Before The Last Jedi arrives in cinemas, Star Wars Battlefront II hits PC and consoles for some epic 40 vs 40 multiplayer action. Plus, this sequel adds Starfighter Assault for intense space battles and a compelling story unlike any you have ever experienced.
Battlefront II continues Star Wars’ run of strong female characters by placing you firmly within the boots of Iden Versio, Commander of Inferno Squad, an elite force tasked with handling the Empire’s most dangerous missions. Inferno Squad seemingly wears sleek black armour to distance themselves from the hapless Stormtroopers and ultimately appear way cooler.
“Iden is a badass,” said David Robillard, Producer at Motive Studios. “She’s the 007 of the Star Wars universe.”
It certainly feels that way from the first three chapters of Battlefront II’s campaign which is currently in development at Motive. The campaign opens with Iden held captive aboard a Rebel starship. It’s established that her capture is part of a ruse to infiltrate the ship and steal information crucial to the Empire’s war efforts. Very spy like, yeah?
Along with her player-controlled Viper Droid built for hacking and electrocuting rebels, Iden’s skillset includes stealth, hand to hand combat and of course, firearms and I used all 3 to steal the rebel’s data before jettisoning Iden out the Star Wars equivalent of an airlock. Ok, so her extreme exit is less Bond and more Vin Diesel’s XXX, but I’m willing to overlook that for the sake of decency. My favourite moment of the first chapter was electrocuting a whiney 3PO droid. The only thing missing was the cheesy one-liner.
The following chapter sees Inferno Squad joining the war effort on Endor, and if you remember the final act of Return of the Jedi, this battle doesn’t bode well for the Empire. Midway through their jungle incursion, Inferno Squad witnesses the Death Star II exploding in the sky forcing them into a messy retreat.
Before I could evacuate in a conveniently placed Tie Fighter, I had to recapture an Empire stronghold and defend it from the remaining rebels who had commandeered an AT-ST. I got to break out the heavy ordinance including rocket launchers, sniper rifles multiple grenade types and a mounted gun. Rockets were in short supply, forcing me to defeat the AT-ST with laser rifles and repeated grenade throws. The battle became tedious towards the end.
After escaping Endor, I sampled a galactic dogfight which was by far my favourite section of the demo. The learning curve for controlling a Tie-Fighter is a steep one. The left thumbstick traditionally handles movement but in Battlefront II, it forced the Tie Fighter into an awkward rotation.
Criterion is developing the space battles and StarFighter Assault mode, the studio behind the Burnout racing series and several of the better Need for Speeds. It’s something I’m looking forward to experiencing again, and an entire game dedicated to vehicles wouldn’t go astray. A new Rogue Squadron perhaps?
Despite aligning herself with the Empire, Iden Versio is the hero of the campaign. Robillard was on hand to explain just how gamers can expect to sympathise with a character that would traditionally be viewed as the villain.
“What happens to those people who fought for the Empire after the destruction of the Death Star? How do they feel, what’s their emotional journey, how do they get back up from that? That’s the side we wanted to tell.”
I started to get a sense of Iden’s emotional journey in the following scene when she received posthumous orders from the Emperor (Darth Sidious) involving her home planet. My hands-on experience with Battlefront II left Iden in a compromising position and may force her to reevaluate her allegiance to the Empire.
Speaking of force, I asked David if Iden can use it and he replied: “Iden is not a force user; that does not mean she’s not a force to be reckoned with.” I have a feeling he’d been asked that same question many times.
Robillard was all hush-hush when it came to further story details, but I do know you can play as several iconic characters at some point, including Luke Skywalker and events tie into The Force Awakens.
The gameplay itself feels tight and refined to the perfection you would expect from a AAA title. Gamers can switch between first person and third person perspectives at any time. The gunplay feels ‘spacey’, akin to Halo rather than the grounded experience of shooters like Battlefield.
Sadly I was unable to sample the multiplayer portion of the game being in Bathurst for the Toyota 86 Series while the beta test was live. But multiplayer consists of large-scale battles set across all three film trilogies with playable heroes and villains including Han Solo and Boba Fett. You can level up and customise your character’s loadout for a personalised experience. The different modes take you across land and space, plus you can play several co-op modes with a friend online.
David had one final note on his game stating that Battlefront II is the “most authentic immersive Star Wars experience. It’s something really good for Star Wars fans that should please casual and hardcore gamers and it’s also a solid shooter.”
EA had me at ‘original Star Wars story.’ I’m looking forward to seeing where Iden’s journey takes her and how it ties into the expanded Star Wars universe. I doubt it will include black tuxedos and shaken martinis, but viper droids and laser rifles will suffice.
Star Wars Battlefront II lands on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One November 17.