Press Start: 'Star Wars Battlefront II's' greed robs the fun
Before the release of “Star Wars Battlefront II,” players learned multiplayer-focused game would feature microtransactions that would basically allow players to pay real money to win matches.
The backlash was so great that apparently an unhappy Disney executive called up EA to express his displeasure. As a result, EA actually temporarily (key word there) removed “Battlefront II's” microtransactions right before launch.
It wasn't enough.
The progression system “Battlefront II” employs might be a bit more fair and balanced without players having the option to spend real money on better and more powerful abilities, but it's still a slow, random slog where players have control over their characters. That's inexcusable in a multiplayer game in which those with better abilities simply exceed at the game as a result.
“Battlefront II” uses Star Cards, which are unlocked randomly by opening loot boxes, bought with in-game currency earned by playing. Star Cards are randomly generated and can boost things such as weapons and gear in ways that give clear advantages to players. I can't tell you how many times I was killed by opponents who had significantly better Star Cards than I did.
Most multiplayer games feature progression systems where players either earn the same rewards in the same order or, even better, can purchase the specific rewards they want so they truly feel in control. With “Battlefront II's” random Star Cards, only the luckiest or most dedicated players earn the cards necessary to compete. As a result, I felt cheated and quickly lost interest in an otherwise fun shooter.
That's a shame because, when the game wasn't a laggy mess or trapping me in an inescapable menu, “Battlefront II” matches were a blast. High-quality sounds and scenes and 20-player teams make matches feel like real “Star Wars” battles pulled right from the movies. And who doesn't like to mow down opponents with a lightsaber during those rare instances you get to play as a Jedi or Sith?
True to form, “Battlefront II” also features starship battles. Some matches are dedicated to space dogfights, but I preferred playing boots on the ground while others battled in the skies above. Switching between first and third person—a rare thing for a shooter—is a breeze.
For those who want some practice or are simply sick of being repeatedly killed by players with far superior Star Cards, there's an arcade mode. I found this mode helpful for getting acquainted with new loadouts or testing heroes. The mode also features mini “missions” of its own, which is a nice distraction.
“Battlefront II” also features a short and simple story mode. Most of the time you play as an Empire commander, but there are some fun levels where you control lovable characters such as Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia and others. In one awkward mission, you get to waste Luke Skywalker's fun abilities fighting alien bugs, of all things.
The story has some strange writing and plot twists, but it's an overall fun adventure full of shooting, space battles and appearances from recognizable characters. The attention to detail in some levels is incredible; I was blown away by some of the graphics of several areas. Some of that enjoyment was marred by poor animations and a bizarre repeating glitch that made the game run at triple speed.
Once again, a progression system centered around microtransactions has ruined an otherwise enjoyable video game. While the multiplayer can be laggy or even glitchy, it's fun deep down. It's just too bad randomly assigned boosts give players clear advantages over others, and the eventual return of microtransactions to further throw off the game's balance doesn't bode well. Arcade mode is a nice distraction, and the short story is worth playing through despite its faults, but the core “Battlefront II” experience has little staying power.
Final score: 6.5/10
“Star Wars Battlefront II” was reviewed on the Xbox One with a digital copy provided by the publisher's PR agency, fortyseven communications.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.