When Star Wars Battlefront came out in 2015, the focus was on the way it re-created key moments from the original movie franchise. Players were able to take part in multiplayer battles on planets like Hoth and Tatooine, brought to life with by the team at EA DICE with an as-of-then unprecedented level of realism and detail. For a film franchise that was relaunching itself on a global scale, Battlefront was the perfect, shiny gaming companion, reminding audiences at every turn why they like Star Wars in the first place.
The only problem was that once that initial thrill of playing on Hoth subsided Battlefront felt a little wanting. Expansion packs brought new locations like Cloud City and the Death Star to the mix, but it was still a multiplayer game, and with the basic mechanics not necessarily in-line with other top-tier shooters, it simply didn’t age well.
All of which brings us to the massive effort that is Star Wars Battlefront II. Three different gaming studios collaborated in an attempt to address all of the weaknesses of the original game. There are more characters, more environments, a better load-out system, and countless other tweaks and tricks designed to expand upon the bare-bones original. But Star Wars is a franchise built around epic narratives, and this time Battlefront II also has a single-player campaign. Developed largely by EA’s new Motive studio in connection with the Lucasfilm Story Group, it tells the story of Iden Versio, an elite Imperial special forces officer that has to grapple with the fallout when the second Death Star is destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi. It’s been billed as an exciting new story that is part of the official Star Wars canon — yes, there’s even a prequel novel — and a chance for players take on the role of the bad guys for once.
After burning through the campaign this past weekend, I was pleased to find it is the satisfying solo mode the first game always cried out for. Not only does it highlight many of the best attributes of the new Battlefront, it also comes tantalizingly close to actually being the riveting, standalone Star Wars story the marketing hype has promised — if only that pesky spectre of nostalgia didn’t get in the way.
Warning: Minor story spoilers for Star Wars Battlefront II below.
The Volume Ltd 2018