Update: Never before has a game that we've reviewed lurched in so many different directions so soon after launch (in this case, not even a full launch). We pondered our score long and hard in the first instance, with the old loot system affecting the game, but in our opinion, not as much as some had suggested. Just before the review landed EA reduced the cost of unlocking hero characters, then a couple of days later we saw epic star cards unlock for special edition-buying players ahead of launch and the game's pay-to-win mechanics came to the fore more than ever. Now EA has decided to remove microtransactions completely, albeit temporarily, changing the dynamic once again. As it stands, the score stands, and we've updated the text with impressions of the game after playing on launch day, but with so many changes happening behind the scenes, we're going to revisit Star Wars Battlefront II in a couple of months, once the dust has settled, and see where we are. What we do know for sure is that this is a beautiful, exciting action game that has been dragged through the mud by a monetisation system that should never have been there in the first place. How EA decides to move forward from here is going to be very interesting indeed.
The thing that everyone said was missing from Star Wars Battlefront was a single-player campaign to go along with all the multiplayer action, and that's exactly what we've got from this shooter sequel; a more well-rounded package that includes online, solo, and cooperative modes that draw from across the expanse of the Star Wars universe. In exchange for this new solo story mode we lost the season pass of old, with EA promising a wealth of post-launch content in its place, to be funded not through DLC drops but via microtransactions in the multiplayer portion of the game.
We were delighted that EA and DICE decided to drop the season pass, and it's only a good thing that the multiplayer community in Battlefront II will stay together for the duration. We're also glad they gave us a single-player campaign to play, because even though it isn't perfect, it's still perfectly playable and makes for a more cohesive overall experience. That said, we're not sure that DICE's sci-fi shooter is an outright improvement over the original, and there are one or two areas where we could see refinement in the future.
Let's start with the story campaign, which brings together a host of famous characters from the original trilogy and mixes in some new ones for good measure. We loved the start of the narrative, which sees Iden Versio (played by Janina Gavankar) taking charge of Inferno Squad, an elite unit of imperial soldiers who take on the most dangerous missions. It's an interesting and bold move that puts you on the other side of a well-established divide, fighting against the Rebellion instead of for it.
The events of the game are tied to those of Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi, and like Rogue One and A New Hope, it's clear that a lot of thought has gone into linking these stories together and making them feel more relevant by their proximity to well-worn events. There are hints and teases and knowing winks throughout the campaign, and fans will get a kick out of at least some of the cutscenes. The scriptwriting is, at times, brilliant, and we were genuinely entertained during several of the scenes that played out between missions.
It's a shame, then, that many of the missions are a little run-of-the-mill, with some of the objectives you undertake bordering on boring at times. Apart from the fan-servant character dialogue and some stunningly realised locations, you've seen it all before, and the overall mission structure could have done with more innovation. We've played some fantastic story-driven shooter campaigns over the last couple of years, but sadly this isn't up there with the best of them.
Part of the problem is how often the flow of the story is disrupted. On the one hand, it was fun walking in the shoes of some iconic characters through some familiar locations, but on the other, it resulted in a slightly disjointed narrative. The missions starring Iden and her sidekick Del were the best of the bunch in our opinion, and there were some standout moments in the campaign involving other characters, but ultimately it just didn't have the teeth to really grab us. It's far from being a disaster, but we doubt even the biggest Star Wars fan will call it an outright success either.
There's also an Arcade mode which offers up 16 objective-based missions, played from both imperial and rebel perspectives. Waves of enemies descend on the player/s who must fight back and clear a designated number of opponents, for example. It's nice to be able to play in co-op, and it's also nice to revisit certain locations from a different perspective (such as battling through the palace in Theed with Darth Maul). Still, it's not the mode that will keep most players coming back for more, and if you're going to get an addiction to Battlefront II, it's going to be because of the multiplayer.