Star Wars Battlefront 2 (PS4) REVIEW
With or without the microtransactions, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is hardly an amazing game.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a game full of passion and reverence for the source material. It’s a game so steeped in hopes and high expectations that there was almost no way it could accomplish what the developers set out to do with this new entry to the Battlefront franchise. Perhaps it was doomed to fail from the beginning, but even so, most didn’t expect the firestorm of anger from fans once the multiplayer progression system saw the light of day.
Suddenly, Battlefront was no longer about a new Star Wars game; it was about the greed and exploitation used by big game companies on unsuspecting fans. It was a whole thing, but I’m not here to review controversy (10/10, great work, internet). I’m more here because, at the heart of this, a bunch of developers and designers poured countless hours into a video game, and I want to review that product. Business and politics aside, is this game worth playing, or did that controversy accidentally save us from a bad game in a loved franchise?
The Battlefront franchise has a relatively storied history. For those that didn’t grow up in the early 2000s, Star Wars Battlefront started back in 2004 as a third-person shooter built around capturing points to deplete your enemy of reinforcements. The surprising success of that first release prompted a sequel soon after, adding vehicles and weapon progression. Fast forward ten years and EA DICE would release a reboot of the original, titled Star Wars Battlefront. Battlefront 2 is the sequel to that release, looking to improve on the core concepts while changing some of the mechanics to be more in line with the original series.
There’s a surprisingly large amount of content to unpack from a game mostly dependent on multiplayer. Galactic Assault pits 40 players in a large map, with one team attacking a series of objectives while the other just looks to deplete the enemy reinforcements. Starfighter Assault is similar, though it’s a 24-player match and everyone gets a starfighter. Perhaps the best mode, though, is Heroes Vs. Villains, which is just a 4-on-4 hero fight. Apart from the multiplayer content, Battlefront 2 technically has a Campaign that lasts about as long as an actual Star Wars movie with about 20% of the plot. Finally, there’s an arcade that acts more like training grounds for the real multiplayer.
Campaigns are meant to create meaningful stories, and stories can differ in length. The original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign took maybe 10 hours, but it was ripe with incredible moments. The Witcher 3, on the other hand, could last for countless hours and be just as impactful. Battlefront 2 took the shortest route, lasting around five hours with none of the power. Sure, there are attempts at impact, but most of them come at the expense of coherence and character development. It feels as though this was very much an afterthought once the developer thought the rest of the game was ready. If you’re looking to be underwhelmed, look no further than the Battlefront 2 campaign.
The heart of Battlefront 2 lies with its multiplayer, and it shows in the final product. Levels are sprawling, dynamic encounters, with careful attention paid to the detail and flow. If nothing else, EA DICE demonstrates a passion for the source material, developing the Star Wars universe with such an elegant touch that it sometimes maybe comes across as too real. The gameplay itself hasn’t changed much from its predecessor, which isn’t necessarily a negative. It feels crisp and fair, though a bit tougher on console than most shooters since aim assist doesn’t exist. Replacing the coin system from the first Battlefront, the game has you building up a score called Battle Points, which you then spend to select an elite unit, such as an X-Wing or Darth Maul. This system is more akin to the original Battlefront series and is far more rewarding for good, objective-based play. All in all, the core gameplay of the multiplayer is fantastic, so it’s a shame how much they tarnished it with the exterior systems.
Outside of the standard format, Starfighter Assault adds a welcome change of pace through aerial dogfights. Utilizing a similar class system, players get the choice of a few different roles, with heroic starfighters costing Battle Points. Luckily, the heroes in Starfighter Assault aren’t nearly as overpowered as in the regular Galactic Assault. Starfighters also get the card upgrades, though there are less to choose from, which is reasonable since there’s not too much you can do with space combat. Overall, it feels like this mode could be blown out into something bigger and better, akin to a new Star Wars Rogue Squadron. Instead, it acts as more of a fun distraction away from the regular soldier battles.
One of the better extra modes, Heroes vs. Villains, is an entertaining place to try out and practice with the different Hero characters in the game. Set in a smaller arena, the gameplay focuses on small skirmishes between teams of four. In a regular match, it can be a relatively difficult task to acquire just one life as a Hero, but in this mode, you get the chance to spawn each life as a new hero in your faction. The enemy team is a bunch of Sith lords? Try out Han Solo and General Leia. With everyone having an equal set of powerful moves, it can create some ridiculous fights, though this mode can also be plagued by the imbalance of the Card System seen in regular Galactic Assault.
The arcade is the most balanced area of Battlefront 2 since you’re just playing against the computer here. With a few routes to choose from, Arcade lets you play through a number of preset scenarios using a specific selection of units and heroes. Those scenarios are, kill a certain amount of units in a time frame, or win a team battle against computers. There’s also a way to build out your own scenarios, in case you want to practice. Unfortunately, the battles are limited to 8 vs. 8, so it doesn’t reach the same chaotic caliber as a regular multiplayer match. On the bright side, these can be accomplished with a friend and even played split-screen if you’re on console. A great mode for friends with less frustration than regular Galactic Assault, it doesn’t offer enough to add much longevity to the game, but it gives you a place to feel powerful.
As a way to customize your units, the card system in Battlefront 2 breaks one of the few rules of multiplayer games: Don’t let random drops dictate the power of the player. These cards give a variety of effects, such as changing up specific abilities for the class or giving buffs if you’re doing the proper job associated with your class. These buffs can be game-changing, such as the potential 40% decrease in health recharge delay for those around an Officer. However, each card has a few different levels of power that can only be reached by spending in-game currency called Crafting Parts. You get a small amount daily, but they’re mainly obtained through the loot crates, which is a real problem because those loot crates are expensive. Therefore, it can take an extraordinary amount of time just to feel like you’re on an even field with the other players. In my experience, I played a solid amount and still don’t own a singular purple card. Dying in the game, almost every killer has at least one with a couple blue cards. It’s a demoralizing experience, since I may be losing fights solely because they pulled better cards from the boxes, and there’s no remedy for that.
Sadly, that’s all anyone will remember from Star Wars Battlefront 2. EA managed to find the breaking point when consumers will push back on microtransactions. If those loot boxes give you legitimate power in the game, it feels unfair to everyone else who already spent $60 on your game. How am I supposed to keep up with someone who consistently plays this game? By the time I get that one purple card, they’ll be fully equipped running better guns with attachments and nifty abilities. Luck or money dictates your overall potential in Battlefront 2.
If you really want to play, you might want to get in now, as players will only get stronger from here. It’s unfortunate because the balanced gameplay can be so great, and the maps are so well-done, but none of that matters when you can buy power.
It’s clear that the developers have a passion for the Star Wars universe, but very little love for the players. The core is solid but surrounded by trash.
Review copy purchased
Microtransactions: none (right now)