Video Game review: STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II (2017)

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Not very often I do a video game review, but here we go.

It should come as no surprise that I looooove me some Star Wars. Big fan since I was I wee lad. The movies – yes, even the prequels – the comics, the books, what few I’ve read for each, and of course, the video games. Hell, STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (2003) remains my number one favorite video game of all time. When I found out it was available to be played on my Google Chromebook, I lept at the opportunity to buy it. Ten dollars for this masterpiece of a game? Damn steal, if you ask me, but I wasn’t about to complain. Pretty sure it’s available for purchase on the Xbox One, but I haven’t gotten it yet. How does the game compensate for the lack of white and black buttons from the original Xbox controller? Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get it sooner or later.

Anywho, let’s keep it focused here. For those of you that don’t know, the Star Wars Battlefront license has been around since the, well, original Xbox and Playstation 2 era of gaming. They were wildly popular back in the day, allowing you to choose fighting with the Galactic Empire, the Rebel Alliance, the Republic, and the Separatists, generally as ground troops, attacking the opposing forces in wide open battlefields until the other side is utterly defeated. On a personal level, I grew highly attached to STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II (2005). I felt the combat was more refined, playable heroes, like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Darth Maul were added, as well as an all-hero free for all mode, which I was highly addicted to. There was a solid storyline that detailed the common clone troopers from their days as clones during the Clone Wars and their transition into the Galactic Empire. When the troopers comment on Aayla Secura, my heart always sinks in sadness for them. It was a rockin’ good time and played it for years until I got rid of both the game, and the system. Maybe I can relive the glory days in the future now that I have a PS2 again, but now is the time for the current generation.

The Battlefront games have since been on an epic hiatus, much to the dismay of many uber fans. But when it was announced that developers EA DICE (known for MIRROR’S EDGE CATALYST [2016] and the Battlefield games), and Criterion Games (known for the Burnout and Need For Speed racing games) were rebooting the franchise, fans were beyond excited. However, if I’m not mistaken, the game wasn’t as well-received. On a personal level, I had fun for a very short amount of time, but I grew bored of the repetitive gameplay. There was no story mode, limited hero selection, and a staggering limited amount of selectable maps to play in. The game was a fairly disappointing experience, to say the least.

But two years later, DICE, Criterion, and now with some assistance from EA newcomer Motive Studios, we’re getting a sequel.

Now, it’s impossible to talk about this game without addressing the backlash the developers faced in recent months, specifically the loot crate system. For those of you that don’t know, the loot crate system, to the best that I can explain, is a randomized system of collecting things to enhance your gaming experience. Play the game, you earn points of some kind, and you spend those points on crates of varying in-game prices. The cheapest crates will yield simpler and easier items, and more expensive crates can yield more powerful weapons and armor, that sort of thing. You can play the game to earn those points, or you have the option to spend real money to get the items you want. However, this system has been highly abused for years. When it first became a thing, it was primarily used in free-to-play mobile games. But now, console games have taken that system and, as I mentioned before, abused it. To many, the concept of spending real money on a video game, no matter how amazing or well done it is, is absurd. I join you in that regard. Personally, I have never, and will never, spend any portion of my paycheck on something as grossly stupid as a loot crate, on top of the sixty-plus dollars that I’m already spending on this game.

But how is this system being abused, you may ask? While the details are confusing and escape me, for I am just a casual gamer at best, the best that I can understand is that if you just play the game and progress naturally, the chances of you spending hours upon hours of earning points for those more valuable items and weapons that will give you an advantage against your enemies, are not always guaranteed. For example, say you play a match, win or lose, you earn, for argument sake, 100 points. You can spend that 100 points on a “bronze box,” which yields the lesser items, a “silver box,” which costs 300 points and yields better items, or a “gold box,” which costs 500 points. A crude example, but hopefully this gives you an idea. Let’s say a match lasts twenty minutes. In twenty minutes, you can get lesser items, or you can grind more gameplay out and earn more points for the more expensive crates. But do the math. You would have to play five more matches to earn that gold box, right? Twenty minutes a match? That’s 100 minutes. One hour and forty minutes of gameplay. Now that you have enough for that gold box, you spend your points and what do you get? It’s random! What does that mean? It means you are certainly guaranteed some better equipment, but you may not necessarily get better weapons or armor. Maybe in this one spending, you got something nice, but luck may not always be on your side. So now in order to get a second gold box, you would need to spend another hour and forty minutes to get another gold box, and it’s very much possible that you will not get a better weapon or set of armor. That’s well over three hours of gameplay with very little to show for it. Meanwhile, it’s also possible to be playing with people who have been that lucky and have some of the best weapons and armor to play with. To make matters worse, spending real money would yield a better or more guaranteed chance of getting the same weapons and armor that you want, but with no work required to obtain them. So if you don’t spend real money, you are most likely going to face a grave unbalance in the game and you’ll be at a gross disadvantage, quickly being turned off from playing for a very long time. And since game developers don’t always take the time to properly balance the games, this creates a serious problem for gamers like myself who want to play and progress naturally. It’s a total manipulation and greed at its finest, and many gamers do sadly get sucked into it, feeding the idea that this type of gaming is what gamers want, when it really isn’t.

Again, my example is not a direct reflection of the actual gameplay in BATTLEFRONT II, it’s just to give the common person an understanding of the current frustrations in gaming. Thing is though, all of what I’ve just spoken about has usually been reserved to multiplayer gameplay. In a way, that’s fine. Unnecessary and there’s work-arounds, but you can argue that’s par the course. However, BATTLEFRONT II was getting backlash that they were adding this system to the single player experience. Instead of progressing naturally, which has always been the case for single player games, they did this loot crate system for the single player and fans and gamers were furious. It’s not hard to understand why. EA has since tried desperately to justify the addition, but because the reaction was met with such intense dismay, it was recently announced that EA was pulling the plug on that system for single player. I don’t remember if it was pulled from multiplayer, but for a lot of gamers, this was a huge win. It showed the developers were listening to the fans and understanding them.

Now before anyone gets the idea that this was a bad game from the get-go, that’s not the case. From its beta, the game has been well received. Great graphics, gameplay, all that good stuff has been given a thumbs up. Let’s see how much I agree.

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II

(REVIEW)

CAMPAIGN

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Alright, so as soon as the game finished installing on my Xbox One, I made a beeline for the campaign mode. Summed up, the story follows Iden Versio (voiced by Janina Gavankar), an Imperial soldier, specifically an elite group called Inferno Squad. She was there on the forest moon of Endor, and witnessed the destruction of the second Death Star, despite the Empire’s trap for the Rebellion. But as the Empire struggles to maintain control after their devastating defeat, Iden starts to see the Empire’s true evil when they start openly killing planets that are loyal to them, all in the name of maintaining fear among its denizens. It’s not long before Iden and fellow Inferno Squadmate Del (voiced by T.J. Ramini) cut ties with the Empire and join the Rebels in their fight against the Empire, meeting up with heroes like Luke Skywalker (voiced by Matthew Mercer), Princess Leia (voiced by Misty Lee), and visiting worlds that were introduced in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015). Essentially, this entire campaign serves as a bridge between the events of episodes six and seven.

At first, I was a little worried. A good ten to fifteen minutes of the start of gameplay wasn’t with Iden, but rather her droid companion, who camps out on her back until she needs it to open a locked door or splice a camera. But thankfully, when the droid reunites with Iden, it’s traditional gameplay as per usual and you never have to control another droid again, which would have definitely given me a headache. I was also concerned with Iden herself. At first, I couldn’t get behind her character. Don’t get me wrong, an Imperial perspective on what the Empire is all about is certainly a fresh take and not often taken with the Star Wars license. However, I was thinking most of the time, wouldn’t Iden be a better character if she was faithful to the Empire, but didn’t hate the Rebels with seething fire? Like, she respects the Rebels, but has her own personal beliefs as to why the Empire is preferable. But no, she scoffs at the thought of “hope” as a motivator and just doesn’t seem like a likable character to be following. As it turns out, a part of my wish came true in the form of Del, when you take control of Luke Skywalker for a level, and you learn that Del has his doubts about the Empire, but returns to Inferno Squad. The next level is when you see the outrage in Iden when their own people are getting massacred and decides to cut ties. Her arch makes sense and I was about to get into her character a lot more.

Sadly, while there’s some good ideas here, it’s not explored very well. Iden is not very interesting, at the end of the day. I just can’t tell you much about her. When the Death Star blows up, it barely affects her. You could simply make the argument that she was just acting professional, but it comes off as too robotic for my taste. Del is the more interesting character. You see his doubts early on, you see him struggling with what he wants to do about being apart of the Empire, and over time, you see what he wants when the conflict is over and done. He’s not the most fleshed out character, granted, but it’s better than Iden.

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Thankfully, the perspective cuts around to differing characters. Like you have levels where you get to play as Leia, Han Solo (voiced by John Armstrong), or Lando (voiced by Billy Dee Williams), and it’s a welcomed change of pace. A lot of levels are also really expansive, especially the last level which has you piloting space fighters, mixed with landing the ships and assaulting checkpoints on foot, taking down Imperial walkers, it’s impressive to say the least and it’s a load of fun, especially when you get to the level where you control Lando. That level is a real hoot.

A unique feature in the campaign is that it does allow for some stealth gameplay. It’s pretty watered down compared to other titles, though. A simple crouch and sneak up behind an enemy and execute an insta-kill. You might be able to get away with a few snipe kills, but only in certain levels, which is a drag. Still, the insta-kills are pretty satisfying when you pull them off, but the game feels more natural at it’s run-and-gun type gameplay. Also, you get a crouch option that you don’t get in the rest of the game, like arcade mode. Strange, because any other mode makes the crouch button a dodge-roll. A strange decision, but I enjoyed being able to crouch behind cover. It’s just a shame that you can’t do it in arcade mode, nor can you blind-fire from cover. That’s definitely lame. Maybe that’s just the MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA (2017) player in me, but it’s kind of must-have feature in a shooter. Beyond that, that you can also customize Iden’s arsenal, choosing from a variety of weapons to play around with at your leisure, which can be a lot of fun since the game never gives you any shortage of enemies.

Some of my favorite levels include anything like taking control of vehicles. Let me tell you, nothing will make you feel more powerful than hijacking a AT-AT walker through a city and laying hilarious waste to hordes of ground troops frantically shooting at you with their pea-shooting rifles, or when you’re taking down a pair of AT-ST walkers, and a low-flying TIE fighter. The space fights are also a lot of fun. The controls are solid for the most part, though I’d still like the be able to flip. As soon as you preset your controls for it, you should be good to go. Though I’m not sure I quite figured out how to best use my special abilities.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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My biggest complaint is the ending. After Iden helps defeat the Empire, the game makes you think it’s over. Iden kisses Del, in a semi-out of nowhere relationship that’s never explored, and then cuts away.

 

But then there’s one more level.

 

Taking place just before the events of FORCE AWAKENS, Kylo Ren (voiced by Matthew Mercer) has hunted down Del, knowing he knows something about the map to Luke Skywalker. Quite literally, the level is just Kylo infiltrating Del’s mind and learning the secret. We know he and Iden had a child, they’re currently not together anymore, and then Kylo gets what he wants. Del is killed, and then… the campaign ends. It makes you think the story is going to continue into the Resistance fighting the First Order, but no. This is completely dashed for absolutely nothing, and it’s beyond confusing and frustrating. Oh man, I can’t wait to see Angry Joe on Youtube scream about this.

 

 

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***END SPOILERS***

The AI varies in intelligence. Sometimes, they’re pretty cheap in how far away they can hit you even without a sniper rifle. Other times, I’ve had instances where I was sneaking up on an enemy with the intention to stealth kill, and I was right in front of that person who was on high alert looking for me. Guess what, I killed that person a little too easily. Most other cases, it works fine, but the inconsistent intelligence of the AI is pretty laughable at times. Also, they don’t use cover that efficiently. The difficulty in AI really isn’t in how effective they use cover or tactics to try and best you, but rather how powerful each blaster shot is and how accurate their shots are. It’s the difference between you being a laser sponge versus a one-hit kill and this goes for the Arcade modes as well.

For the most part, the campaign is a welcomed mode and I enjoyed myself. It’s not overly long. I think I spent maybe five to six hours playing it. The characters are lacking in good development, and that ending… ugh, that ending is the worst ending I’ve seen in a Star Wars story since KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II: THE SITH LORDS. Even that had something of a resolution, albeit zero follow-up. But overall, I liked it, and I’ll probably play it again in the future, but I know the perfect place to stop playing to make it more satisfying.

 

ARCADE

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Now we’re getting to the real meat of the game, arcade mode. There’s three modes to choose from: Solo, Co-Op, and Versus.

In Solo, you have three modes to choose from: Battle Scenarios, Custom Arcade, and Tutorial. Tutorial is essentially what you were probably playing while the game was installing. You’re on Starkiller Base playing as the First Order and Kylo Ren. But what most people will be interested in is either Battle Scenarios or Custom Arcade.

Battle Scenarios is a pre-constructed sets of challenges. You can pick either light side or dark side and you basically go into a match that’s either your army versus theirs, sometimes with a hero at your disposal, and you basically survive as best you can. Each challenge has its own tier of difficulty, tier 1 being the easiest, tier 3 being the hardest the challenge has to offer. Personally, I think the higher tiers are a little too hard, but then again, I could just simply suck. Even with heroes, you die way too easily.

Custom Arcade is exactly what it sounds like. My first red flag was this: there’s only two modes to choose from, Team Battle and Onslaught. Team Battle is the standard mode of an army of you versus an army of them. Onslaught is basically, you’re a one-person army. You’re timed and each kill is an extra one, three, or five seconds to your timer until you kill all your enemies, or die trying. You can also choose your own level, but there’s only six to choose from: Starkiller Base, Maz’s Castle, Mos Eisley, Yavin 4’s Great Temple, the Cloning Facility on Kamino, and the city of Theed on Naboo. Really? Only six maps to choose from? What about any of the number of levels you play through in the campaign mode? Or any other places that the movies visit? Why is the selection so limited? And why can’t you choose which era you could play levels in? For example, if I wanted to fight on Kamino, why am I restricted to playing only the Republic’s Clones or the Separatists’ droids? No, it wouldn’t make sense to see the Resistance fighting the First Order there, but isn’t that part of the fun? Mixing this sort of thing up for a more imaginative experience?!

The biggest sin of this mode is that there’s no “heroes only” battle mode. And I’m not talking about the one offered in the game, where it’s just you choosing a hero and charging the enemy forces. No, I’m talking about Rey versus Darth Maul. I’m talking Luke Skywalker versus Kylo Ren. I’m talking like 2005’s Battlefront which had you choosing every hero the game had to offer and hurling them into a free for all against one another. Again, that was incredibly fun. It didn’t make sense, but no one gave a crap! It was a ton of fun!

And seriously?! Where the space combat?! Is it seriously regulated to only multiplayer?! What kind of crap is that?!

That’s something I just discovered, all of the best modes, like the heroes versus villains are all restricted to multiplayer. Why? Why do I have to subject myself to an overly competitive environment just to play a mode that I enjoyed just fine in single player? Starfighters are only multiplayer. Objective-based gameplay, it’s only for multiplayer! How hard is it to put this stuff in single player arcade? Perhaps this is a true sign that the game is still meant to be a multiplayer experience like every other game on the market. Halo, Call of Duty, the single player experience is a blip on EA’s radar and only succumbed to putting it in their game to shut up those who wanted a campaign, but still don’t care about us having fun with ourselves, or our friends.

Also, is there anyone else having problems with connecting to EA’s servers? I have this recurring issue after a solo arcade match where the servers will crash on me. I’ll try to reconnect, but it won’t unless I turn off the console and back on again. This is annoying because if I finally do earn some credits or rewards for my victories in arcade, I can’t redeem the crates. It’s been getting increasingly worse the more I play.

 

OVERALL

While I have fun in small bursts, I really wanted more out of this game, and everything that I could possibly want, it’s all in multiplayer, which is a huge disappointment and frustration. I’ll probably play through the campaign one more time, maybe wait and play with some friends in co-op and online before getting rid of this game. It has no staying power for me at all. I’m not an online gamer, and if you’re anything like me, then this game is far too limited for an extended keep. Had it for less than a week and I was finished with it. I wager if you game online, then you’ll enjoy yourself just fine, but I like the experience kept to myself or restricted to my friends and this game doesn’t cater to me or gamers like me. Best option, look for 2005’s BATTLEFRONT II and relive the glory days. Heroes may be born on the battlefront, but EA remains a villain to the Battlefront franchise.

My honest rating for STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II: a weak 3/5

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5 Replies to “Video Game review: STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II (2017)”

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