Star Wars Battlefront II
A promising new hope, according to Nathan Lawrence
It really isn’t hard for Star Wars Battlefront II to improve on the shortcomings of the 2015 reboot. The loudest gripes for Dice’s 2015 attempt are easily addressed: add more content, throw in a campaign, and boost multiplayer depth. Sorted! (Sorry, devs.) So far, what I’ve seen and played of Battlefront II shows that, like John Williams’ iconic film scores, the developers are targeting all the right notes.
There’s promising compartmentalisation, with three studios playing to their strengths. Dice is in charge of the bulk of multiplayer. The newly formed narrative-focused Motive Studios is handling the campaign. And master-mechanics Criterion Games, renowned for the Burnout series, are rebuilding and tuning the vehicular parts of the game.
Criterion’s Starfighter Assault mode was the recent star of my hands-on preview. And it shines brightly. My first hands-on experience with Battlefront II was with Assault on Theed: the same map and mode from the Diceforged infantry mode that was showcased at E3.
The potential of the groundbased modes is there, but it’s hard to look past the prevalence of chokepoints in the second phase of the map, impossible to gauge the depth of the interplay of the class system, and frustrating to realise that the limited heroes are your only hope of digging out a wellentrenched defending team.
Starfighter Assault, on the other hand, was a night-and-day experience when stacked next to Battlefront’s shallow Fighter Squadron mode. The immediacy of the depth and reward for skilled play was beaten only by the reality that Criterion has nailed the ship handling. It’s not just in the necessary additions, like the ability to roll your starfighter; it’s also highlighted in the class-based logic behind the starfighters.
Hero ships are powerful and self-explanatory, and the roster has been expanded to include the likes of Poe Dameron’s Black One X-wing, and Darth Maul’s Scimitar, the latter
of which is incredibly deadly with the right pilot behind the stick. But while TIE fighters and X-wings are part of the same balanced Fighter class, they handle differently.
Similarly, Interceptors, like the Rebel A-wing and Imperial TIE interceptor, fly differently but are both glass cannons: perfect for speedy hit-and-run attacks. Then there’s the all-new Bomber class, like the Y-wing and TIE bomber, which sacrifice speed but make up for it with strong armour and stronger armaments. The space-based Fondor map offered a satisfyingly asymmetrical battle, with the Alliance tasked with destroying objectives, and Imperials in charge of vapourising Rebel scum.
The asymmetrical mode means Rebel pilots are rewarded for playing the objective, and Imperials are incentivised to focus on Y-wings, which tend to deal the most damage. This meant that if the Imperials play the objective well, Rebel pilots are forced to evolve their tactics, and diversify their fleet with A-wings and X-wings to protect the harder-hitting Y-wings. This, in turn, means that Rebels who’d rather duke it out with Imperial pilots aren’t punished for supporting their teammates who are playing the objective.
When it comes to dogfighting, the skill factor has been upped. Forget about lock-on cannons, that’s suffered the same fate as Alderaan. If you want to use lasers to obliterate a foe, you need to land those hits manually. The result: kills feel a whole lot more earnt and, therefore, satisfying. Starfighter Assault shows that the devs care about content, depth and, perhaps more importantly, creating a skill gap to separate the aces from the greenhorns.
THE ROSTER HAS BEEN EXPANDED TO INCLUDE THE LIKES OF POE DAMERON'S BLACK ONE X WING
Sabrefights are just part of the battle. There's space combat and blaster shootouts, too.
DEVELOPER PUBLISHER PLATFORM RELEASE DATE Dice, Motive, Criterion EA PC, PS4, Xbox One 17 November
Roll the DICE Star Cards are back, but they now have different rarities. You can mix and match Star Card abilities between ships, but you’ll need to unlock them first. Randomly. That’s right: RNG has invaded Battlefront II, and the option to purchase...