Does Inferno Squad Go Out with a Whimper or a Bang?
Star Wars: Battlefront II is amazing. Its production is unmatched, with a campaign full of massive set-pieces that feel like an earned spot in Star Wars canon. Even multiplayer maps feel like scenes out of a movie, with intense depth to environmental design and narrative staging. Battles feel brutal and important, like competitive games seek but often fall short of. Yet, Star Wars: Battlefront II is disappointing. The sights and sounds of the campaign are betrayed by writing that drops the ball at the worst possible moments. The multiplayer has odd balance issues and of course, the progression system is led by the worst loot box structure in a premium game to date. Star Wars: Battlefront II is, ultimately, confusing.
Much of EA and DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront II feels like an ambitious attempt to course correct, with much of it a direct response to feedback from the first game. And the first game was great, save for some severe, specific issues. A DLC controversy plagued the experience, with a lack of content on launch and a Season Pass with an unusually high price tag. No single-player also had Star Wars fans feeling disappointed. So here we are, with Star Wars: Battlefront II offering all its post-launch content for free, and EA splitting the game between multiple developers to add not just a campaign, but a campaign written in part by a reputable writer and an official entry into modern Star Wars canon.
The campaign roughly starts around the end of Return of the Jedi and fills in a few blanks between then and The Force Awakens . It’s also interesting in that the central new character, Iden Versio, is the commander of Inferno Squad, which is essentially an Imperial Black Ops force. The opening moments are really something, setting up a legitimately intriguing hook, showing how someone loyal to the Empire would deal with loss, as well as presenting the campaign as a functional tutorial. Indeed, as you make your way through, you get to see how the different menus look and behave and are introduced to a variety of weapons and tools and situations relevant to each. Unfortunately, the story fumbles well before it reaches its four-ish hour goal line, doing little as possible with its great hook and instead devolving into fanservice and a perspective every Star Wars fan has seen a million times before.
But man, is it fun. The woefully dull story often falls to the background behind some excellent set-pieces and the sheer thrill of Star Wars: Battlefront II ’s core play mechanics. Over time, Star Wars has evolved from a pulpy Flash Gordon ripoff to its own decades-refined mythos and tone. That includes the build from a simple set of weapon characteristics to a military structure and gravity applied to them, and that’s reflected in how this game looks, sounds, and feels. It’s a dark game, but with explosions of bright, deep colors, fire and sterile white interiors, and weapons that fill the otherwise dark space with brilliant red and green laser fire that sizzles and pops as it flies through the air. Weapons all have a stark, heavy sense of weight and impact that sell this silly sci-fi as intense, serious warfare.
Navigating the structured paths of Star Wars: Battlefront II ’s story mode while playing with these mechanics feels like digging through a toy box and reading a comic book at the same time. It feels like a hearty meal, albeit comprising mostly junk food. If only the writing matched everything else, we’d have something really special on our hands. As it stands, that combined with a real jarring cliffhanger ending (which may as well have said, more coming soon in DLC right after the ending title) make the campaign feel like a fleeting presence rather than a lasting one.
Completing the campaign gives you several rewards, including some campaign-branded crates and enough credits to buy Iden Versio right away. This is all for the multiplayer, previously the (almost) single feature of the previous Star Wars: Battlefront . While Star Wars: Battlefront II doesn’t push you into the campaign right off the bat, the intent is definitely for new players to do that first, and the rewards exist as a little head start. It’s fine, but also an enormous red flag. It’s the sinister imagery leading up to the big drop in a theme park ride. Because boy howdy, is this game’s multiplayer a big ol’ mess.
Everything that makes Star Wars: Battlefront II fun to play alone is alive and well in the multiplayer. However, DICE has altered some balance elements that, as part of its course-correcting, actually makes the game veer from what made the first game so great. It’s not as easy to notice playing against AI, but go online and returning players will notice the faster pace, in terms of movement. It feels a bit more Call of Duty -flavored this time around, but not quite. Weapons still overheat and time to kill is more generous, making competitive firefights more of a thing. But with the speed, sometimes these group firefights feel off. Chokepoints in door and hallways become doorway turtle fights, which can get old fast. It’s small, and doesn’t detract a ton, but definitely a slight balance issue.
Meanwhile, character progression and equipment is much more complicated. This works for and against Star Wars: Battlefront II . Instead of having one character you customize the look of and build over time, you can swap freely between a set of classes and outfit each one with a weapon, emote, and set of “Star Cards.” What really sells this new structure is Battle Points. As you contribute to the battle by getting kills, chasing objectives, and the like, you earn points. These points can be cashed in when you respawn for even more class options. This is also where the vehicles and hero characters come in. No longer are the goofy pick-ups part of the loop. Now, earn enough points and you can cash in and play as Kylo Ren, Yoda, or one of the many other characters or special vehicles. It’s so much better and encourages you to be the best player you can be, instead of scrambling for power-ups like you’re playing Unreal Tournament .
But back to Star Cards. Yeah, this is where the loot crate drama kicks in and ruins everything. Each character has three Star Card slots, and you get Star Cards from meeting various milestones (the best ones) or buying crates (all the lesser ones you need to get going). These cards offer new tools and abilities, as well as passive bonuses. The cards also vary in power and are upgradable when enough resources (like, a ton) are earned. If you like to play a certain, specific class and want to master that class, you’re going to be grinding random drops for a long, long time. Or you could drop some real cash for a chance at a slightly shorter long, long time. Meanwhile, people who already have a full set of upgraded cards can and will wipe the floor with you. It totally mucks up the balance and makes the learning curve more of a jagged line that has murderous sentience and wants to strangle you to death.
In-between the two marquee offerings in Star Wars: Battlefront II is Arcade Mode, a more expanded version of the cute, little single-player or two-player splitscreen mode in the last game. It’s you and a friend against bots in a small handful of modes. It’s a lot of fun! Obviously, it isn’t as expansive as playing a Timesplitters back in the day, but it’s a good way to unwind and enjoy the awesome gameplay without the frustrations of getting owned online and grinding crates. Unfortunately, there’s actually a limit on how many credits you can earn playing this mode, so this vicious microtransaction economy even finds a way to make you feel bad in what would otherwise be a nice, temporary sanctuary.
Star Wars: Battlefront II feels like a big step forward, but instead of following that with a number of steps back, it’s actually a trip-up leading to a sprained ankle. This is a beautiful, fun game with huge ambitions for being an important part of the Star Wars universe as it is today. It introduces a fascinating new character and injects her right into the main storyline. But it does so in such a disappointingly banal way, it’s hard to care after the story is over. Meanwhile, the fun continues for a bit in the multiplayer until you’re crushed under the boots of either “enormous grind” or “emptying wallet.” It’s frustrating; I’m sure I’ll find myself coming back for more, especially after more content drops. But I’ll always be proceeding with caution, lest I open myself up for further disappointment.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Top-notch. Captures the Star Wars feel perfectly while maintaining a high and stable frame rate. 4.0 Control
Having to dance around the shoulder buttons feels a bit awkward at times, as well as tumbling/crouching in multiplayer. Otherwise, standards FPS fare. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Star Wars score we all know is fine, but there’s nothing that stands out as new and creative. Score often falls into the background but does serve its purpose well. 3.0 Play Value
It all depends on how much you can stomach the loot crate grind. Constantly chasing a carrot on a stick that can’t decide if it’s even a carrot or not really sucks! Campaign starts strong and is fun but is ultimately too short and breezy to have real impact. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best