line or blast a gap into the enemy’s position. With various classes, Battlefront II edges out its predecessor by providing multiple ways to approach every situation.
Despite Battlefront II’s unfinished stage, the game is shaping up nicely, clearly crafted to avoid some of the previous title’s shortcomings. However, while the game looks and feels like a quality product so far, OnlySP remains skeptical of its true nature. In 2015, Star Wars: Battlefront was one of the most anticipated games of the year, receiving high praise before release. Sadly, the game did not live up to the hype and was criticized for repetitive gameplay and a lack of single-player content. With EA behind the publication and oversight of both titles, one would do well to question the validity of such a seemingly improved sequel. In the end, all fans can do is wait and see what happens after Battlefront II launches on November 17, 2017.