Preview: Star Wars: Battlefront II — This is the game you’re looking for

Wow. I knew Star Wars Battlefront from DICE was lacking two years ago, but it’s become more apparent now after playing the Battlefront II beta. It’s amazing how much of a boost space battles, the prequel era, and a revamped customization system give it considering the core gameplay hasn’t drastically changed.

I’ll admit I’m a huge Star Wars fan and that’s partially why I was so let down with DICE’s first Battlefront. It lacked heart (and content). The combat was good enough, but it didn’t hook me and bring me to a galaxy far, far away. Star Wars Battlefront II does. At the very least, the few modes available during this multiplayer beta gave me a lot of hope for it. Where Battlefront felt soulless, Battlefront II exudes life.

To start off, Star Wars Battlefront II now has four character classes that players can choose from, no matter which side they are playing on. The Assault acts as your basic soldier, the Heavy wields a more powerful high fire rate weapon, the Officer is your medic, and the Specialist is your sniper. Each has their own unique abilities in addition to their standard weapons, like the Heavy’s shield. This system already adds more depth to the game as opposed the first, and only a limited amount of upgrades were available to use in the beta.

As can be expected with DICE, the sound and level design are second to none. Every blast sounds like it’s pulled straight from the movies, and the atmosphere that this creates is incredible. The streets of Theed and forest on Takodana have been recreated meticulously. Battlefront II’s beautiful style is only brought down by its slightly grainy visuals and bad texture pop-in, which was especially apparent on Takodona with its vegetation and foliage. I did not notice any when I was flying in the space above Fondor, however that could have been because of the fast-paced nature of the gameplay and my focus being on other Starfighters.

Galactic Assault (40 player), Starfighter Assault (24 player), and Strike (16 player) are available to try out. These modes feature more evolution than revolution, but that’s not a bad thing. The first moments of Galactic Assault on Theed are intense and awe-inspiring as NPCs scatter and both sides fire at one another from across the map. Witnessing such a large scale assault with blue and red blasts whizzing by my head transported me back to my childhood watching Star Wars for the first time. It’s special. The same can be said for Starfighter Assault in the battle over Fondor. The visuals, sound, and gameplay all come together wonderfully. Though the controls while flying tripped me up at the start (right thumbstick fully controls movement/direction while the left controls your speed and can roll your fighter), they were easy to get the hang of and I quickly found myself enjoying Starfighter Assault more than Galactic. Even in the middle of a chaotic battlefield, the screen never felt too cluttered with icons.

If you played Battlefront’s beta two years ago, you’ll remember how unbalanced Walker Assault on Hoth was. Well, that’s returned. No matter which team I was on or what we did, it always seemed like the Republic won a disproportionate amount of times on Theed. In my experience, this also applies to Starfighter Assault where I saw the Empire win a great number of times. On the bright side, you don’t encounter a problem like the Rebel cave on Hoth where it was like shooting fish in a barrel. This is definitely an issue that can be worked out before launch, so I hope that DICE is paying attention to feedback and tweaking it a bit.

On the other hand, Strike —an infantry-based mode where one team of players defends an objective against the attacking team—is a lot more balanced. The Strike available to play is set around Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana as the Resistance attempts to defend a Jedi artifact sought after by the First Order. This features close-quarters combat as two small teams rush to the objective. It’s a lot of incremental movements across the map as a player with the artifact dies while trying to transport it, but this puts each team on equal footing in terms of power.

While the shooting is similar to the first Battlefront and doesn’t require perfect precision, Star Wars Battlefront II values skill more so than before. Originally, players would get lucky enough to pick up an icon on the field and control a vehicle or hero character. This is no longer the case. Instead, you earn points by playing well and can then spend those points on different vehicles or heroes to be used during the match. If you’re worried because of your skill or lack thereof, don’t be. It’s easy to rack up points even if you aren’t the best on your team, it just means it’ll take a little longer to unlock special characters and vehicles. From what I’ve played so far, this is a more fair and rewarding system than before.

The game can once again be played in first-person or third person depending on your preference. As far as I could tell, gameplay wasn’t affected at all other than how certain weapons scope-in on other players. Character movement still feels the same no matter which you choose. I personally prefer to play Battlefront II in third-person as I think it gives me a better view of my surroundings, but to each their own.

Thank goodness this game features a full, dedicated single-player campaign because its Arcade mode is still woefully inadequate. There are challenges you can complete solo or co-op, but honestly Arcade can just be skipped entirely as it doesn’t offer anything worth your time, at least in this beta. Arcade does provide a way to train with your new weapons and abilities against AI opponents, however considering you’ll likely be facing off against real players eventually, you’re better off getting your experience in on the battlefield that counts.

I can’t predict how the servers will be at launch, but the beta ran smooth during my time with it. I didn’t encounter any lag, drops, or poor load times. In fact, I was impressed by the efficiency of it. As with any multiplayer game, I would still expect some matchmaking issues come release on November 17, but if you are just jumping in to try out the beta, you should have no problem.

A big question lingering over the final release is how microtransactions will factor into it. Players can effectively purchase loot boxes called ‘crates’ containing different star cards which grant various upgrades, stat bonuses, weapon mods, and more, giving them an advantage over others if they choose to spend some actual cash instead of in-game credits. If this isn’t implemented correctly, it could put a serious damper on things when progression can be bought, even if not entirely.

Star Wars Battlefront II hasn’t ironed out all of the kinks from the first, but it left a promising impression on me. Its multiplayer takes the best parts of the Star Wars universe and faithfully recreates them with stunning precision. Even if some modes felt unbalanced, the groundwork is there for enjoyable gameplay sessions seeing as the gunplay and customization are in top form. Only time will tell whether EA Motive can deliver on its story campaign.

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