EA Games' DICE Studios, with the help of Criterion Software and Motive Studios have another crack at the Battlefront franchise.
2015's Star Wars Battlefront, a reboot of the Lucasarts' game from 2004, had a solid multiplayer element but little to nothing for solo players. For Star Wars Battlefront II, the developers are hoping to address the previous criticisms and give players exactly what they want, and that includes a solid single-player campaign.
As with the previous game EA have captured perfectly the look and feel of the Star Wars Universe. The graphics are breathtaking. On the Xbox One X, in 4K HDR, the visuals are virtually photoreal.
The in-game graphics on the Xbox One are so good in 4K that they put the pre-rendered campaign cut-scenes to shame. And to be honest I've no idea why they didn't include proper 4K HDR cutscenes. You can see all the colour bands. It's like watching cutscenes from Dark Forces back in ‘95.
I think that the Xbox One version does have some issues with HDR. Whilst in the main it all works very well, I did get some flickering during cut scenes and I can't say I was 100% sure I was seeing the right colours some of the time. On the PC, displayed at 1080p, the game is slick and runs without issue.
As much as I enjoyed the first game's multiplayer, the inclusion of a single-player campaign this time is a big tick from me. Not always do I have the time to jump into a long MP session, so the opportunity for an occasional dip into the solo campaign is very welcome.
The beginning of the campaign offers a different take on the finale of Return of the Jedi. The Empire, reeling from the destruction of the second Death Star, carry out the dead The Emperor's final command, the ominously entitled Operation: Cinder. Using a galaxy-wide scorched earth strategy, the remnants of the Empire set about destroying planets in order to strike fear into their Imperial subjects and nullify any thought of joining the victorious rebellion.
The story follows Commander Iden Versio, a member of an elite Imperial special forces unit called Inferno Squad, as she tries to rationalise an Empire without an Emperor. When her father, Admiral Garrick Versio sends Iden on a mission that makes her question her loyalty, and together with her friend and colleague, Del Meeko, choose a path that takes them across the galaxy.
Fans of the Star Wars saga are going to have a field day exploring the single-player campaign. Apart from a few too many original trilogy characters being somewhat shoe-horned into the story, the narrative holds up very well, properly immersing players into the Star Wars mythos.
On consoles, the arcade mode can be played solo or with another player. Solo mode allows players to work through a series of pre-set battle scenarios, playing as either the light or dark side, or to create their own custom session- picking the map, game type goals etc. There's also a solo tutorial. Co-op allows to friend to play together via split screen. And finally Verses puts the players on opposite sides playing split-screen against one another. PC players miss out on all the split-screen fun.
The gameplay in the campaign and arcade modes is virtually identical to the multiplayer mechanics, which are, in turn, similar to those of the first game. And, as with the last game, multiplayer is really where it is at.
With maps from across all the Star Wars movies, including the prequel trilogy (which was perhaps the bravest thing EA have done in a while), players can step right into the Star Wars saga. The multiplayer is split up into 40-player ground-based Galactic Assault, 24-player Starfighter Assault space-battles, 8-player Heroes Vs. Villains, 16-player objective-based Strike and 20-player close quarters combat in Blast.
The lack of any filters, allowing you to choose your favourite maps in a bit disappointing. That being said, I never found myself disliking any particular map, really. Galactic Assault offers the best gameplay experience, participating in the huge scale of the scenarios and their place in the Star Wars story is very impressive and a lot of fun. The dogfighting of Starfighter Assault, offers a totally different gameplay experience as you take to the skies in you favourite Star Wars ships.
The big change for multiplayer over the last game is that Star Cards can now be used to upgrade ships as well as ground troops. Star Cards are earnt by spending credit earnt in game, but also using credits purchased with cash. Much has been written about the buying loot crates with real money. A situation that EA have, for the time being, switched off.
Star Wars Battlefront II is the Star Wars game that you've been looking for. The single-player campaign fills the void from the last game and is, for the most part, a welcome addition. The narrative fills some very interesting gaps between the end of Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The visuals are breathtaking and the multiplayer really, really puts you right in the middle of the Star Wars universe. It's not been an easy launch for EA, but Battlefront II is only going to get better as content from the new movie, The Last Jedi, is now available along with a new single player chapter.