You asked for it, and here it is. A campaign was, for many, the missing piece from 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront, and the one key ingredient that could make its sequel worthwhile. Having played a slim handful of missions, it’s certainly not been left wanting when it comes to budget, production values or sheer spectacle. This is as visually grandiose as Star Wars single player games have been to date.
The story bridges the tail-end of Return of the Jedi and start of The Force Awakens, and quite smartly tells a relatively unfamiliar side of Star Wars’ story. Centred around Iden Verso, an Imperial soldier in special forces outfit Inferno Squad, it captures the Empire at a pivotal point, and gives a new perspective on a well-worn tale.
It starts – after a quick burst of the John Williams fanfare and a slow shot of vast ships slowly charting their way through the stars, of course – on the hold of a Rebel ship, with Iden Versio being held in captivity and being interrogated. Here’s the one of the more interesting things about Star Wars Battlefront 2’s campaign – in moments such like this, the questioning officer full of a certain pomposity as the forces on Endor sit on the cusp of their greatest victory, it shows another side to the Rebellion, too.
DICE’s Frostbite engine certainly acquits itself well in the cinematics, and the earlier Battlefront proved that the developer can weave a certain magic with the Star Wars assets (as can Motive, it should be pointed out, who are largely responsible for the campaign). The ship interior itself is beautifully familiar, its textures lovingly ripped from the source material so that it feels like you’re crawling around the Elstree sets of the original.
As a game, though? It’s a little less spectacular, though it’s far from dreadful. As Iden you use your companion droid – a friendly variant on the scout droids first seen on the surface of Hoth – to navigate vents and activate terminals, being careful not to be spotted by Rebel forces as you hover through corridors. It’s a gentle and inoffensive brand of stealth, and one that gives way, once Iden’s been freed, to a gentle and inoffensive brand of shooting. When it comes to tie-ins, think more along the lines of Bloodstone than something with a bit more imagination such as Jedi Academy.
It’s a corridor shooter, effectively, culling assets from the multiplayer maps and adding a few little crinkles of its own such as the ability to shoot panels in order to seal off doors – a vital trick when a fresh wave of Rebel soldiers is bearing its way down on you. The real magic here isn’t in the gunplay, but the fan service – and the ability to inhabit a world we all know and love, and that’s been realised so richly. At one point, as you silently stalk the station, you crawl past a group of attentive soldiers watching a transmitted briefing from Admiral Ackbar as he details the push on Endor. Another new perspective, and another neat little trick.
Down on Endor – itself familiar from its brilliant realisation in DICE’s first Battlefront, with its dense foliage and towering ferns – there’s a bit more meat to it all as we see the Empire being fully undermined. The combat opens up, too, with rangier spaces and the promise of more options in each encounter. There are more variants to enemies, too; an officer class can set up deadly turrets, so it’s advisable to shut them down first should you come across them in a mob.
Supply crates that are dotted here and there allow you to access different load outs for Iden (informed by Star Cards, it seems, though the system does seem to be separate from the somewhat controversial loot box-fuelled mirror in the multiplayer). One option we take allows for brief access to a vanguard ability, enabling us to run into battle and unload a shotgun into the enemy for a series of one shot kills. The shotgun, with its click and boom, doesn’t feel particularly Star Wars, but the sense of fear you instil in the enemy does feel rather special – everyone’s terrified of you and you really feel like some dreaded unit within the Empire, in a neat spin-off of that excellent Darth Vader scene that closed out Rogue One.
On Endor you work your way to secure a TIE fighter, and if the combat is a little uninspired on the ground it comes alive a bit more once up in the heavens. Here, in combat that’s pasted over from the aerial assault modes in online multiplayer, everything comes alive as you’re dancing between battle stations, starships and corvettes, taking down mobs of fighters and working away at bigger ships. There’s an artful transition to the interior of a Rebel ship at one point, and a moment of some beauty as you dart through the debris of the second Death Star. In contrast to the rather humdrum on-foot sections, here Star Wars Battlefront 2 feels distinctive.
It’s light but enjoyable stuff, with no small amount of dazzle, and while I don’t think it’s going to truly wow anyone – and certainly wouldn’t be enough on its own to warrant the price of admission – it’s a fun distraction that offers a new spin on well-worn tales. And, as a single-player take on the Star Wars universe, perhaps this campaign will end up being something of a last hurrah, given where EA wants to take its licence next.