When it was announced that Star Wars Battlefront was returning, we were excited. The original Battlefront and its successor, the aptly named Battlefront 2, were two of our most played games when we were younger. Whether it was by ourselves or split-screen, we would spend hours as the Republic, Separatists, Empire or Rebels, conducting climactic battles across the galaxy. The gameplay was as close to perfect that you got at the time, and the ability to cut people down as Darth Vader or Yoda was the icing on the galactic cake.
We were expecting the same polish and addictive gameplay to permeate from the 2015 game. And initially, our expectation was rewarded. Landing on Hoth or Endor, rendered beautifully and running around with fluid efficiency, be that on foot or in one of the bevvy of vehicles, felt brilliant. The Stormtroopers glistened in white, and the Rebels looked suitably war-weary and scruffy.
The battles were equally climactic, if not more, than the original. Fighting huge swathes of attackers with various objectives felt fresh compared to contemporaries. Taking down an AT-AT was like nothing we had experienced before. Being able to jump into all manner of vehicles meant that no match played the same.
It was not perfect, however. While it looked and ran brilliantly, the gunplay left a lot to be desired. Where the original was almost perfect, the new game’s guns felt light and lifeless. It felt like firing a nerf gun across the map. When you compared the shooting in Battlefront to a game like Destiny, well, there was no comparison. It also had some complicated issues with DLC. In fact, it could be said, Battlefront’s DLC strategy was an affront to its many fans. Charging for additions to a game that launched shallow was not fair.
It was shallow because, much to the annoyance of many, there was no single-player campaign. On the surface, no single-player campaign was not a major issue–Overwatch has managed to be fine without one–but when you have the Star Wars Universe at your feet, and you don’t use it, then people start to ask questions. Like, was it rushed out the door? When it releases with a perceived lack of content, then that question becomes more pertinent. That lack of content also included no space battles, again, a mad omission considering the game is based on a successful space opera.
Having said all that, we still entered our demo booth at EGX 2017 with excitement. We expected that the issues that we and so many others had would be resolved.
Upon entering, we are told the match will be 40v40, we will be playing as the separatists, and the battle will take place in Theed on Naboo. Obviously, the first thing you notice when your character spawns is how good looking the game is. We are playing on a PS4 Pro, and my word the game looks–4K– and runs–60FPS– great.
However, we already knew that. Instead, we were more interested in how it played, or, more importantly, shot. And, well, it was surprisingly good. The guns felt heavier, punchier, better. Finally, gunning down an opponent actually felt like gunning down an opponent rather than shooting at them with a water gun. Ok, it is not and never will be Destiny, but it is a vast and much-needed improvement on its predecessor.
With our most pressing issue out the way, we took to having a deeper look at the game as a whole. And we discover the changes are far more than skin-deep. Now, rather than being a simple grunt with a gun, be that rebel fighter or separatist droid, we can choose a character class–assault, officer, heavy or special. Each one looks slightly different and plays slightly different. With progression, they can be updated and adapted to the player’s style by using collectable star cards. We were not able to see this in action but were told it changes the way battles play out. It is designed to get you attached to a character and style, rather than just adding a different loadout or changing the cosmetics. It’s a reaction to the hero-shooter genre that has exploded in recent years.
A major part of Battlefront has always been playing as your favourite heroes. In the 2015 game, it was pure luck as to whether you could cause havoc with Han Solo or Boba Fett. With Battlefront 2, how you become the heroes is also all change for the new game. Now, to become your favourite heroes, you have to earn points during a match. It is a system that rewards good play with points being able to be spent on lower ‘specials’ or saved for the ‘better’ heroes. While that might seem less inclusive, on balance, it is a fairer, more predictable way. Though, the hateful term ‘git gud’ comes to mind when you think of players struggling to gain enough points to become Luke Skywalker.
Not only has how we become heroes changed, but they are also customisable, as are the vehicles. As a result, you could have two Darth Mauls with one build different to another. All this adds depth to the game, depth that was sorely lacking in the first place.
Unfortunately, we never got a chance to have a look at either the much-anticipated campaign or the returning space battles, but what we did play impressed us. We did have some reservations. The map we played seemed a bit funnelled and, well, simple. Three lanes leading to a final battle in a single room. This could simply be the layout of the particular city-based map–likely the only city-based map in the game–, but we are hoping that other maps have more verticality and distinctive routes to the various objectives.
It was the busiest demo of EGX, and we can see why. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is shaping to be a good game if it continues to address the first’s issues.