I never cancelled my Battlefront 2 pre-order.
There, I said it. A weight off my chest. I have obfuscated this fact from my friends and the rest of SWN?!. I set my Xbox profile to offline to hide my installation and playing of the most controversial game this year and here I shall give my thoughts.
Firstly, I should explain why I didn’t join the legions of those who, quite rightly, abandoned Battlefront in their droves due to EA’s poor treatment of the game and the fanbase. The lootbox abuse was insane and the time needed to play to earn characters without buying was obscene. Yet deep down I wanted to believe DICE had still made a good game that had been mired in EA’s money grabbing bullshit. I always hated that I never played previous Battlefront title – released in 2015 – because it looked like such a dead-on interpretation of Star Wars with all the sights and sounds, but it lacked the space battles, the variety and the story it’s 2005 counterpart had. So I sat out and waited for a game to fill the gap and Battlefront 2 (2017) did just that; it promised an in-depth Empire campaign with heroes and settings from all three movie eras. Why oh why did this have to be spoiled by corporate greed?!
So shortly before release, as we all know, EA massively reduced the in-game cost of unlocking characters and put lootboxes on hiatus; though they will return at some point. This combined with my genuine desire to play the story, led me to decide to keep my pre-order and give the game a chance. Few of you may be surprised to find out I was rather disappointed, however you may be surprised by the reasons why.
While I, myself, started with the single-player campaign, I will start the review with the multiplayer – as that is the meat of the controversy. I should also say at the time of writing lootboxes were still absent though I hear they are due to return soon. The credit issue for heroes is not as big an issue as it first appeared (the credits required during the beta were obviously far too high) but I actually found myself with around 75% of the characters unlocked at launch. Completing the campaign itself may only net you 5000 of the 15000 credits you need to unlock Vader or Luke, but there are also bonus credits for finding collectables and completing each chapter so I actually ended with 9750 credits before I touched multiplayer and with a little collectible searching could probably have reached 12000. Playing only a couple hours a night throughout the week I was able to afford Vader and a few upgrade boxes so a dedicated player could easily unlock several characters over the course of a couple weeks. A bigger issue I found is ever getting the opportunity to use these heroes. Of the four standard game types, only two of them include heroes and one of those is the “4v4 Heroes vs Villains” mode where everyone picks a special character and gets tasked with hunting down a VIP on the other side – which is a very fun game type though being slow on the draw means you may struggle to pick the hero you want to play. “Galactic Conquest” is the main game type and probably the best Battlefront experience you will have. It’s 20v20 objective based combat across multiple phases that moves to different sections of the map. A good example would be Hoth with the Imperials advancing and taking out the Rebel shield generators to break into the base, while the rebels attempt to destroy the AT ATs, then defending the base as a whole internally as evacuations take place. Only one of these phases is fully outdoors and this is the only phase that allows you to spawn vehicles or aircraft using “battle points” that you earn over the course of the battle. From my experience, aircraft are entirely pointless in this mode as there is too much cover and not enough room to manoeuvre for ships to fire on ground targets, and even the bombers don’t carry bombs meaning aircraft just fight aircraft. Annoyingly, airspeeders have no way of harming the AT ATs which I found a major let down. Vehicles, while awesome, end up causing a kind of exponential spiral where the best players are able to continually spawn a vehicle. The fact that there is a cap on the number that can be spawned means lower skill players rarely earn enough points to do this and when they do, the vehicle spawn cap has already been reached. The players in the vehicles then obviously get even more kills thus earning more points to spawn the better heroes, which subsequently makes it nearly impossible for lower skilled players. So as someone not in the top three or four players on my team in any given multiplayer game, you rarely get a chance to be a hero and when you do it’s not one of the stronger ones. You are able to buy into the cheaper “enforcer” or “aerial” classes which are a tougher infantry with a bigger gun (i.e a Wookiee) or a soldier with a rocket launcher and jetpack.
“Strike” is a similar game type to “Galactic Assault”, with a two-phase objective based setup, but is an more intimate 10v10 on a much smaller map, with no vehicles and no heroes; only enforcers and aerials to support your troopers. While this sounds like a toned down version of “Galactic Assault” the result is actually much more of a grind with easily established bottlenecks on the smaller maps creating a kind of delayed spawn camping. As your whole team funnels out of two exits, there lies in wait sniper and heavy trooper fire, creating a highly frustrating gameplay experience. The final standard game type is “Blast”, an 8v8 team deathmatch. Again there are no heroes or vehicles; only trooper, enforcer and aerial classes so this is basically CoD in a galaxy far far away. The massive added downside of this mode is the roaming spawn points. This can sometimes spawn you out of cover with someone already shooting at you or have a squad of four opponents spawn 10ft in front of you as you walk around a corner. I really didn’t enjoy “Blast” as a whole, the spawn issues were the faecal icing on a very bland cake.
As far as gameplay goes in multiplayer I really can’t say I’m a fan. You have the four standard classes to suit your play style or the mission – Assault (rifles), Heavy (machine guns), Scout (snipers) and officer (pistols) each with their own abilities you can craft or get from crates. You also unlock more weapons by levelling each class and the unlocked weapons are able to be upgraded. This is a large part of the problem as other players can have objectively better setups than you. While you can argue whether gun X is better than gun Y or vice versa, you cannot argue gun X is better than gun X with increased range and decreased recoil. You have a combat roll (annoyingly the same button as crouch… how many times I have wanted to crouch by a crate and flung myself violently out of cover?). This combat roll is apparently the key to winning the game as all the best players spam it continuously rolling around in all directions whilst still firing, making them ridiculously hard to hit and decimating you in the meantime. While I am not against a combat roll for evading grenades and the like, the fact it is able to be used as such makes the whole game look farcical and really spoils the fun of a battle for me… it’s just not how people fight; not in the real world and certainly not in Star Wars! It betrays the spirit of the game and is stupid to watch. Coupled with this is the fact that against all odds the Officer class with the pistol seems to be the best combat choice – again if you see the class all the people with the most kills are using it always seems to be the Officer – while also being the best support choice. I think part of this is the troops in Battlefront have too much health. It means that even if you catch a better player off guard and start shooting him in the back, he’ll have enough time to roll, turn around, roll and gun you down while you’re still trying to kill him. In Battlefield or CoD, a quick burst is enough to down any normal soldier, while Battlefront requires sustained fire or headshots. At one point, I scored three hits in quick succession from a sniper rifle and the guy still rolled away to safety. The good/bad divide is very high in BF2 and I’d like to see the matchmaking act stronger on this. It’s just not fun getting to the end of the game and seeing the top three players have 30-40 kills each while the bottom half of your twenty man team barely making that between them all.
The other multiplayer mode is “Starfighter Assault”. Another two-phase objective based battle, but this time in space between Interceptors, Fighters and Bombers. However due to balancing, the faction-equivalent ships have exactly the same strength, speed and health. So your TIE fighter is a perfect match for an X-Wing which feels very wrong. I also don’t enjoy the weird dumbed down controls for flying, it actually makes it harder to do anything remotely skilful. Up/down on the left stick controls the throttle – fine. Up/down on the right stick pitches you up or down – fine. Left/right on the right stick should surely roll you left or right then? Instead, you just perform a left or right turn, but also rolling the ship slightly anyway, you then automatically right yourself. “Rolling” left/right is on the left stick. Now if anyone has ever flown in real life or a game you know normally you’d roll slightly to the side then pull back on the stick to perform the turn. This control set makes rolling mostly redundant, while also making it harder to fly evasively as it requires flailing both sticks rather than having full control from one. Also, you slowly roll as you accelerate if your thumb drifts slightly. What’s more annoying is even when you do manually roll yourself, the game self-rights after a second or two even when you were attempting a delicate manoeuvre such as flying between two objects. Overall, the space battles look cool, but actually just become a hectic mess and are way less fun than it ought to be. Also the Millennium Falcon, despite having a turret can only shoot forwards and that is balls.
Additionally, a weirdly off-putting overall comment from multiplayer is that heroes are not era-specific. So your clone buddies can be defending Theed from droids while in walks Darth Maul and Kylo Ren and that makes me uncomfortable.
Anyway, I have grumpily rambled on for far too long already and I can feel Adrian glaring.
I will write a second part to this review addressing the pleasantly fun Arcade mode and the big grump – a spoiler-filled review of the Campaign.
See ya next time Padawans!