Coming to PS4 (version tested), Xbox One and PC on November 17
The rebirth of Star Wars Battlefront in 2015 was a bittersweet affair. It managed to be a rip-roaringly intense dive into the iconic sci-fi universe, but also suffered terribly at the hands of restrictive downloadable content and a segmented player base. However, DICE still did a phenomenal job, and Battlefront 2 is shaping up to be a spectacular shooter with more modes, maps and heroes for fans to enjoy.
Unlike its predecessor, Battlefront 2 contains locations, characters and narrative strokes from every major Star Wars movie. During my time with modes from the upcoming beta I force-choked clone troopers as Darth Maul and cut down the First Order as Rey. Experiencing Battlefront 2 through three generations of trilogies is really fascinating, and even, if just a little bit, makes up for the rightfully maligned prequels.
During my few hours with DICE’s latest galactic shooter, I had a chance to experience all of the modes coming as part of its upcoming beta. They provided a solid taster of what Battlefront 2 has to offer both in terms of scale and variety. It feels as if DICE has listened intently to fan criticism, ensuring that Battlefront 2 is filled with far more variety as it truly hits the ground running.
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First up is Arcade mode, which has thankfully been improved significantly after an underwhelming debut in Battlefront. While you still face off against AI-controlled enemies, they feel far more threatening and capable of gunning me down than before. It makes sense, as even the coolest of Sith Lords, Darth Maul, shouldn’t be invulnerable to laser fire. Despite this, cutting down hordes of troopers with his double-edged lightsaber felt like a delightful power fantasy, reliving moments of me waving sticks around the front garden as a child.
It’s entertaining stuff, further emphasised by the inclusion of unique missions and objectives. My particular excursion was based on Naboo inside the vast Royal Palace. Choosing between either Darth Maul or a Super Battle Droid, my job is to wipe out as many clone troopers as possible within the time limit. It’s relatively simplistic but provides an ideal template for testing out characters without the threat of real-life players getting the jump on you.
Individual missions are once again rated on a three-star basis, with each subsequent round ramping up in difficulty. Racing against the clock to earn a certain score is great fun and undoubtedly made easier with a friend or two by your side. While it didn’t seem to be present in the beta, I’d love to see arcade successes translate into cosmetic upgrades to be used online. Perhaps an exclusive bit of gear to showcase my talent for mastering each mode?
I personally don’t see Battlefront 2’s arcade mode possessing any sort of meaningful longevity alongside online offerings, but it certainly has the potential to offer fun couch co-op for friends looking to tear up enemies offline. I’m also surprisingly eager to see which locations make up the rest of its missions, as there are plenty of opportunities here to not only recreate famous conflicts from the film but crossover beloved heroes in ways we’ve never seen before.
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The meat of Battlefront 2’s multiplayer comes in the form of Galactic Assault. These vast 20-versus-20 matches pit colossal armies of infantry and vehicles against one another as you complete a series of objectives. Playing as either Droids or Clone Troopers, you must either defend or attack the palace residing in the centre of the map. Once again taking place across Naboo, fans of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones will immediately recognise some of the sweeping vistas on display. All of which are lovingly rendered on PS4 Pro.
While playing as Clone Troopers, my team had to slow down the incoming Multi-Troop Transport with Ion Launchers scattered across the map. Reaching these required fast reflexes and coordination as we darted between enemy fire while lobbing grenades and setting down turrets. Vehicles and heroes can be summoned by amassing a certain number of points, rewarding players for pulling off multiple kills and playing the objective. This also means that whatever your skill level, playing as heroes is never an impossibility. Building up enough points to summon forth Rey or Darth Vader is basically inevitable.
Failing to run down the enemy team’s lives in the first stage will see them storm the throne room, eventually taking charge of control points required to win the match. Galactic Assault feels like an intense game of tug-of-war. Storming Starkiller Base and the sun-drenched streets of Mos Eisley sounds like a sci-fi nerd’s dream.
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Aerial combat has also been revamped. An entire mode is dedicated to X-Wing and Tie Fighters duking it out across the final frontier. Starfighter Assault, much like Galactic, is a mode with multiple objectives at the core of its formula. The arena I played saw the Empire and Rebels fight underneath the shadow of a colossal Star Destroyer.
As a rebel, I had to eliminate enemy units before destroying the goliath starship’s shield generators. Doing so granted temporary access to the main reactor, vulnerable to a bombardment of missile fire as the Empire helplessly tried to push us back. It had far more depth than I imagined, and the assortment of ships flying about the expansive map only adds to this. Having to precariously balance the completion of the objective with dogfighting against nearby ships is excellent, even if it took me a while to master controlling each ship.
While I’m unsure Starfighter Assault shines as bright as other modes, having the opportunity to weave the Millenium Falcon through the confines of a Star Destroyer is unbelievably cool. Deftly soaring through space, firing a homing missile into a nearby enemy before plummeting toward the objective is thrilling, aided by the historic John Williams incredible score.
Just like other modes, ships are separated into an array of different classes with unique weapons, skills and abilities. They all have different roles to play on the battlefield, whether it be pushing through hostile lines or sniping them from afar. Experimentation is required to find your acquired taste, with some occupations proving easier than others. Heavy was most certainly my cup of tea during ground assaults, while the Bomber proved invaluable when skybound.
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The final mode I played was Strike, a smaller scale affair where two teams compete in traditional objective-based rounds. Competing inThe Force Awakens’ Maz’s Castle, our mission was to retrieve an artefact and bring it to the extraction point. Pretty simple stuff when the opposing team isn’t hurling grenades straight at your feet. My shining moment was spawning as a rocket trooper before wiping the entire team from a distance.
Strike seems like the ideal playlist for those who prefer a more fast-paced and confined competition. A gunfight is always seconds away, with instant respawns acting as a incentive to hurl yourself into the battlefield at a moment’s notice. Players who prefer the frenetic nature of Call of Duty will definitely be drawn to this mode, while Battlefield purists may appreciate the more mediated and objective-driven components of Galactic Assault.
DICE has confirmed that the majority of downloadable content for Battlefront 2 will be delivered in free content updates, much like the system found in Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2. Given how so much content from the original game was held back as DLC, it’s hugely reassuring to see that players are set to receive frequent updates this time around. Pitched as a live service of sorts, DICE hopes to curate future content in response to fan requests and complaints following launch.
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It’s worth noting that Battlefront 2 will contain loot boxes for in-game cosmetic items, weapons, and cards that can lend you specific abilities and power-ups in battle. From what I observed it won’t lend you an unfair advantage in battle, and packages can be purchased with in-game currency or real-world money.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 is shaping up to be a significant improvement over its predecessor. By incorporating elements from all eras of Star Wars history DICE has crafted what could be one of the standout sci-fi shooters in recent memory.