STAR WARS – BATTLEFRONT II [Xbox One X Review]: I Sense Great Fear in You…
After spending this near entire Thanksgiving weekend playing Star Wars: Battlefront II‘s 5-hour single-player campaign mode and several more hours into its superb multiplayer, it’s quite clear that this is the game 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront should have been. It’s just a shame that, thanks to some infinitely questionable business practices from EA, most of the joy was pew-pew-pew’d out of players before they ever had a chance to open the case or digitally download this game…
But, if you can ever forgive EA for the following back-to-back PR nightmares, A.) Discontinuing production on a highly-anticipated Visceral project that many Jedis have been clamoring for years, B.) Fumbling the launch of SW:BF2 with early reports of a methodically ridiculous lootbox/microtransaction economy that went so far to become the most downvoted post in Reddit history — and even drew the ire of some lawmakers — you have yourself a pretty awesome game.
Surely, the confusion is strong with this one.
This sequel wouldn’t have had much a chance if not for the introduction of a single player campaign. While the narrative gets off to a shaky, predictable start the first couple hours in and ends just when you’re picking your jaw up from the floor, DICE admirably incorporates Hero Play in between a tight story and even tighter action. Sure, there’s a disconnect between playing as these icons and what Inferno Squad protagonist/commander Iden Versio has going on in her world, but everything feels authentic Star Wars, capped off by a wonderful orchestratic score, accurate-to-film sound effects, and general nuances (i.e. signature screen-wipe transitions, the way Stormtroopers humorously fly upon getting blasted). Kudos to the writing team led by Joe Fielder (Bioshock Infinite) for giving us more depth post-RotJ as well as one bombshell plot twist in the third act, and the holy-accurate-as-hell voice talent for capturing the inflections of our most favorite in-canon SW characters.
Bar none, my favorite part of Battlefront II is the space combat. I could never figure out how to man those pesky ships in the previous installment, but within an hour or so I’ve become quite the master pilot thanks to more responsive handling, so much so that Poe Dameron would be jealous of my skills on the sticks. That said, it’s not an easy balance in the thick, as aerial dogfights with an opposing squadron consist of working the high and low angles of monsterous ships (or, say, wildly sporadic debris from Endor) at simultaneous breakneck and cautious speeds — all the while stopping for a mere second to glance and admire the maps’ intergalactic beauty in 4K.
Sans a few glitches, like one (particularly funny) match that saw my TIE pilots defying gravity and swooping around the atmosphere like fuckin’ Supermen in all their shipless, toilet-squatting glory, everything runs smooth and looks as gorgeous doing so. Playing Battlefront 2 on the Xbox One X compared to Battlefront on the Xbox One is night and day. Other than some wonky character movements and some laggy frames during cinematics, gameplay is pretty much on-point. Planetary environments really pop on the screen — whether you’re on the ground firing at jet-packing Clonetroopers or in the air hovering over Jakku (the desert planet looks simply delicious). I’m far from an MP guy, but I see myself losing plenty of sleep with Starfighter Assault. And with more map variety, the 40-plus player Galactic Assault will see more gameplay in a weekend in this household than the original ever did — rubberband cheaters/fucked up randomized economy or not.
And I guess that’s what it all comes down to, how intense your love is for the Star Wars universe, and how much competitive MP you’re going to do. $60 bones for a 5-hour campaign is a steep price to pay for single player only peeps (maybe wait for a price drop, or a Toys ‘R Usesque “Buy 1, Get 1 Free”); but take solace in the fact that I typically despise competitive online play and had a blast with every game mode, even when my Star Cards were limited, my Heroes were scarce, and my score wound up towards the bottom of the card. Heroes vs. Villains returns, and might be a bitch if you square off against an obvious pairing of “play all day” Sith/Slumlords, yet at least here you don’t have to worry about anyone having to be unlocked; pick Lando, Rey, Boba, Kylo, etc. and have a tag-team field day, in-canon discomfiture or not. And this side of Starfighter Assault I had the most fun with Blast, a mode that should remind Rebel Scum of some of the “no time to think” close-quarters confrontations Luke and Han had in TESB. The deathmatch might be the least frustrating to MP novices, too, since the playing field will feel more balanced due to its abrupt erruption. Give it a shot.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a whole lot to like about a game that has been giving every Reddit-loving dweeb fits only a week or two ago. Sure, the progression system is a fuckin’ unrewarding and unnecessarily complex joke and EA is a greedy bastard of a publisher; but I’m a sucker for anything Star Wars. With Visceral sadly out of the picture and no sign of a KOTOR remake/re-release in sight, Battlefront II is the closest we have right now to immersing ourselves into our favorite lore. Just remember: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. 3.5/5 Lootbox Bibles.