When you think about it it’s really sort of a minor error, a plane crashing into the side of the mountain. A million things had to go right to make it possible: the plane had to be built by hundreds of skilled workers, drawing on the technical innovations of literal centuries to produce a colossal metal marvel that astounds casual observers even today. Materials had to be extracted and refined to exacting specifications, plans had to be developed and then edited, remade and edited again until they were nothing short of perfect. A crew had to go through collective thousands of hours of training, workers on the ground had to ensure that every single aspect of the machine was in working order and a national infrastructure of airports and traffic control had to exist to get the plane into the air in the first place. All of that had to go right before the thing even began, before this staggering technical achievement could achieve anything approximating success or failure. And when you think of it that way, the fact that someone may have steered the thing into a sheer rock face instead of open sky seems academic at best.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 feels a little bit like this.
This game is the sort of monumental achievement that could only have come out of the modern AAA studio system, with all the attendant wonder and pain that comes along with that. It is dripping with gorgeous visuals, stunning vistas, excellent sound design and moments of genuinely exciting gameplay. It is also crippled by a series of wrongheaded high-level decisions that have all but ensured that the incredible amount of toil and talent that went into making a game of this scale would inevitably be misfired, careening off into mediocrity with the open skies of brilliance just in its peripheral vision.
The job here was relatively straightforward, at least conceptually. Star Wars Battlefront was a commercially successful game that managed to combine the best Star Wars visuals ever seen outside of a movie with fun, accessible gameplay, making for an approachable experience that still gave the player a chance to feel like they were genuinely part of an epic Star Wars battle. We had Star Destroyers looming overhead, skies crossed with green and red laser fire, Stormtroopers bumbling on the ground, a stirring orchestral score, colossal weapons of war both futuristic and terrifyingly mechanical: etc. But where it succeeded in a general feeling it lacked in content and was roundly criticized for launching with a dearth of maps, modes and challenges and no single-player content to speak of. That was the challenge: make Star Wars Battlefront, just more of it.
And boy, did they try. This game is just dripping with more in every aspect of its gameplay but in that translation DICE has lost control over the simple fun that made Star Wars Battlefront such a blast. Everything is more complicated, everything is more detailed, everything is more involved, everything is worse. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a gorgeous game marked by technical skill and occasional aesthetic brilliance, bringing decades of Star Wars stories to life in a way we’ve never seen before. But Star Wars Battlefront 2 is also a bad game.
A Mess of Multiplayer
Multiplayer is where Star Wars Battlefront 2 wants you to spend most of your time, and Multiplayer is where you will encounter most of this game’s dizzying smorgasbord of systems and concepts. To start out with, you can now choose between five troopers in a match: Assault, Heavy, Specialist, and Officer. Essentially it’s standard, machine gun, sniper and support. They’re all classes that feel defined by their weaknesses rather than their strengths, especially at the beginning of the game when none of them have the Star Cards they need to compete — more on that later. Heavy is slow, Specialist is squishy, Officer is confusing and Assault is just sort of lame. The game spawns you in with a squad of up to five players and tells you to stick together. Everyone just runs off on their own anyway.
We have five modes: a 20 vs. 20 “Galactic Assault,” a 12 vs. 12 “Strike,” a deathmatch-style “Blast,” a “Heroes vs. Villians” which casts all the players as iconic characters and a “Starfighter Assault” which allows you to take to the skies. They’ve all got their problems.
Star Wars Battlefront was defined by Walker Assault, a progressive battle that saw the rebellion trying to attack two massive At-At’s lumbering across a grand, linear map. Walker Assault was divided into two phases: in the first, rebels tried to control uplink terminals to allow Y-Wings to lock on and attack the Walkers. The longer they did this, the more Y-Wings they got. Then, the Y-Wing attacks would make the Walkers vulnerable for a limited time, during which the Rebels would unload with everything they had and the Empire would try to slow them down. The AT-ATs would move to a different area, and the match would do this for three rounds. It gave each map a wonderful sense of rhythm and narrative, and I maintain it’s the best large-scale multiplayer mode I’ve ever played.
There’s nothing like this here.
Galactic Assault, like Walker Assault, tasks the teams with a set of three progressive objective sets, ranging from zone control to bomb planting to a mode that almost looks like attacking a big, grand AT-AT but doesn’t have any of the structural brilliance of Walker Assault. Most of the time you just hurl yourself at one objective and then either give up or move on to hurling yourself at another. At some point, the match ends. None of the maps have quite the drama of any of the maps I remember from Battlefront, and they don’t come loaded with environmental effects both visual and auditory like Battlefront had. Battlefront often felt like you were genuinely a single small trooper in a massive battle between good and evil: matches in Battlefront 2 feel quiet, perfunctory and game-like instead.
Most of these modes are crippled by a system of death tickets: the attacking team only gets to die a certain number of times, after which the match is over. It ensures cautious play, punishes inexperienced players and causes every match to wind down anti-climactically rather than ending in a final, blazing last stand. It feels like a small feature, but it’s hard to overstate how it comes to define nearly every mode in the game. Again, this is the airplane from the beginning here: if only they had pointed this thing a hair to the right, we might not be having this conversation.
On top of this, we’ve now got Battle Points, which players use to unlock more powerful characters, including supercharged Jedi or Sith heroes. Everything you do in the game earns you these points, and you can cash them in for a vehicle, an improved trooper or a hero at your next respawn. It…
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