Despite this attempt though, there still remains the problem of Star Cards, which can deeply affect the multiplayer experience – even more so than the previous Battlefront game. Star Cards offer players special abilities, such as quicker healing, better vehicles, or improved weaponry, and as you can imagine, they can give a player a huge advantage on the battlefield. It gets tiresome engaging in battles where your opponent is numerically more impressive than you simply because of their load-out.
You can get Star Cards through loot boxes, and while EA have tried to prevent the pay-to-win mechanic, there are still plenty of players out there who have already unlocked a lot of valuable advantages. Not to mention those who are purchasing the Elite Trooper Deluxe Edition of the game – which comes with some precious bonuses straight out of the box.
The outcome is every match you play, you will see a massive gulf in the scores. It’s true that Battlefront II is accessible enough that you can finish matches with a decent score and end up around half-way up the table on a consistent basis. But those top ranked players, and those getting the highlight mentions at the end of matches, are – unsurprisingly – all owners of powerful Star Cards.
It’s difficult to know what lies ahead for Battlefront II and the ever-evolving loot box system, but the good news is the multiplayer is still a lot of fun. It has three times the number of locations and vehicles than the previous game, and it spans Episodes I through to VII, featuring maps in Naboo, Tatooine, Starkiller Base, Hoth, Endor, Takodana, Kashyyyk, and more.
As before, the best way to experience Battlefront II's multiplayer is the 40-player Galactic Assault mode. Each map is lifted from the movies and has varying objectives depending on the situation. Nearly all of the modes revolve around one side defending an advancing army, while the other attempts to push back and gain territory.
During matches you earn Battle Points through kills, finishing objectives, or supporting team-mates, which then allow you to spawn as better units such as a vehicle or a hero character. For every kill streak you earn bonus points, and overall Battle Points are a clever way of rewarding players who are performing well. It also removes that random factor that the previous Battlefront game had where players would stumble across tokens and then awkwardly need to find a quiet safe spot in order to use them.
The downside is that every match becomes a desperate points grab, and distracts from teams working together. Instead, the natural behaviour is everyone blindly rushing toward objectives because they are desperate for ‘dem precious Battle Points; let’s face it, everyone wants to be Darth Maul or to fly the Falcon. Some matches just feel like a mad smash and grab.
Compounding this issue is the lack of direction for squads. Each time you respawn you’ll be spawned with up to three others, however your squad will all run off in different directions as there is seldom any real reason to work together – apart from a minor points bonus.
The four different classes of Assault, Specialist, Heavy, and Officer are best used in a team environment, but often you don’t know what the rest of your squad are going to be until you’ve already respawned. I had one ridiculous situation where my squad of four were all Officers, where we built a mess of turrets in a room until we were quickly gunned down due to no support cover from Assault or Heavy classes.
If this becomes too much, you can try out Strike mode which offers a more focused 8 on 8 objective-based match. It makes collaboration within a team much more important than the chaotic nature of Galactic Assault.
Starfighter Assault mode (as well as the aforementioned Galactic Assault) gives you the chance to pilot some of the iconic vehicles in the Star Wars universe. Impressively, EA went to a different studio for all vehicle components of the game, lending on Criterion Games’ who delivered the high octane, high carnage Burnout series. Space battles are better than ever, where ships are more responsive and dogfights feel more fierce than the previous title. At first the controls are a bit twitchy, but the alternative flight control setups in the options will help you adjust to the nuances of barrel rolls and vertical movement.
Probably the least interesting of the Battlefront II multiplayer modes is Blast, which is just a plain 10 on 10 deathmatch. But then there is the insane Heroes vs. Villains mode, where two teams of four go up against each other and everyone is an iconic character. It’s total madness and I didn’t spend much time in this frantic mess of lightsabers and cheesy one-liners – but it is a great way to get familiar with hero characters before you waste precious Battle Points. You can also do this in the Arcade Mode, but against bots.
In the end, Battlefront II offers a great campaign that the previous game demanded, boosted by the fact that it is set in a captivating timeline of the post-Return of the Jedi canon. While it’s a shame that some of the voice acting is hit and miss (Luke and Kylo Ren are very obviously done by impersonators), the overall polish in the graphics department makes this, without question, one of the best looking Star Wars games to date.
However it’s hard to say whether Battlefront II will have any longevity or depth in the multiplayer department. A lot of it will depend on how EA proceed with loot boxes and DLC over the coming months, and they’ve already drastically changed things (we think for the better) in the first week of release. Yes, Star Wars fans will leap at the chance to enter a galaxy far, far away – and even casual players will appreciate the quick accessibility of multiplayer matches. But those looking for a deeper, more nuanced and balanced online experience might need to look elsewhere if things don’t improve further.
Angus received a digital copy of Star Wars: Battlefront II from EA for review.