Star Wars Battlefront I I
Making the shooters’s cinematic campaign mode
I find myself impressed more by the spectacle than what I’m playing
After Doom, Wolfenstein, Titanfall2, and even Battlefield1’ s War Stories, I’m prepared to convince myself that the singleplayer shooter is having a renaissance. BattlefrontII stands out as it has the potential to join that roster of campaigns, and be a high-end bit of Star Wars fiction, with mocapped cutscenes and a story that bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The early mission EA chose to reveal the campaign is a bit muted, however. Playing as Imperial commando Iden Versio, I start by piloting a TIE fighter around a large-scale space battle, locking onto X-wings and taking them out. While Criterion has revamped the ship combat for this sequel, this sequence is too brief for me to really tell the difference, but it sure looks like a pretty accurate recreation of a Star Wars space battle. The mission then calls for me to board a Rebel transport ship. I pilot the ship into the hangar, and on-foot, head through some corridors into the vessel. Using my little droid buddy, I can zap a Rebel who’s been left behind and is banging on a door in a panic, an obvious reference to that fan service-y Rogue One moment where the Rebel blokes were comprehensively owned by Darth Vader.
The droid can hack computer systems, and perform stealth attacks. The bulk of the level is spent clearing out a large Rebel control room, where enemies are patrolling. I try to clear this with silent attacks, but it goes wrong fairly quickly. The rest of the fight is a pretty standard Battlefront shootout. There’s maybe more of a kick to the guns than there was in the first game, but I find myself impressed more by the spectacle than what I’m playing. But then this level is very early on in the game, not offering enough scope to really show off the potential of a Battlefront singleplayer outside of that opening space battle.
Oddly, I find myself more interested by the opening cutscene between Iden Versio and her father, an Imperial general, after the destruction of the second Death Star. The cutscenes are motion-captured, and they look and sound closer to live-action Star Wars than anything games have provided before. There’s a legitimacy that comes from these high production values. With a story cowritten by Walt Williams, who worked on the memorable story in SpecOps:TheLine, I’m more compelled by the promise of a decent new Star Wars tale than I am about playing BattlefrontII in singleplayer.
After the fall
“We absorbed every single piece of Star Wars material that exists right now, all the authentic stories,” cowriter Mitch Dyer tells me. “So the comic books, the novels—Walt and I read all of it. We read the young adult romance novel, which is incredible, by the way. Lost Stars? Amazing. It’s the best Star Wars novel that’s out right now. We absorbed all of that. I don’t think there’s a single voice to Star Wars, it’s not like, ‘This is what Star Wars is, match it.’ It feels like something, it sounds like something, but there’s wriggle room to make it your own and create distinct characters, which I hope we’ve done. There are certain characters we haven’t revealed yet that are interesting and different, and you’ve never seen anyone like them in Star Wars.”
The brief snippets of cutscenes shown in my demo feel very much like Star Wars, and the angle of playing as the bad guys is new enough that I want to see how Iden’s story develops. Next time EA shows off BattlefrontII, though, I’d like to see how the scale of a large Battlefront map can translate into an interesting campaign mission. That surely has to be the goal of the game’s singleplayer.
“Open the door, we promise not to waterboard you.”
Somehow, even Naboo looks exciting.