Star Wars Battlefront 2’s beta suggests a massively improved sequel

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 [official site] can make the same claim as its predecessor: you’ve never seen Star Wars looking this pretty outside of the movies. Birds flutter around the lush vegetation on Naboo and Takodana, and explosions scatter dust and dirt everywhere as laser fire lights up the battlefield.

I’ve been playing in the beta, and I’m happy to report that while Battlefront 2 surpasses the audio visual spectacle that was the only exceptional feature of the first entry in the series, it’s also a deeper and more interesting game.

The floating power ups that Alec said were the game’s “answer to everything” in his Battlefront review have been entirely done away with. Battlefront 2 improves on every system, from the addition of separate classes to better thought out star cards. Every class has a different type of gun, which already makes for far more interesting shootouts than when everyone wielded minor variants on the same assault rifle. The star cards work in a similar way to how they did before, providing abilities that can be activated on a short cooldown, but now they cement the different roles of the various classes. Heavies have access to protective shields and chain guns that slow their movement, while assault troopers are equipped with shotguns for short range charges.

Most importantly, the shooting feels satisfying in a way that it just didn’t before. It’s hard to make a laser feel like it has as much impact as a bullet, and the game still falls short of providing the visceral thrill that firefights in Battlefield or Call of Duty do – but it’s so much closer now. I put it down to the way Dice have dialled up the reaction animations, with laser blasts and explosions that send the models sprawling backwards from incoming fire. The way your armour gets spattered with mud and burn marks is another nice touch.

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You can no longer spawn on a squad partner, and are instead assigned a new squad each time you respawn. Fighting alongside your squad earns you more points than if you go solo, which works as a greater incentive for teamwork than other games usually manage because those points can be spent on spawning as special classes. It’s similar to the system that the 2005 game used, except you only get one life as them rather than unlocking a class for the whole round.

Every army can spend their points on a jetpack toting aerial trooper, as well as a unique special unit. Separatists get super battle droids, and the clones and rebels can play as wookies. The special First Order trooper carries a flamethrower which is disappointingly underpowered, even compared to a normal class. Hero units have been folded into that system as well, and are expensive enough that I could only afford to play as them once in a round if I chose to save up for them. It’s a vast improvement on the first game, where whoever got to play the hero was just whoever happened to be closest to where the power up spawned.

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Galactic Assault is the game’s flagship mode, offering 40 player matches with a full roster of vehicles and heroes available to buy. Vehicles are bought with the same Battle Points that you can spend on special classes and heroes, and include flying vehicles. There’s little point in picking them, however – it’s got the same problem as the Battlefield series where aerial fights are too removed from what’s happening on the ground, with jets that move too fast to target infantry. The exception to that is when one comes crashing down to the ground in the middle of a shootout, sending both sides scattering in a fiery explosion.

Naboo is the Galactic Assault map available in the beta. In the first stage, Separatist Droids escort an MTT to the gates of the Royal Palace. The clones can only damage it with Ion rockets that spawn in various places on the map, which creates a more interesting dynamic than simply attacking or defending. If the Separatists can bring the MTT in range, it blasts down the entrance to the palace and triggers the next stage of the map where they attempt to storm the building.

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Unfortunately, this is easily the worst bit of the beta, with the action getting bogged down in the same kind of corridor fights that plagued indoor sections of the first game. There are just too many people packed into too small a space, with grenade spam making it next to impossible to move through the narrow choke-points. A hero can sometimes help the droids gain a little ground, but I’m yet to see them actually win a round.

Strike mode strips away some of the spectacle from Galactic Assault, with only 8 players fighting on a smaller, infantry only map. The beta map has the First Order attempting to retrieve an artefact from Maz’s castle, defended by the rebels. It’s got some of the same corridor problems as Naboo, though the reduced player count makes it much less of a mess. I actually found myself enjoying it more than Galactic Assault – it’s nowhere near as grand, but that makes individual plays feel more significant.

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The third mode is Spaceship Assault, which was introduced in the Death Star DLC for Battlefront but will be available from launch in Battlefront 2. I didn’t spend much time with the first games spaceships so can’t say too much about what’s changed, but I did notice that aerial maneuvers have been removed. It means there’s a bit less to think about, but it’s probably for the best – the ‘loop the loop’ button provided a frustratingly easy way for opponents to flip the tables during a dogfight.

Getting blown up from miles away with no chance to retaliate is still a thing, unless you’re flying a bomber with its inflated health pool. Once you earn enough points you can take some of the more famous spaceships out for a spin, including the Millennium Falcon and Poe’s X-wing. I did get a kick out of flying the Falcon, though I only saved up enough for it once and managed to crash it within 60 seconds.

There’s also an arcade mode, which acts as place to practice for the multiplayer. One of the ‘Battle Scenarios’ available in the beta is just a straight up team deathmatch with only the basic classes enabled, but in the other you play as Darth Maul. It’s a good opportunity to try him out, seen as you’ll want to make the most of him if you spend points unlocking him in an actual game.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 has gone from a game I had next to no interest in to one that I’m excited to play more of. With more satisfying gunplay and a class system that provides some much needed variety, it’s miles ahead of the disappointing first game. If the maps in the full game avoid the clumsy corridor brawls that undermine sections of the beta, it’ll be one of this year’s best multiplayer shooters.

You can grab the open beta for yourself on Origin, and play from now until October 9th.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is due for release on November 17th.

45 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    Um this is a Star Wars article so why is that a picture from Dune?

  2. zind says:

    “You can no longer spawn on a squad partner, and are instead assigned a new squad each time you respawn.”

    That sounds like a step backward? Does that make playing with pals as difficult as it sounds or will you sort of follow each other around from squad to squad?

    • flashlight_eyes says:

      This also confused me, can someone clear this up?

    • tbs says:

      All the complaints about the game I’ve seen thus far are around how squads are handled. It’s very difficult to team up with friends apparently.

      None of my friends game, so this doesn’t bother met at all.

      The “not spawning on top of other players” thing actually helps with some potential balance issues. In order to stop the MTT you have to pick up an ion canon, bring it within sight of the MTT, and shoot it. You get a couple rounds of ammo. If your team could just spawn on you endlessly, it might create an annoying stalemate. The same is true of Strike mode, which has one team carrying an artifact to an extraction point, with the other in the way. Spawning on one another in that situation would ruin the defender’s advantage.

  3. Iskariot says:

    All I really care about is whether the game is worth buying for me as a solo player. I do not care at all about multiplayer.
    I can’t even remember when I enjoyed a Star Wars game for the last time.

    • otakucore says:

      I don’t care for online multiplayer either. The original Star Wars Battlefront was amazing for solo play and co-op/versus. Battlefront II was okay, but I didn’t care for the heroes or space battles. When I finally bought the new one for $20 I was sorely disappointed. How hard is it to update and improve the original game? It was great!

      At least the new Battlefront isn’t as bad as that abortion of a game The Lord of the Rings: Conquest. I still remember trying to explain to my nephew that sometimes games aren’t very good and leaving him to play it by himself.

    • Unsheep says:

      Unless it has a single-player mode it’s not an improvement at all from their last game. At least the 2005 version was still great in single-player. These new ones are just boring since all they have is multiplayer.

  4. Spider Jerusalem says:

    Hmm. No mention of the cynical progression system? Progression systems themselves are always quite cynical, but this really takes the cake. All progress is tied to loot crates (gun unlocks, star cards, mods, crafting parts) which are, naturally, available for purchase, and your individual class levels can only be progressed via card acquisition. So if you play your Officer for 10 hours but don’t get good luck in your crate openings, you might have a level 8 Officer and a level 15 Assault, which you never play.

    Unnecessary and stupid, really.

    • SuicideKing says:

      The first thing I encountered when i opened the game was loot crate flashing at me, and then spent 5 minutes wading through words like “cards” and “crafting”.

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        Exactly. And the menu tries to upsell you every time you exit a match and return to the main screen. Miserable all around, really. It did inspire me to re-install the actual Battlefront II, though. So it’s got that going for it.

        • sosolidshoe says:

          RPS seems to have developed an aversion to discussing publisher greed of late, they also glossed over the guff going on in the LotR game. I’m sure them being bought out has nothing to do with it…

  5. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Why they couldn’t have made the first one as good as this one, when they started development on it almost immediately after, is beyond me.

    • Gamedick says:

      i think there’s this new trend of a new-ish first installment being a sort of overblown beta test…looking at last year’s SW:BF, Destiny 1, basically any multiplayer-focused Ubisoft game

      • Premium User Badge

        Neurotic says:

        It certainly seems that way! They build something new, then reiterate the whole design through post-retail feedback, rather than internal testing or multiple public beta phases.

  6. SuicideKing says:

    Haven’t tried the multiplayer yet, just the arcade mode. But my impression so far has been “meh”. Floaty movement, disconnected gun play, unlocks, crafting and loot crates. It feels like a F2P game at the moment. Arcade mode seemed quite daft.

    Darth Maul with a lightsabre was fun, though.

  7. Premium User Badge

    duns4t says:

    Two steps forward, one step back. The teamplay is improved and the content (single player campaign; not splitting the audience into base vs DLC) is much better. But the crate system and the pay-to-win they bring with epic star cards conferring power increases is maddening.

    You almost pulled it off, EA… almost.

  8. BaronKreight says:

    I’ve checked official forums for feedback from players. Mixed reactions.

  9. devonair says:

    How are the load times? The first one took FOREVER even in between menus.

  10. grimdanfango says:

    [blockquote]it’s also a deeper and more interesting game.[/blockquote]
    It’s still not bleedin’ TIE Fighter though, is it?

    I don’t know if Lawrence Holland has another Star Wars sim in him, but it’s been so long… *someone* needs to stop dicking around and make another proper Star Wars game.

  11. aircool says:

    Once most of the bugs and balances are ironed out, it will come down to the same old same old…

    …not doing enough about cheaters and hackers.

  12. brucethemoose says:

    Still no multiplayer AI?

    Asking for 60+ people in a match is too much, I know, but I wish they would expand the battlefield with some bots running around, at the very least…

  13. Howl says:

    For a series that boils down to ‘shooting people with guns’ they still haven’t managed to get that bit right. It’s as unsatisfying as the first one. It’s been downhill since Bad Company 2 imo. BF3 was quite good, BF4 was just about ok, SWBF1 and BF1 were both terrible and the trend continues with this new title.

  14. Fropp says:

    From watching quite a bit of Twitch (might try the open beta today), it does look disappointing. For a start, what’s all this third person nonsense?

  15. Phinor says:

    I don’t think this is any better than the previous game. It has improved in few areas (but not by much) while gone backwards in other ways. The ground combat map is just bad so that really doesn’t help this beta. The space combat is a far cry from other Star Wars games that were released 20+ years ago. In fact it’s absolutely terrible.

    I’m hoping the campaign is decent enough Star Wars experience and the multiplayer can be fun for some hours if the release version maps are better but ultimately this is looking to be as shallow experience as the first game.

  16. SaintAn says:

    An improved turd is just a turd with a few new accessories. It’s still not a Battlefront game, which is what everyone wanted.

  17. Jmnea says:

    It’s fun, but the gameplay gets repetitive incredibly quickly. Worth 30 dollars at most

  18. OmNomNom says:

    Still no squad system and no real progression or something that might differentiate one deathmatchy round from the next.
    Sure its fun for a bit but the size of the maps and the very samey and limited weapons and abilities mean you’re not going to see much new after lets say 10 hours.

  19. OrangeSpy says:

    Still no server browser in the game… this is a problem for me. I brought the season pass for the first BF and I’ve never been able to join a game running the DLC. There’s no way of telling if i’m being forced to only play in region (likely) as to why it never joins a game and no way of tell if anyone else is even playing the DLC in my region… Server browser would make this so much easier…

  20. PiiSmith says:

    I just don’t get it. The make/publish Battlefield and they should just apply the same ideas to Star Wars to make compelling Battlefront games.
    Huge multiplayer battles, combined star fighters with ground forces. Vehicles with multiple people playing them together. Imagine a Star Destroyer being manned by large crew of players. Let people work together in squads and maybe even larger units.
    Instead we get no possibility to spawn on your squad. Your squad is non existent.Vehicles are single player only. So a big steps backward from the usual Battlefields.

    They have all the right pieces in their inventory (Battlefield and a Star Wars license) and keep coming up short. This is a disappointment for me, very much like their first reboot of the Battlefront series.

  21. saillc says:

    Sure is curious you didn’t mention the horrific and predatory progression system where ALL progression is tied directly to RNG and loot crates, and how the squad system is another terrible misstep.

  22. Ham Solo says:

    Strange how it still offers less than the 2005 game, even less players per game.

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