Star Wars Battlefront 2 has to have been the most interesting game launch in a very long time. The fight between greedy practices in the gaming industry has finally come to a head and EA seems to have spearheaded this, which honestly doesn’t come as a surprise given how they have been operating lately. It’s the proverbial Galactic Empire vs. The Alliance fight and while the Rebels stood their ground and made a point that not all citizens are falling for their terrible ways, the Empire won’t be backing down fully. This review isn’t going to cover what Battlefront 2 once was or what it will be in 6 months when the Micro-transactions (MT’s) come back or even whether MT’s and Loot Boxes should even be in a full priced title, but it will cover the current state of the game. So has the Galactic EAmpire delivered their Death Star blow on the industry or has the Alliance fought the good fight?

Star Wars Battlefront 2 follows the Inferno Squad, an Imperial special forces unit led by Commander Iden Versio. Upon witnessing the destruction of the second Death Star, the Inferno Squad in disarray looks to their Commander for direction, who tells them they will avenge the Emperor. The Story spans 30 years, beginning in the last few moments of the Galactic Civil War and concluding around the destruction of the Starkiller Base. You will have the opportunity to play untold sections of some of our favorite heroes such as Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, Kylo Ren, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo.

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I was initially very excited to finally play a story that focused on an elite squad working for the bad guys where we might see the inner workings of the Empire and do some pretty questionable things. Things that, as the player, you may object to. Unfortunately, what we get here is a cookie cutter plot with a very obvious love story thrown in there. Now I won’t go into any spoilers here, but I was extremely disappointed in the direction they went with the story. That being said the campaign is still very fun to play through and while it doesn’t offer up anything very new to the shooter genre (oftentimes feeling like they are checking off the typical shooter segments) it is still enjoyable. Its best moments are when you’re going from ground combat to air combat within the same mission and particularly in one of the later levels this is done very well and is an utter blast.

The campaign is a pretty short one, coming in around only 5 hours without finding all collectibles and of course once the action and story starts getting interesting it ends with a massive cliffhanger. The end sequence is a neat insight into one of the main villains’ powers and of course sets up another piece of story that will be coming in a free DLC sometime in the future. Hopefully the DLC can wrap up this story nicely because what we are first given is a campaign full of up and down moments with a fairly cookie cutter story.

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Besides the campaign there is the Arcade Mode that offers offline play and even split-screen, but of course this comes with its own set of issues. Arcade features a set of missions scenarios that follows the Light Side and Dark Side. You get to play through all the heroes and each mission has 3 tiers that gradually get harder. Beating the first tier on each mission will grant you a loot box that is associated with Light and Dark side characters. There are also various progression rewards you can obtain in arcade mode  that will grant you credits, scrap and other rewards. Arcade also comes with custom matches that feature split-screen so you can mess around with a friend and practice. You can also find the training simulator here that will show you how to use star cards and your abilities. The main problem for this mode is the hourly credit cap. Yes, you can only get 500 credits before you will have to wait a certain amount of time. If you keep playing beyond this cap or play offline, you will not receive any credits.

The gameplay has been improved since the first game, offering better aim mechanics and more natural feeling controls, especially in the 3rd person perspective. In the first Battlefront I mostly played 1st person, but this one I have been playing 3rd person exclusively which, for me, fits the style of the game better and reminds me more of the older games in the series. Every aspect of the game feels tighter and I’m impressed by how natural it feels using the jet pack characters and heroes. The flight system has seen some improvements as well, offering a better control system where you can adjust speed and pitch with the left stick. I personally opted out of the option to auto rotate my ship to the center after a few seconds if you haven’t been controlling it. This offers far more control especially during dog fight battles.

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The graphics are sort of a mixed bag. There are definitely times where you will be in awe of the visuals and for the most part the game looks fantastic. The lighting system is especially impressive, creating some very beautiful vistas. However, there are a ton of pop in details for every aspect of the engine. This is most noticeable during the Endor fights or anywhere in a forest location. Vegetation, mud, trees, shadows, etc. all pop in with more detailed textures around 20ft from your character, which makes it very noticeable. I was even playing it on the Xbox One X and it still has this problem. Obviously this version is still superior to the other consoles, but I was disappointed by the short draw distance for the higher quality textures.

The sound department is where Star Wars Battlefront shines brilliantly. While the dialogue itself can be a bit B-Movie worthy, the lines are delivered well aside from a couple times during some heavy action parts where Iden can come off as a bit flat. Voice over aside, everything else is so pleasantly spot on Star Wars. The blasters, the AT-ATs stomping around the battlefield, the X-Wings zipping above your head, and the beautiful music from Gordy Haab that ramps up perfectly into those epic Star Wars themes when things get action packed. To get the best musical and sound effect experience I recommend playing with a decent set of headphones and if you are on Xbox I highly recommend downloading the Dolby Atmos app.

Multiplayer

The multiplayer is where the real meat is, but it also happens to be the epicenter of the controversy. Lets start off by saying the MP is a very fun experience. It retains all the positives of the visuals (unfortunately the pop-ins rear their ugly head here also), sound, music and gameplay, but throws you into large war zones with real players. You have a nice variety of modes to pick from too. One of my favorites is Galactic Conquest, which is the largest battles featuring 20v20 and follows various map and objective changes. It allows all heroes and even air combat. Starfighter Assault is the space battles mode, Strike is a smaller team based objective mode limited to 8v8, Blast is basically just your standard team death match and Heroes vs. Villains is a 4v4 mode that is pretty self explanatory. I think the only mode I don’t care for is just the standard death match mode, something that Battlefront isn’t really about and can be found in any other MP game. There are 11 maps spanning across all three cinematic-eras, with 3 from the Force Awakens-era (Starkiller Base, Jakku and Takodana), 3 from the prequel-era (Kamino, Kashyyyk and Theed), and 5 original trilogy-era (Death Star II, Endor, Mos Eisley, Yavin 4 and Hoth).

Now let’s talk about the progression and Star Card system that’s been a very hot topic of debate around the web lately and admittedly sort of confusing since it has gone through a couple changes. For now the MT’s have been removed from the game, which DICE said will be making a return at some point after they reevaluate the system itself, but luckily as of now they got rid of the “Pay 2 Win” aspect of the game.

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There are 2 different kinds of progression: rank progression and class progression. Rank progression is based on your skills in a match. You’re granted experience points per match and you’ll level up once you fulfill the required XP. Class progression is directly tied to Star Cards. Star Cards come in 2 varieties, Boost Cards and Ability Cards. Boost Cards will boost certain stats like total health or lower the countdown for your health regeneration. Ability Cards will either enhance an ability or change it completely. For example, you can replace your frag grenade for a stun grenade. Each card can be upgraded 4 times and you can only upgrade them once you reach a certain rank level. For example, you can only upgrade a card to level 2 once you reach rank 10. Once you get a class to level 5 you can then equip a second card and at level 10 you can equip your 3rd and final card.

You can obtain Star Cards with 2 methods; crafting and loot boxes. Crafting is your best option if you want to focus on a singular class while loot boxes will give you random awards. It is also good to note that Star Cards that come from loot boxes are tied to your rank. If you are under level 10, where you can’t craft level 2 cards, you will only receive level 1 cards from the loot boxes. This helps balance these cards to where you can’t just farm loot boxes and get a level 3 card before anyone else. It’s also worth noting that you can only get a level 4 card by crafting. Also, the only way you can unlock extra weapons for a specific class is by playing it and getting kills. You get your first weapon at 50 kills and then the next at 150 kills.

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Heroes can only be unlocked by purchasing them with credits. Vader and Luke Skywalker are your 2 most expensive heroes to unlock, both at 15k credits each. On average you will receive around 250 credits per match, which puts you at around 10 hours of MP matches to unlock one of them. This isn’t including credits from progression unlocks and the 9k you get from playing through the campaign. The grind really doesn’t seem too bad, 10 hours for an MP game really isn’t much and when you pair that with regular progression rewards, that time is cut down significantly. Unfortunately the progression awards are one time cash-in’s and your daily login crate contains very small rewards.

Loot Boxes come in 3 different varieties; Hero, Trooper, and Starfighter. They contain Star Cards, Emotes, Stances, Credits, and Scrap (Crafting Material). Trooper crates have the above items for each of your classes, but the Star Card, Emote or Stance you get is random and that rule remains the same for the other 2 crates. The Trooper crate is the most expensive crate coming in at 4k credits.

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Ultimately Star Wars Battlefront 2 is an excellent sequel that delivers polished gameplay, a campaign mode, larger MP maps, more MP modes, great graphics, and phenomenal sound design. Unfortunately it’s hurt by the poorly implemented and convoluted progression system, a safe and by the books campaign, and a few mobile game mechanics like hourly credit caps in the Arcade Modes.

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 is available now on Xbox, PS4, and PC.

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