I got the chance to play the first few missions from the campaign in Star Wars Battlefront II and, whereas the beta had many players concerned over the multiplayer progression, the campaign is right where it needs to be.
Star Wars Battlefront II follows the story of Iden Versio, the commander of a special forces Imperial group codenamed “Inferno Squad,” from the moments just before the destruction of the second Death Star. While we are finally getting a Star Wars story that’s from the view of an Imperial trooper, we’re also getting a chance to fill in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. We were able to play the first few missions, including an impressive prologue that introduces you to the squad, including the Battle of Endor, and some of Operation Cinder – the order given by the Emperor in the event of his death.
To begin, Iden Versio is relatable. Though she’s an ace TIE pilot and a sure-shot on the battlefield, she’s dedicated her life to a cause and has found a family amongst the Empire while under the command of her father. There’s a lot of tension between Iden and Admiral Versio: a disconnect caused by the military lifestyle they both adhere to. She, with all of her strengths and faults, serves as the main character for the events of the campaign in Star Wars Battlefront II.
Playing as her strikes a fantastic balance between a trooper–someone does what she’s told–and a hero in that she is trained in the use of every weapon, Imperial and Rebel alike. When you’re moving through each level, you feel like you have an advantage over most of your opponents, but you’re still vulnerable, and that’s important.
Why? Because players have had the chance to play as nigh unkillable Force wielders in previous Star Wars games, and frankly it’s nice to feel that vulnerability a few times as you play the game so that you’re challenged. You do get your chance to play as a few familiar Star Wars heroes during the campaign, as well.
Motive has blended the ground gameplay from DICE and the piloting from Criterion well, with some missions featuring aerial and land-based combat that is reminiscent of the original Battlefront II’s space battles. Nothing beats flying into an enemy hanger and destroying ships before they can even take off.
On the ground, the movement and mechanics feel natural alongside the gunplay and abilities. Having your droid sneak around and electrocute enemies and splice consoles is rewarding and can be triggered by holding down a button. This is useful both when you’re in the heat of battle and when you’re sneaking around a Rebel ship.
The other abilities that you possess strictly mirror those from the game’s multiplayer. You’ve got your different grenades, class-based weapons, and abilities (like scanning an area for enemies), and they are all able to be swapped out at checkpoints during each mission.
There were eight weapons to choose from during the single-player missions in the build I played. While that may change as the story continues to unfold, each gun impacted the way I played the game. I could choose to bring a sniper rifle with me through the trees of Endor, but I had to equip the shotgun for when enemies got up close. I mainly used the TL-50, a weapon that trades aiming down the sight for a chargeable concussion grenade shot.
Catching a perfect reload and unloading was even more fun than in the game’s multiplayer because of the sheer number of enemies you have to dispatch. With the TL-50, the weapon’s high rate of fire and explosive nature made me feel like a badass, but there were times when I got too cocky and a Rebel heavy trooper would catch me from behind and make quick work of me.
Equally important is the space combat. Fighting off X-Wings, Rebel transports, and Cruisers feels so much better now that Criterion is the one behind the wheel. The story missions that require you to fly through the remains of the second Death Star, as well as the missions that had you shooting X-Wings off of your wingman’s tail, felt excellent, natural, and had me sigh with relief knowing that the effortless multiplayer space combat was translated well into the campaign.
When it comes to the story itself, you do resonate with Inferno Squad. The pressure of being ordered around, the questions that arise when they’re told to do something they don’t want to, and the hatred they feel towards the Rebellion in light of the destroyed second Death Star all work to humanize the characters that have, with the exception of FN-2187 (aka “Finn” from the sequel trilogy), been mostly faceless enemies up until now.
The goal here in Star Wars Battlefront II was to tell a story that is readily distinguishable from any previous Star Wars games, and the culmination of these three studios seems to be doing that exceptionally well. Battlefront II is the story of the soldier, and while heroes make cameos here and there, Inferno Squad becomes relatable in a way that the Empire has never been before.
Star Wars Battlefront II will release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on November 17th, 2017.