Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Star Wars: Battlefront II First Impressions (PS4)

It's no secret I liked Star Wars: Battlefront from 2016, even though it lacked a single player campaign, and was initially a bit anemic in terms of map content. That changed quickly enough, but the design approach to the first Battlefront, which gated map and scenario content behind for DLC packs, made for your typical fragmented community.....you couldn't just play "blast" on Cloud City, for example, without getting in queue with a bunch of hardcore mofos to play only that DLC content. Still, I played enough that I got really damned good at the game (compared to my usual level of multiplayer suck), and had tons of fun....so much so I even leveled up twice, once on the Xbox One and again on the PS4! And it is the single most played co-op/split-screen game in my house with my son, my wife and myself, too.

Anyway, that's a long winded way of saying I was totally ready for Battlefront II, and had even pre-purchased it when it went on preorder, a practice that some rightly deride, but when I know I'm going to get it, and play it, I'll make an exception.

So far, the best thing about the game is actually the single player campaign, in which you play through the story (mostly) of a special forces storm trooper named Iden Versio, who operates as a sort of black ops specialist for the Empire and watches her career take a crappy turn when they fail to intercept rebels on Endor's moon from blowing up the Death Star II's shield generators. From there its a spiraling tale of Imperial fragmentation, questioned loyalties, betrayal and revelation.

It also happens to be the best thing put out for Star Wars to date (in video game terms) since the original KOTOR. Yes, that good! Not in an RPG way, but the sense of immersion and the attention to detail with the Star Wars style from the Rebellion Era is shockingly well done. There's a sequence where you get to play Luke, and I was really thinking, "This is how they could fill in the backstory between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens....this is the perfect medium."

The rest of the single player offerings, which are a mix of co-op sequences with loose stories attached and an arcade mode which generates either team deathmatch fights or straight duels is plenty of fun, and if you've heard the stories about locked characters note that that's all for the multiplayer offering.....you can play with pretty much anyone on your couch (though as you play through maps set in the Clone Wars era you might, like me, wish there were more thematically appropriate hero choices...)

The game doesn't bug you with accuracy, so if you want Kylo Ren to fight Yoda on Yavin 4, go for it. Want Rey to slug it out with Darth Maul on Kamino? Why not! This was annoying the hell out of me....especially when Darth Vader showed up working with the separatists (I had a fanboy stroke for a second) but its ultimately completely superficial. Give it time, and they will no doubt release more hero characters. Right now you can play:

Heroes: Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Lando, Rey, Yoda
Villains: Kylo Ren, Vader, The Emperor, Boba Fett, Bossk, Maul

I fully expect to see lots more available in the coming months, as I think there's an idea that EA wants people to buy new characters (or earn them with in game credits if they have the endurance to play long enough), and Phasma and Finn are both confirmed for release with the first DLC. It also seems likely to me that previously released heroes from the first Battlefront will inevitably make their way in to this one, which includes the likes of Nien Numb, Greedo, Bossk, Jyn Erso and Commander Krennick.

As I dive in to the multiplayer in depth I may report back with more detail to give you a sense on whether the loot crate component of the game is really something to worry about. My experience with loot crates has (so far) been as follows: they are incredibly easy to ignore, and if they appear to be irrelevant to the enjoyment of the game, then all the better. For example, despite having some egregious loot crates in Call of Duty WWII, I can't say I care one bit and they appear to offer nothing noteworthy to the play component of the game I enjoy. On the other end of the spectrum there's that Middle Earth: War for Mordor game (or whatever it's called) where my sensibilities were already offended at the liberties the game took with Tolkien characters and lore, so loot crates are just one more dump on the pile of indecency, so I can safely ignore the game entirely.

Given that only about six characters are currently locked away (including Versio, Luke, Vader, Leia, Solo, and the Emperor) but the rest are all immediately available, this just doesn't seem to be as much a problem to me as the news cycle wants it to be. On the other hand! I really hate the principle of loot crates in general, so I feel like apathetic "meh, it's not so bad" is unfortunately just my own psyche accepting that the standards of game development have reached a new, inevitable all-time low this year with the standardization of these things. Next year, when the 2018 holiday release includes games that start sneaking pay-to-win loot crates in to the experience? Yeah, that's going to be too much. I hope.

Anyway....as a deep, unapologetic fan of the new Battlefront series, if you just got this game for the campaign mode you would not go wrong. And if you like the multiplayer (and can resist buying loot crates), then you will show that you are strong in the force, too!

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