Star Wars Battlefront II Beta Hands-On Preview


When the Star Wars Battlefront franchise returned in 2015, now published by EA and powered by DICE and the Frostbite engine, fans hoped for a wonderful experience in the galaxy far, far away. DICE had made a name for themselves with the award-winning Battlefield series, and seemingly knew how to create amazing multiplayer matches that kept people coming back again and again.

Instead, Star Wars fans were met with a barebones, multiplayer-heavy shooter that captured the universe well, but quickly wore out its welcome due to few game modes, no story/campaign mode, limits on troop type, and a noticeable absence of classes. Now, EA and DICE have seemingly corrected that with Star Wars Battlefront II, and this past weekend, they held an open multiplayer beta, giving fans a taste of what’s to come when the game launches on November 17th.

Star Wars Battlefront II makes some huge strides in fixing what was missing from the first outing. The addition of a story/campaign is perhaps the biggest change, though it was unfortunately absent in the beta. There was a trailer available to watch to get fans excited about Iden Versio and her Inferno Squadron, but that was about it. EA made up for this by stocking the beta with plenty of other content, including various game modes and maps, and a sampling of the new classes and player customizations, which still use the card-based system, but now cards are earned via loot crates. These loot crates are earned by playing, and playing well, but they can also be purchased, all but ensuring that those with the cash to spend will be overpowered on the actual battlefield.

The Star Wars Battlefront II multiplayer beta offered gamers two iconic ground maps: Naboo and Takodana. The latter is centered around the massive 40-man Galactic Assault game mode. This mode includes vehicles and heroes from all three time Star Wars periods, and the map is well designed, with excellent choke points and various forms of terrain and hiding spots for Specialist classes to use as advantage. For those players who like to run-and-gun, the Heavy and Assault classes have plenty of clean sight lines to find enemies, and the Officer classes help turn the tide of battle with support. Each class levels up independently, forcing players to put in the work to keep their soldiers ready to fight in any given situation in any given battle.

Takodana was also featured in the new Strike mode, which splits players up between attack and defense. The 8v8 battles around Maz’s Castle created some tense, in-your-face fighting, and make class selection and squad formations important to victory. A squad of each class working together – and staying together in a run – reaps more rewards than the lone wolf player who runs off haphazardly. This forced cooperation took a few games to get used to, but once figured out, led to some pretty intense – and fun – matches.

There was also Starfighter Assault, featuring a 12v12 aerial assault on the orbital shipyards of Fondor. Each side has different objectives and targets, and the class-based warfare is once again given importance. Keeping a squad close together in a tense dogfight is much more difficult in space than in the streets of Theed on Naboo, or the jungle around Maz’s Castle. Battles were chaotic, and the ability to switch from third to first person (in the cockpit) was very welcome. Starfighter Assault was my favorite mode in the 2015 game, and the advances made by DICE in Star Wars Battlefront II has me excited to jump back into the cockpits of X-Wings, TIE Fighters (and many more ship types) to take my skills to the stars.

The last game mode available in the beta is called Arcade, which features Darth Maul as he tries to kill as many waves of troops as he can in a set amount of time. Arcade also features split-screen couch co-op, allowing two players to play together to see who can get the higher score.

While it was relatively short-lived, the Star Wars Battlefront II multiplayer beta served its purpose by giving fans a glimpse of the new content and maps. The customization of the various classes and weapons, and the revamped card system will give players the ability to tinker with their load outs to find what works best. I’m admittedly concerned about the micro-transactions with the loot crates though, as the spirit of the game can easily be tainted by those with deep pockets.

I fully understand that this is the economics of gaming these days – especially for a huge title like Star Wars Battlefront II from a big publisher like EA – but this could prove to be a misstep in a game that’s obviously working hard to fix the mistakes made in the 2015 outing. No matter how much fun the beta was, and how much it felt like classic “Battlefront,” the micro-transactions give cause for concern, or, in Star Wars speak, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

I hope I’m wrong, and that the full version of Star Wars Battlefront II is everything that fans have wanted since the original. One way or another, we’ll find out for sure on November 17th, when the game hits shelves for the PS4 and Xbox One.