**MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD**
So, I’m back. Before jumping on the meat of this review I will nibble at the surprisingly tasty appetiser that was Arcade mode. Arcade mode is a 1 or 2 player co-op (splitscreen available) set of missions spread across multiple scenarios, multiple maps and featuring both light and dark side characters. Each scenario has three “difficulties” that all have different modifiers on how you play. They all revolve around the player and some AI allies fighting off a set number of AI enemies. As an example, the first light side mission on easy difficulty consists of the player opting to control Luke or Leia defending Yavin from stormtroopers. All the enemies have reduced health, both sides have a set number of lives. On medium, the players take on standard trooper roles as if this was a multiplayer game, but otherwise have to fight off the same baddies. The hardest difficulty, you are only able to unlock Luke/Leia by earning battle points as if this was multiplayer, however no one has any abilities anymore and the player now also have reduced health and there are more enemies than allies on the battlefield.
This is fun, mildly addictive and has made me pressure others into playing with me because co-op is always more fun than solo. Unfortunately, EA did decide to cap the amount of credits you can earn through arcade, so if you wanted to grind, this is not the way.
Now onto the single player campaign, the reason I still bought this game and the one part I still hoped would be good… and well, eh. Gameplay wise is feels like most shooters, however unlike the multiplayer you can take your time and hide behind cover because there is no stupid rolypoly evading nonsense, that button is now just crouch. The game is generous with weapons and abilities; giving you the chance to swap out your equipment if you die, or if you find the fairly regular equipment crates dotted around the landscape. This is great if you aren’t a fan of the gun one particular mission spawns you with. You can also, like most games, find weapons on racks dotted around the landscape. This was all great by me as I found myself sticking to the E-11 generic stormtrooper rifle: decent accuracy, decent power, what more could a Spec Ops trooper want? I would have liked a mission where you get to control a tank or AT-ST but you have to settle for controlling an on-rails AT-AT for one scene. There are several missions where you get to control ships and these have the same complaints on flying as before. You also get no choice, mission depending its either an X-Wing or a TIE/ln, no Y-Wings, Interceptors or any of the other cool ships for you! The fact that X-Wings and TIE fighters feel the same to fly is still a sin in my eyes but moving on.
For most of the game you control Iden Versio, commander of Inferno Squad, an elite special forces team in the Empire with funky black armour. Oddly the first mission begins with Versio captured and the player controlling her floating ID10 droid, hacking its way to her to free her… this is the only time you ever manually control the droid. After this you can command him to unlock doors and shock people to death, otherwise he just sits on your back. Iden herself is a stereotypically driven elite soldier, dedicated to the cause and prioritising the mission… until she doesn’t. The admiral in charge of Inferno Squad is Iden’s father Garrick Versio. The other two members of the team are Del Meeko, who seems to question the relevance of orders and has a totally unsurprising change of heart down the line and Gideon Hask, a fanatical hardliner who unsurprisingly does not have a change of heart down the line.
The result of your prologue/tutorial mission is finding out about the Rebels’ plans to attack Death Star 2 at Endor and the next mission is a set of special ops raids on Rebel positions until the Death Star is destroyed leaving the Imperial forces with broken morale and in total disarray. You eventually evacuate the planet in some TIEs, engage in a brief space battle before meeting up with your ship the Corvus (interestingly a Raider-class, a ship invented by Fantasy Flight Games who make the X-Wing tabletop I play). Onboard, your father and a sentinel (droids programmed with bits of the Emperor) confirm the Emperor is dead and you need to begin enacting some pre-decided plan but you are left out of the details.
First step is to rescue some asshole admiral and his weaponised satellites from a research base which is mostly settled in space. We then get some cutaway missions – of which there are many dotted through the game. We play as Luke, finding Del stuck in crystallised sap on a planet containing one of the Emperor’s secret vaults, Del has been sent to blow it all up. After working together for a while they reach the vault, Luke takes a weird compass thing (which shows up on a shelf in The Last Jedi for all of 0.5 seconds) and Del blows up the rest and starts thinking that maybe the Rebels are chill. Later on we get to play as Han Solo in a mission that has little or no relevance, then as Lando Calrissian in a mission that has little or no relevance and finally as Leia in a mission which is actually part of the damn story.
So the story progresses disjointedly with very little flow between missions and cutting away to other characters doesn’t help. You finish one mission and then pop, here’s the next mission. It feels like scenes are missing, as if it’s just a rough storyboard. So it turns out these weaponised satellites are like really shit Death Stars, and if you set tons of them up over planets it… messes with their weather and causes catastrophic storms? Or something, it’s not clear. So the Empire displays how great the writing team was by resorting to cartoon villain levels of evilness by randomly killing planets “to send a message”. Planets with Rebel bases you say? No. Planets that support the Rebellion? No. What about planets that are starting to resis-NO OK, PERFECTLY LOYAL HAPPY IMPERIAL CITIZENS. WE’RE KILLING THEM TO SEND A MESSAGE, OK, BECAUSE I SAID SO. This is literally Iden and Garrick’s home planet… that Garrick is happy to bomb because he was told to. That’s how well thought out this plot was. Shall we make the Empire a strict authoritarian state bringing order to a chaotic galaxy? No, let’s just have them be pointlessly evil, randomly killing loyal citizens because they’re evil. There is no gain here but fuck it, Star Wars.
So obviously during this mission with Del whining about it being wrong and Hask becoming psychotically loyal to the cause, Iden decides maybe the Empire are the bad guys and gets into a fight with Hask before her and Del need to flee offworld and go AWOL. They make their way to Lando Calrissian’s ship, surrender and say they are totally 100% not joining the Rebellion, but have details on the Empire’s nefarious plan. So Lando tells them they should help stop it. Iden and Del are shocked to be trusted to help, but decide to hop on board… but say they are totally 100% not becoming Rebels, they are just doing this to stop the Empire’s evil plan. The next target planet is Palapatine’s homeworld of Naboo, protected by forces led by Leia. You help destroy the satellites in space then head to the surface to help Leia defend Theed (playing as Leia). After which you totally 100% pledge yourself to the Rebellion… because of course you fucking were.
You keep your rank and the Corvus… because as Ex-Spec Ops and spies you are totally trustworthy, and do a few more missions raiding the Empire culminating on the battle of Jakku. This starts out as a cool air battle, including an aerial duel with Hask and a couple missions involving you landing and carrying out an objective on foot. One of these makes sense – sabotaging bombers in the hanger of a downed Star Destroyer – the other is flat out retarded in the most offensive use of that word. You and your wingmen flying X-wings must defend crash survivors waiting to be evacuated from an approaching force of AT-STs and AT-ATs. How do you and your team in FIGHTER CRAFT WITH TORPEDOES do this? Why of course you land, get out on foot and CALL IN FUCKING AIRSTRIKES. I WAS THE FUCKING AIR STRIKE YOU LAZY ASS CUNT WRITERS. THIS MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. WHY ON EARTH…JUST…. WHAT!?
*ahem*… Anyway, with those missions complete and the Empire losing, you end up boarding Dad’s ship, confronting him and he refuses to flee with you. He realises the Empire is over and he’s ballsed up, deciding to go down with his ship. Del and Iden decide they should travel the galaxy and see all the lovely places they visited before, but now as citizens enjoying the view, not soldiers blowing it up. So of course they settle down and have a kid on Jakku. Jakku in all Star Wars fiction is described as basically the worst planet ever. It’s not even dangerous, it has nothing but sand. It’s a pointless desert with nothing interesting about it, everyone who lives there hates it and would leave if they had the money, no one would ever choose to live there, but sure what the hell.
Fast forward to epilogue, Del has been captured by the First Order, we get to play as Kylo Ren in some trippy dream world and Kylo tries to pull info from Del’s brain. After this Hask is revealed to be alive and now an officer in the First Order… because of course he is, and executes Del. This is originally how the game ended.
In free DLC later, you play as an older Iden with her daughter, first fighting off some pirates, then learning the First Order has taken over your old homeworld. You meet Hask again who tells you he killed Del and then blows up your ship with your daughter in it and you witness the Hosnian system being nuked by the Planet Killer a la Force Awakens (because apparently that was visible from every planet). There is then a long mission of searching multiple escape pods before finding daughter, teaming up with her to board a First Order cruiser, sabotaging it’s hyperspace drive, finding secret plans on the weaknesses of Dreadnoughts (useful for The Last Jedi) and finally having a final stand off with Hask, killing him. Iden predictably suffers fatal injuries so she can die dramatically giving her daughter a message. The surviving heroes find the Resistance, speak to Leia who says thanks for the details about the weak points that Poe can use, now fuck off and find our allies in the Outer Rim. And there we go that’s a story.
It’s a half-arsedly written Star Wars tale with all the Star Wars clichés. All I wanted was a story for once where I play as an Imperial soldier who actually supports the Empire for reasonable reasons. I’m pretty sure you can support the Empire without being a full-on evil villain. Yet it seems like a story focusing on a “villain” is required to be subject to a change of heart, causing them to defect to the Rebels. Do you know what was the last Star Wars game where you played as an Imperial soldier the whole way? Battlefront 2 (2005). YOU PROMISED ME A GREAT STORY SET IN THE EMPIRE AND PUSSIED OUT A THIRD OF THE WAY IN.
The play-as-someone-from-the-movies cameos were way too forced, felt out of place and came across as very blatant fanservice. It really ruined my immersion in Iden’s tale in my opinion. Instead, it would have been nice to tie in a little more with the canonical lore outside of the main characters from the movies. Admiral Rae Sloane (who becomes Grand Admiral following Endor) is mentioned once, as is Gallius Rax (the Emperor’s protégé). You also hear Rebel pilots, Snap and Wedge, on the radio once during the Battle of Jakku for no particular reason and that’s basically it. In the Aftermath series of novels, it is told that at the climax of the Battle of Jakku a Super Star Destroyer is PULLED OUT OF THE SKY by tractor beams and plunges into the desert below – like a city falling from space – in a scene that can only be described as Apocalyptic… now that would have been cool to see in the game, but I guess adding anything memorable would have been too much to ask, sadly.