EA Play at E3 2017 may have been light on new announcements — aside from the brief but sweet reveal of Bioware’s sci-fi shooter Hymn-but at least there were enough new details for it Star Wars: Battlefront II. The biggest, that Battlefront II would feature a full single-player story mode was reconfirmed by none other than John Boyega himself, who famously captured the mood of players when he tweeted “Will fans get a full offline story mode?” back in 2016.
Battlefront II‘s story, which Lucasfilm confirmed as canon earlier this year, bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and The power awakens. It casts players like Iden Versio (played by real blood actress Janina Gavankar) who is a member of the Inferno Squad, an elite Imperial Special Forces group that has sworn revenge on the rebels after witnessing the destruction of the second Death Star. There are also opportunities to play as Rebels and even step into Luke Skywalker’s shoes for at least one mission.
Despite the enthusiasm for the single player campaign, EA Play focused on Battlefront II‘s multiplayer mode. As good as Front was, it suffered from flaccid weapons, poor character balance, and some questionable DLC decisions that split the multiplayer-only player base into those with the cash to splash on DLC and those without. EA says Battlefront II both solve those problems and introduce a range of attractive new features.
Topping the list is the introduction of multi-themed content, “seasons,” which will replace a paid season pass and be offered to all players for free. This removes the problem of matchmaking players who own DLC with others who don’t. The first season is promised for December and will feature exciting content based on The Last Jedi. It features Finn and Captain Phasma as playable heroes, as well as a new planet called Crait, and a space map for the planet D’Qar. More planets, heroes, vehicles, modes and weapons are promised for future seasons.
EA claims players will be treated to “three times the content” in Battlefront IIwhich sounds impressive, although that’s not much of a challenge given the slight updates to the original.
Battlefront II introduces a new class system, making it consistent with that of Battlefield. Players can choose from Officer, Assault, Heavy, and Specialist classes. The Officer is the medic/support class, the Assault class is the medium-range shooter, the Heavy is the heavy weapon class, and the Specialist is the sniper class. Each class is fully customizable with different weapons and bonus cards, equipping traps, grenades and other more thoughtful weapons. Weapons and skins from all over Star Wars franchise are promised for the retail release.
One of the biggest criticisms of the original Front was that while the weapons looked and sounded authentic (at least as authentic as fictional weapons can sound), they felt rather flimsy. Battlefront II going much better. While I didn’t get to try all the new classes in my limited multiplayer match, it’s clear that a blaster has a lot more oomph this time around. The Assault-class stock rifle has just enough kick to make aiming a challenge, while the sniper rifle delivers a powerful punch that fires improvised shots.
Indeed, during the 20 vs. 20 mission I played on Theed – the capital of Naboo featured in The Phantom Menace-every shot, grenade, trap, missile and lightsaber swoosh was hugely immersive. Attempting to take down a droid army as it plowed through the city, my team of brave clone troopers bravely flanked and slashed its enemies across a large courtyard, only to be pushed further back into the palace as droid ships attacked our defenses. stormed in (given the speed at which this happened, I guess we weren’t great players).
To even the odds, players can wager various buffs in exchange for Battlepoints earned when you make kills or complete objectives. Of these, the miniature AT-ST walkers are the most amusing, albeit short-lived (it turns out riding a robot makes you a popular target), but there are other options, including a combat droid and a Naboo fighter. Players can also deploy a hero, including Rey, Han Solo, and Darth Maul. They’re all powerful enough, with Maul’s ability to strangle opponents with the power and deflect blaster shots with a twist of his light staff, which is particularly hard to attack.
Making such additions Battlefront II a much more strategic matter. There’s depth to the combat that was sorely lacking in the original, with the choice of class, weapon and buff having a dramatic effect on the outcome of a match. There is also a greater emphasis on teamwork, which, unsurprisingly, ensures that Battlefront II more such as Battlefield 1. Considering how good the latter’s multiplayer is, that’s not a bad thing.
I’d be lying if I was super excited for the multiplayer in Battlefront II (bring on the campaign), but there’s no denying that it’s already a huge improvement over Front. The powerful and highly successful combination of gunplay and strategy in Battlefield 1 has clearly rubbed off on Battlefront 2even if the horrors of World War I and the melodrama of Star Wars couldn’t be further apart.
Battlefront II (pre-order in the UK) releases on November 17 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.