Wot I Think – Star Wars Battlefront 2 single player campaign

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Star Wars Battlefront 2’s campaign is a gorgeous shooting gallery that takes you to amazing planets, both old and new. But is it any more than that? These are my thoughts on the single player part of the game, and I’ll be following up with a review of the multiplayer after the game properly comes out this Friday.

I’ll start with the story, which has an enticing setup that doesn’t lead anywhere interesting. For most of the campaign, you play as Iden Versio, the leader of elite Imperial special forces unit ‘Inferno Squad’. Once I got past the dodgy band name, I was initially intrigued by Iden and her role in the Empire.

In the first mission, Iden executes a ship full of rebels before launching herself out of an airlock for a mid-space extraction. It’s one of many high-octane moments that could have come straight out of a modern Star Wars movie, but what really got my attention was the way she immediately complimented the pilot that came to her rescue. It’s enjoyably odd seeing servants of the Empire being nice to each other, and was even disarming enough to make me empathise with them when the Death Star got destroyed shortly after.

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At that point, I thought I was going to get a new, nuanced perspective on the Empire that made it out to be something other than comic-book evil. Admittedly, it’s an oppressive organisation headed by a vampirish figure who’s fond of shooting lightning out of his hands while cackling hysterically. He’s quickly taken out of the picture, however, which opens the door to all kinds of possibilities.

What if there was a force (sorry) within the Empire pushing for reform? What if Battlefront 2 was about trying to circumvent the last orders of a deceased maniacal dictator, and turn the Empire into the peacekeeping, law enforcing body that it purports to be? That’s a story I’d have liked to have been told, rather than being lectured about the importance of hope in the face of blatantly evil acts done in the name of ‘order’.

Thing is, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of actual order! In a section where you wander around Maz’s castle – as first seen in The Force Awakens – you can overhear various shady characters trying to threaten and extort each other. There’s absolutely a case to be made that imposing the rule of law on the galaxy would make it a better place, and so it’s a shame that Battlefront 2 never explores it. An early mission in which you actually help some citizens might have justified Iden’s loyalty to the Empire, given the ideals she expresses from the outset.

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She’s enough of a badass that I couldn’t help but like her, even if she is a bit bland and not as smart as the game makes her out to be. There are multiple moments where Iden comes up with a Clever Plan. “I’ve got an idea”, she’ll announce, as her squadmates wait to see what ingenious scheme she’s concocted this time. Her idea is, invariably, to blow something up.

Fortunately, blowing things up is what both Iden and Battlefront 2 does best. There’s a simple joy to watching Star Destroyers light up like fireworks, AT-ATs stagger to the ground and X-wings explode. The whole game is gorgeous, and lets you soak in familiar locations like Endor and Jakku in a way that matches and even surpasses the grandeur of their Hollywood counterparts. Pleasingly, the tour doesn’t only stop at old locations – there are several new, properly alien looking planets to shoot your way through too.

You’ll see some of those planets from the perspectives of familiar heroes, with one-off missions that let you take control of Luke, Leia and others. I’ve got mixed feelings about their inclusion. On the one hand, mowing down stormtroopers with a lightsaber and overpowered force moves provides a nice counterpoint to the duck and cover shooting that Iden gets up to. On the other, they result in a disjointed narrative that stalls any character development Iden had left in her, and makes the plot feel closer to a montage of spectacular, unrelated battles than a coherent story.

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It may be visually varied, but that diversity doesn’t extend to the gunplay itself. Over the five or six hours of the campaign, you’ll fight the same enemy types again and again, which are distinguished from each other only by the way some of them have bigger guns. There are officers which you’re encouraged to take out before their subordinates, but it doesn’t make that much of a difference. The weapons do feel like they have heft behind them, which is a massive improvement from the first game, though it doesn’t really come close to providing the same satisfaction as popping heads in Destiny.

I do like the active reload system, where re-tapping the reload button at the right moment will let you go straight back to firing. There’s a special gold sweet spot that lets you fire for a brief period without having to worry about overheating – deciding whether to risk attempting to hit that narrow window is an interesting mid-combat decision.

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There are a dozen or so different guns available from the start, but none of them can feel that distinctive when every enemy goes down in one headshot. It’s a bit different in the multiplayer, where your opponents are naturally more deadly and you have their abilities to contend with, but in the single player I rarely felt the need to swap my loadout around. Dabbling with the different guns is like trying a mildly interesting new flavour of ice cream. The A280 is to the TL-50 as toffee is to fudge. One exception to that is when I tried equipping a sniper rifle, and combined it with an ability that let me temporarily equip a shotgun to compensate for my lack of short-range damage.

You can equip 3 of those abilities in your loadout. They either provide a passive effect like shortening your health regen delay, or give you a tool like a thermal detonator or an energy shield. Frustratingly, at the start of each level it swaps in a new loadout without asking. You can change back, but it’s an unnecessary intrusion that made me resent having to faff around replacing my abilities and gun choice. I get that the game wants me to try out new toys, but having them forcibly placed into my hand when I’ve just settled on a build doesn’t make me want to do that.

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At times, Battlefront 2 skirts the fringes of a stealth game, providing a few opportunities to sneak up on enemies and silently whack them into oblivion with a baton. I felt like I was doing that more for the sake of it than because it’s an effective approach: I’d inevitably be spotted after one or two takedowns, and then find myself in a more vulnerable position than if I’d just taken them out with a quick headshot from a distance. Simply allowing me to mark enemies with anything other than one ability on a cooldown would have helped, though it still takes so much time and effort to go in for a melee kill that I doubt I’d have behaved all that differently.

Melee kills do recharge the ability of your droid, which can electrocute a group of enemies whenever its zap-o-meter fills, but you can also fill that bar up by simply going for headshots. And again, enemies go down so quickly on the standard difficulty that I seldom had any need for it. It’s another waste of potential, both mechanically and from a character perspective. Iden just calls it ‘Droid’, and its defining personality trait is floating at an alien who gets annoyed at it. It’s nothing like the robo-relationships that R2 and BB-8 bring to the table.

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There are spaceship missions too, which feature some of the game’s biggest spectacles but also the dullest combat. I quickly grew tired with fighting wave after wave of bombers and fighter craft, and bringing down the bigger objectives is even worse. There’s not really much skill involved in the dog fighting, and the only times I died were when I crashed into a capital ship by impatiently trying to minimise the number of strafing runs it takes to bring them down.

In one particularly annoying space section (that came straight off the back of another one) I got held up for a while by an errant objective marker. Back on land, another bug disabled the ‘combat roll’ button, which I sorely missed for the entire game.

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I’ve brought up a lot of negatives here, but before I wrap this review up I should emphasise that Battlefront 2 absolutely succeeds at immersing you inside the Star Wars universe. It accomplishes that through breathtaking reconstructions of planets from films both old and new, with set-pieces that hit every AT-AT toppling note that Star Wars battles should do. There are also screen-wipe transitions aplenty, and I couldn’t stop grinning during an early mission that has you shooting control panels that slam down doors to cover your escape.

If you’re after an authentic feeling, visually stunning romp through your favourite distant galaxy, then that’s one front on which the game doesn’t disappoint.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is out 16th or 17 November, depending on your timezone. It runs on Windows and costs £55 via Origin. Our multiplayer review will follow soon.

67 Comments

  1. aircool says:

    The best Imperial character/story has to be the Imperial Agent in SW:ToR.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    It’s good to read that they didn’t completely wreck the singleplayer. Even if it seems like companies like EA just throw a token SP experience in, this at least seems… a nice sightseeing tour? That’s better than nothing, at least, right?

  3. MushyWaffle says:

    I was disappointed. I’m about 3/4 thru the campaign and I’m not very inspired to finish. I LOVE Star Wars, but this doesn’t feel like it to me. It looks like it, just doesn’t feel like it. I think it’s because you don’t play any familiar characters. I never felt that “badass” moment that I have with past SW games. You play as a dull shooting nobody special. I guess I didn’t realize that it was all just a shooter. My hopes have been dashed… but at least only 30 days away from episode 8 :)

    I REALLY hope we get a quality Star Wars game that allows you to be Jedi and feel the power of the force. I have faith Disney isn’t going to let this fantastic IP, just sit in multiplayer shooter mediocrity. Bring on the Knights :)

    • GAmbrose says:

      I mean, you play as Luke and Leia, but yeah – no familiar characters at all…

      :D

    • sosolidshoe says:

      I won’t be buying the game because of the grotesque monetisation, but frankly the fact it barely features any force users is the main appeal of the campaign.

      Jedi are a moderately entertaining power fantasy, but they’re almost always achingly dull as characters, and Star Wars is such a rich and broad setting that limiting interactions with it to endlessly rehashing the light/dark hero’s journey plot that is the stock in trade of force users is an actual shame.

      Star Wars needs more stories and games like Rogue One and less like the Emo Parent Killer Trilogy.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Don’t cut yourself…

      • aircool says:

        Agreed. Episode 7 was pretty awful. Like someone had got the scripts for the previous Star Wars movies, cut them up and then pulled them out of a tombola to make the script for The Force Awakens. The effects were cool (like the Go-Pro on the X-Wing), but the characters and plot were as shallow as a dried puddle.

        As for the game, I enjoyed the multiplayer and even came back to it after BF1. Unfortunately, the usual bullshit that ruins multiplayer such as hackers, cheaters and unpleasant humans will mar SW:BF just like they do in every other game.

      • tnzk says:

        We need more stories like Rogue One? The plot was essentially a heist-y retread of blowing up the Death Star.

        The characters aren’t the 2D archetypes of the main Star Wars trilogy though. The problem is they don’t even have a dimension.

        Wasn’t a good film at all.

        • Xzi says:

          Meh, I feel like people who truly disliked Rogue One are the “everything new is bad and everything old is good” type. It was a coherent, well-executed story with interesting characters that fit right into the original trilogy. And not much like the Death Star at all, especially in how things ended up.

          • Sandepande says:

            Rogue One was nice.

          • YourMomWillDoIt says:

            Rogue One was utter crap. Shoot up three stars instead of one. Triple the death star size. Let Harrison Ford be the new Obi Wan Kenobi. Worst of all was the new Darth Vader Emo Rip Off guy, that starts to cry as soon as the Jedi girl talks to him. Jedi girl does not need to learn Jedi Powers but just uses them. Imperial Database on tropical island at the end just showed how much these guys understand to make a great story.

          • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

            Some parts of Rogue One were up there with the best bits of the SW films. I thought the cinematography was great, loved the battle sequence at the end and it was nice to see Darth Vader having a bit of a workout. Problem was I felt nothing for the characters, especially Jyn. Some good 70s-futuristic facial hair though.

          • Daedalus says:

            @YourMomWillDoIt I can’t tell if you’re doin a joke here, but in case you’re not: you’re getting Force Awakens mixed up with Rogue One. Only your last sentence had anything to do with Rogue One.

          • KenTWOu says:

            @Xzi
            There are legitimate reasons to dislike Rogue One, this guy mentioned some of them.

          • Marclev says:

            Wow, so you’re saying you think everybody that disagrees with you is a hipster?? You must be fun to have a debate with…

            I enjoyed The Force Awakens, but thought Rogue One was a steaming pile of dung. Bad pacing, bad acting, bad scripting, bad music, no characterisation, terrible exposition, attempts at “comedy” that reminded me of Spaceballs (“Everybody got that?” style 4th wall breaking).

            It was arguably worth watching on the big screen for the spectacle (and the scene with Leia at the end was cool), but I can’t see myself ever re-watching that turd again.

            If all I want to watch a movie for is a big epic battle scene which only gets won because the bad guys can’t shoot straight, t, I can just watch Commando from the 80’s.

    • FranticPonE says:

      Or maybe it’s just a bad game? I hate hate HATE having “familiar characters” show up uninvited in “licensed” games. The Jedi Knight series didn’t need them, Kotor didn’t need them. Then Gollum shows up in Shadow of and I’m just like… wtf? Go away Gollum, you’re supposed to be searching fruitlessly for the filthy hobittses that stole your precious and we both know it.

    • Bull0 says:

      Jedi and lightsabers being the main takehome from Star Wars is only really a thing since the prequels; they were a minor feature in the first two movies adding a bit of background mystery (although admittedly dialled up to 10 for ROTJ).

  4. Rich says:

    I’ve no interest in the multi player, so I’m going to have to wait for this to get much cheaper. I still hold out hope for a proper single-played focussed Star Wars game. We haven’t had one of those in ages… Especially not a good one.

    • Sarracenae says:

      Indeed it’s such a shame that this engine and assets are not being used for an epic single player game. i’m still convinced there are so many people out there that have zero interest in competitive multiplayer, who just want a great single player experience.

  5. spaced says:

    Remember the first teaser trailer for the previous Battlefront? The one from the perspective of a snowspeeder pilot on Hoth climbing out of his ship and looking up at a gigantic AT-AT? That brief sense of cinematic adventure got me so excited for new Battlefront games. The game turned out to be rubbish and it looks like EA will never change. What a waste.

    • Corb says:

      EA has been rubbish for well over a decade and still make stupid amounts of money doing it. Why would they change that in order to work harder?

      Look at every single of of their E3’s. It’s some d****e haircut jock block touting sports games and then they might mention that “oh yeah, there’s this other IP thing for…ew…nerds. We’re done here!”

  6. Horg says:

    ”Over the five or six hours of the campaign”

    At £55 for the standard edition, a pretty but mediocre-to-bad linear shooter represents some of the worst value for money from a AAA studio in recent memory.

    • GAmbrose says:

      Nobody seemed to have a problem with Crysis 3 taking 6 hours to complete and that was the very definition of pretty but mediocre

      In fact PC gamers were saying we need more games like that, which push “THE GRAFIX”

      • Werthead says:

        I think a lot of people had a problem with that, which is why the FPS genre is one where people not invested in multiplayer tend to wait for steep discounts. Paying £30, let alone £40 or £50, for five hours’ entertainment is simply not worth it when you can get twenty times the mileage out of a Bethesda game at the same price or out of a strategy game or RPG. This is also likely why the singleplayer FPS is in trouble as a genre, as its graphical expense needs a lot of sales up-front, but the time investment means it’s not cost-effective (see: Doom, the latest Wolfenstein etc).

      • woodsey says:

        You understand that “more games should push graphics like Crysis 3,” and “more games should be 6 hours long,” can be exclusive statements, right?

        • malkav11 says:

          Also that both of those things can be true without also saying “and they should be triple the price that their length and quality deserve”.

      • crazyd says:

        Crysis 3 didn’t push graphics, it was just some shitty EA console game. The original (only one PC exclusive) was a hell of a spectacle that certainly put out graphics like no one had ever seen before, but the sequels were just vaguely pretty console games. And they both got plenty of shit from PC gamers, as it was just watered down bullshit that didn’t really push anything forward, graphics or otherwise.

        • tnzk says:

          Whoa, hold your horses there, edgelord.

          Crysis 3 is still visually stunning. You wouldn’t know it came out four years ago if you can max the settings with 60fps.

          The fact that Crytek could make it run on the 360/PS3 and future proof it for today’s PC’s was a testament to their technical prowess. A shame they never valued gameplay as much as they did graphics.

        • funkstar says:

          @crazyd you do know crysis 1 came out on xbox360 right? it even had an achievement called ‘can it run crysis?’

      • fray_bentos says:

        A few hours of mediocre gaming, but years-worth of benchmarking!

      • Corb says:

        We do need more “Grafix”…but I don’t recall the pc community having any sort of romance with Crysis after crysis warfare…it was mostly a console deal after that point dude.

        Crysis stopped being the “grafix” height of everything after the preceding games failed physically make your gpu explode.

      • Marclev says:

        Both of the Crysis sequels are fairly universally considered pretty looking, but mediocre PC shooters.

        The first one and expansion were possibly the last great PC-only shooters. The sequels … meh.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Even the first one came out on the 360 as already mentioned.

          The gameplay in them also hasn’t aged the best. Still good, but I’d argue FEAR is much better in the shooting department and other games have surpassed it in the open levels and different approaches.

          • Marclev says:

            I’d disagree in terms of game-play. Crysis 1 still is the only game with an open(ish) world in which you play the role of the predator (in the Arnie sense) that all the antagonists are afraid of (playing on the highest difficulty level is a must to get this experience). And it hasn’t got that curse of modern open world games, the ubi-collect-a-thon, so it’s a much purer experience than a lot of the stuff you get now.

            For some reason that only the devs will know, it sadly decides to make you fight aliens instead of soldiers at some point at which point it becomes a lot less fun, but it’s still a damn good ride.

            You’re right, it was indeed released on the XBox 360, but that was in 2011, 4 years after making its debut for the PC. So spiritually it is very much a “PC Game”, even if we can nit pick that it’s not technically “PC only”.

    • Werthead says:

      Agreed, but I think the idea is that the SP campaign is there to suck you into playing multiplayer, or give gamers something to do when their mates aren’t around. If you want to buy this solely as a SP FPS game, yes, you’re better off waiting a year or two for a steep discount.

  7. Lobotomist says:

    I think RPS should not cover this game at all.

    EA should send clear picture making F2P games cost 60$ will not be tolerated. Or else we will soon wake up to new gaming world of Full priced F2P monetisation titles.

  8. coleislazy says:

    If you’re interested in the single-player campaign but can’t justify the price, subscribe to Origin Access for $5/month. You can do the “Play First Trial” for Battlefront II for 10 hours, which sounds like it might be enough time to finish the campaign. Then just cancel the subscription and play some of the other games they offer until your month runs out. That’s a pretty good value for $5 (not sure what the rate is for other currency).

    • Unclepauly says:

      Sounds good yo

    • DreamElixir says:

      Word of warning: I had the same idea and signed up to Origin Access to play through the campaign but it locks you out after the first couple of missions until you buy the full game.

      You get ‘access’ to the introductory breakout mission, a brief dogfight in a TIE fighter and some rebel ‘sploding on Endor.

      All in all it took an hour and a half.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      What DreamElixir said, it doesn’t work. They learned their lesson after Titanfall 2.

    • coleislazy says:

      Oops, sorry for the bad info, then! I played an hour or two (taking my time to enjoy the pretty scenery) and I didn’t see any mention of limits beyond “10 hours”. That’s too bad for us, but it makes sense I suppose.

  9. Sgt_Big_Bubbaloola says:

    Ive enjoyed the SP so far but to me the Lando section is a standout due to the bickering with his alien pal.

    • Bull0 says:

      Billy Dee Williams’ part in anything is the standout part, the man is a delight

      • h78 says:

        Lando was good. “Just shoot the console!” That was amusing.

        Its clear they put some thought into it, so it seems fair not to write it off. For some reason I loved the little puffs of smoke that appeared whenever a laser bolt hit.

        As for Empire Evilness… Probably best just to go with that. Zahn, Allston, and (sometimes) Stackpole are the SW writers that make the Empire seem a bit grey.

        Meh, its all ok. Game was fun and fine, and EA didn’t screw up completely. Nice surprise really!

  10. TheBeret says:

    “At that point, I thought I was going to get a new, nuanced perspective on the Empire that made it out to be something other than comic-book evil.”

    It’s a shame hearing that- because it means another reviewer who’s never played TIE Fighter. You really do owe it to yourself to check it out to see just what the Empire looks like from within its own walls.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      There is the fact that while the lower levels of the Empire and some of the higher ups are fairly reasonable (if still kinda evil) the Empire was still conceived by a cackling madman member of a sect of force-using sociopaths that consider backstabbing the best way to rise through the ranks.
      Also, many of the stuff in the game was already established around TFA with a series of novels and comics so they couldn’t exactly change the events that were already established.

  11. Greg says:

    Change.org… here’s the petition…

    link to change.org
    Edit (0)

  12. Cmd_Azareth says:

    Funnily enough if one bothers to read the Star Wars books that describe happenings between the old trilogy and the Force Awakens one could get a lot more out the single player story (for example just by reading the five excellent books: Inferno Squad, Lost Stars and the Aftermath trilogy). Of course nowadays it is probably totally inconsievable, at least to reviewers, that the single player story could be meant for the fans that have bothered to immerse themselves a little in the lore. But after playing through thr single player campaing, I personally feel that writers have probably read the the same books and have crafted the excellent story to expand and support them.

    And I am not critizing this review per say, but most of the reviewers of Battlefront 2 seem to think that the single player story is dull. While I feel that it was excelllent and exciting as so many things that were hinted and mentioned in the books happened in the game and that you were able to play a role in those events.

    • TasukiFB says:

      I agree 100%

    • Marclev says:

      If I have to read a book tie-in to a film to properly enjoy a computer game then that seems like a failure of the game to me.

      Pedantry: It’s “per se”. Latin for “In itself”. Per say would mean “Once per thing said”.

    • Shankers says:

      I have read a fair few of the new books, or rather listened to the audiobooks, and it’s slightly annoying that the films don’t even hint at some of the stuff mentioned in the books. Something as fundamental as the origins of the First Order and the Resistance should have been explained better in the Force Awakens and I hope the new film handles it better. It wasn’t till I read Aftermath and Bloodline that the existence of the First Order and the Resistance made some sense, before that it bugged me that we had an Empire wannabe come out of nowhere and there was a resistance movement despite the New Republic being a thing. Anyway, hoping to pick this up cheap at sometime as heard it does tie in well with the books though it shouldn’t rely on people having read other books to get the most out of it. Reminds me a bit of Metroid: Other M were they assumed everyone had read the Manga.

  13. Bull0 says:

    Ew, having a droid that gets referred to simply as “Droid” isn’t very Star Wars.

    • MGreyson says:

      Actually, it kind of is if you are playing the Empire. In a lot of material they are portrayed as having a much lower tolerance for droid personality, and diligently wipe their personality matrices on a regular basis to prevent it.

  14. TasukiFB says:

    I don’t think any of you here truly understand Star Wars and you all complain way to much over nonsense….Sure it’s not all going to be like the 70’s or 80’s films but there is a huge universe to explore and loads of canon and non canon material….It’s Star Wars it’s ever changing and has loads of potential and new and old interesting ideas…..you either like it or you dont there is no reason to complain over the price or the story had one thing wrong with it so it ruins everything etc….

  15. coppernaut says:

    I don’t want to give them any of my money. But my wife is a huge Star Wars fan, so I guess to make her happy I’ll be renting this on PS4 for $3 at Redbox tomorrow night for the campaign. EA and Redbox can split the cash, and somebody is happy.

  16. Marclev says:

    £55?!?

  17. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    I still can’t get over the fact that we never got a proper WiT for the intriguing and promising Echo, but we’re getting a full-fledged one for a throwaway single player campaign of an EA game.

  18. DEspresso says:

    ” Her idea is, invariably, to blow something up. ”

    Hey the A-Team also only had a single tried and true idea, didn’t stop me from watching ;=)

  19. waltC says:

    A five or six-hour single-player campaign? Not interested–not even remotely.

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