Note: Because EA is currently revising its controversial microtransaction system in the multiplayer portion of the game after fan outcry, we’re only reviewing the single-player campaign at this time.
When EA rebooted Star Wars Battlefront in 2015, the multiplayer-only shooter gave a tantalizing taste of a galaxy far, far away, but it left many players wanting more. One such player was John Boyega, The Force Awakens’ Finn himself, who famously tweeted at the developer asking whether we’d get a single-player story mode. Two years later, Star Wars Battlefront II delivers an original story that starts at the end of Return of the Jedi and warps like light speed throughout the events of the entire saga.
You play Iden Versio, the leader of the Imperial special-forces Inferno Squad. On a mission on Endor, her world is thrown into chaos when (Return of the Jedi spoiler alert!) the Death Star explodes above her, killing the Emperor and untold thousands, which sends her on a vengeful quest to destroy the Rebel Alliance. Blasting your way through the forest moon is initially almost shocking as you mercilessly hunt down Rebel forces, the good guys we’ve rooted for and played as in almost every other game. You get the sense that Iden would have zero problem murdering adorable Ewoks, which is probably why they’re mysteriously absent from the game. And for a while, you wonder, is EA really going to let us fully embrace the Dark Side?
Spoiler alert: Plot details and character reveals from the game will be discussed from here.
The answer, sadly, is no. After a thrilling mission where Iden pilots a TIE fighter, blasting X-Wings to the trademark sounds of her vehicle’s ungodly banshee wail, the story takes a turn for the utterly predictable when the Empire goes too far — threatening innocent lives! – -and Iden begins to question her commitment to the cause. And just as we’re getting invested in Iden’s journey (as obvious as it might be) the game switches gears and you find yourself controlling a very familiar face.
I was surprised to find myself playing Luke Skywalker, as EA’s marketing team did a good job of keeping his appearance in the campaign a secret. But despite arming him with his Jedi-era powers like force push and using his lightsaber to deflect blasts, controlling him feels awkward and imprecise, and the voice actor playing him hardly sounds like Mark Hamill at all. You spend the majority of the chapter mindlessly hacking at bugs in a cave, which is hardly worthy of the Skywalker saga.
Throughout the rest of the game you jump between Iden and other classic Star Wars characters, all of whom are unevenly voiced by soundalikes, and it creates a very disjointed feel for the campaign. Surprisingly, I found myself lamenting playing as the classic characters, as they always felt like facsimiles of the real thing. Iden is brought to life by actress Janina Gavankar, who gives an engaging motion-capture and voice performance, and her gameplay sections feel tighter, the missions far more exciting. It seems like the powers that be at EA demanded the inclusion of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and others, not trusting that their original creation could carry the game, and it unfortunately detracts from the narrative flow of the story.
All that said, the game nails the look, sound, and feel of the Star Wars universe so well, that it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement of the thrilling aerial battles, even as the game’s uneven ground combat keeps pulling you back down to earth. At its best, Battlefront II lets you live out your childhood fantasies of taking down an AT-ST Walker on Endor, or live out your adulthood fantasy of jetting over the sandy dunes of Jakku in an X-Wing. And it’s so visually stunning, painstakingly recreating so many different places and eras of the Star Wars universe, that for diehard fans it’s almost impossible to resist.
But at its worst, Battlefront II’s campaign is aggressively average, its story ending surprisingly abruptly while promising that Iden’s journey will continue in the free Resurrection DLC that will release in December (which is not surprisingly tied to The Last Jedi’s theatrical debut). Here’s hoping that these additional three chapters will focus on Iden and not get too distracted with other characters, to give her the proper story she deserves. After all, rebellions are built on hope. B
Star Wars Battlefront II is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.