Star Wars Battlefront 2 2017: Death by a Million Small Problems
I will admit that this is probably not a fair review, as some of you may know, I am very much in the “fuck EA” camp. Because of the utter disdain that they show to the things that they create and the people that play them at times I can’t help but want to see them fail in everything that they attempt to do. I imagine this has colored my perception of everything that I have experienced while playing through the campaign mode of this game quite a bit, so if you want a 100% unbiased review, then I must regretfully inform you that such things don’t exist.
You might remember this game from the small bit of controversy that it had one time.
We’re going to start off with the story this time. At the time I start writing this, I’ve not yet finished the game, but I’m about six three hours in. I thought I was much longer in than I actually have. That’s not really a great sign here. The story and gameplay really starts off with a bit of a whimper, something that many other games have done in the past to better or worse effect that is done here. You start off with captain Iden Versio captured and being held on board a Rebel ship as they make preparations for the attack on the second Death Star over Sullest. There’s a cutscene where a Rebel officer talks to her and she does the kind of “I’ll never tell you anything” type thing, but then the game starts out not with you breaking out and going on a rampage through the ship, but instead with you flying a droid around the airducts trying to avoid detection of the people on the ship with some jank-ass helicopter controls. Fun side note, it’s a bit of a meme that DICE has some big problems designing controls for aircraft, and despite having seventeen years of developing Battlefield, still haven’t managed to figure it out.
So you fly the droid around until the game decides that it’s time to actually start the game and then you hack the door and go on a rampage through the ship. A problem that will likely be discussed several times because I will forget that I’ve already talked about it but something that was consistently annoying is the camera. I can’t tell if this game was designed to be played in first-person or third-person, because both are bad. In third-person, it’s hard to see things that are directly in front of you and far away, but you can look around walls and the sights on all the guns are awful so I also don’t want to play in first-person. Something about the way the camera feels wrong.
As you’re running through these narrow corridors looking for the communication room to delete the encrypted transmission, the Rebel security forces feel the need to announce their presence if they’re about to walk out of a hallway or something behind you, just to make sure they have a zero percent chance of accidentally flanking the player. You arrive at the security room to delete the message that the rebels intercepted about the Imperial fleet regrouping at Endor in order to ambush them, luckily they just haven’t gotten around to listening to it yet. I think they mention that it might have been encrypted but Iden walks up to the console, presses one button and it starts playing. Maybe the Intelligence officer intercepted the mission right before lunch and figured he would get around to listening to it after he got back. Message deleted, ambush is safe. Whatever.
Next we’re on to the forest moon of Endor where you walk around shooting Rebels that you stumble across (didn’t they bring like twenty people in the assault team in the movie? Why are there so many of them everywhere all of a sudden? I don’t think they bothered landing more troops as soon as they jumped out of hyperspace to secure the planet that no longer had anything of tactical value on it.) while you make your way to the already destroyed shield bunker when the Death Star blows up. Then you shoot more Rebels, get in some tie fighters, go in to space and shoot some X-wings until you jump to hyperspace to watch a cutscene of the Emperor giving orders from inside a red Tellytubby, telling you that Operation: Cinder is going to begin. I’m going to simply refer to this as ‘Cindy’ from now on because it comes up in every other sentence of cutscene dialogue for the next long time.
To begin Cindy you go and pick up some satellites when suddenly a space-battle happens, but you destroy some corvettes and some fighters and do the things and the ship you’re protecting escapes, hooray. I don’t actually remember much specific about this point in the game so I’m just going to skip it by saying that there’s two or three missions here of you doing your commando thing as part of Cindy before we get to the Luke mission. Boy Matthew Mercer sounds absolutely nothing like Mark Hamill. The performance isn’t really bad, per say, but he just doesn’t sound like him at all. Anyway this mission is actually pretty boring. It’s a matter of walking towards the enemies while holding right-mouse until your little blue bar runs out, in which case you slash them or go hide behind a rock so you don’t die. Then you free an enemy special forces agent and decide not to kill him, and I’m serious, because he asked for help. So then Luke and the agent (Meeko, I think) go to find the Emperor’s secret Emperor thing where he’s storing things, Luke asks to take a compass and Meeko lets him and while all of this is happening you’re fighting bugs as they have a little heart-to-heart about good and evil. Clearly this whole mission is a contrived excuse to do two things: play as Luke Skywalker and give Meeko a reason to leave the Empire. He said that he was afraid of Jedi growing up on Coruscant but Luke is pretty nice so that means the Empire must be the baddies.
I’m pretty sure the next mission after this brings you to Iden’s home planet of Vardos, which the empire is planning to destroy using satellites that cause really bad lightning storms across the planet. Iden has an argument with her dad (who is her CO, by the way) about whether or not what they’re doing is “right” since Vardos is a planet loyal to the Empire so surely they should kill everyone on the planet, but he says something along the lines of “THE EMPIRE IS OUR HOME NOW, THIS IS FOR THE GREATER GOOD AND YOU WILL FOLLOW MY ORDERS.” She’s not thrilled with this response and angrily stalks off, so her dad contacts Hask, the other third of Inferno Squad after Iden and Meeko. Presumably to tell him to kill Iden if she tries to disobey his orders, since so far Hask seems like the most gungo-ho Empire dude around. Basically he’s the most like a Nazi of the three of them.
On the planet you’re supposed to pick up and extract one person, and the Stormtroopers have blocked off the roads and everything while citizens are begging for them to open the gates so they can get offworld/go get their kids/whatever. Stereotypical humanitarian crisis is pretty much it, all of this while lightning is falling out of the sky. When they arrive to the person they’re supposed to be extracting she has like ten or so other people there, only one of which she wants to bring with her. They all try to follow, Hask punches one, Meeko picks him up and tells everyone where their ship is and to go there and they’ll be safe, but that’s against their orders so Hask whips out his gun and points it at the civvies then at his CO, Iden. All the while ranting about orders and loyalty. They argue about chain of command, Iden shoots him in the leg, they take the civvies and run, while Hask calls her dad to inform him that his daughter is now a traitor to the Empire so he happily orders she be shot on sight. You escape and join the Alliance. I knew since they announced the game and that the campaign mode would be following an Imperial that it was going to be a short lived adventure before you ended up going to the Rebels, but it literally goes from “Heh, we’ll wipe that Rebel scum from the galaxy” to “If this is the New Empire, then I want no part of it” in a whopping five minutes with almost nothing having actually happened in between. It’s pretty poor writing. Meeko almost has a compelling reason to do so but Iden does so because “Muh home” and that’s that.
Then we talk to Lando, who’s a general now. Lando offers to let them leave or to help them stop Cinder Fall before she can use the Maiden’s powers to destroy Naboo. Billy Dee Williams reprises his role of Lando and boy does he sound nothing like Lando. I guess in regards to the voicing of the iconic characters it was a kind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” thing, because the young voice actors don’t sound like the people they’re playing, and the old actors sound too old to be the young characters. Anyway you blow up the lightning machine in space and then go to play as Princess Leia to defend Theed. Last time I checked, Leia wasn’t royalty on Naboo but everyone there still calls her “Princess” or “Your Highness” so maybe there was some Hapsburg thing going on between Naboo and Alderaan royalty. Also Leia sounds weird.
Then you play as Han, who is visiting Maz in her Mayan pyramid bar on whatever planet that is, and boy does Han not really sound like Han. And he has a beard that makes him look a lot like Jim Henson. In fact, the first thing that I said when I saw Han Solo was “Why the fuck is Steve Hanson here?” A cursory Google search later revealed that I had the name wrong and it was actually Jim Henson, but I knew what I meant. Maz actually sounds okay. It’s not the same person that voiced her in the movies for some reason, but the woman that voiced her here sounds pretty similar. Cheewie sounded okay too. You don’t actually see him though.
There’s a time skip and Iden calls up Leia like they’re best friends now or some shit, oh by the way I think I forgot to mention that Iden and Meeko officially joined the Alliance despite being directly responsible for the deaths of literally thousands of Rebel soldiers, but they looked really sorry about it and seem like good people so we’ll just let by-gones be by-gones. Water and corpses under the bridge, yeah?
Anyway, I kind of just want to finish this summary of the plot now because it’s boring me about as much as I was bored during the original playthrough of it, and I’m starting to forget a lot of things at this point. So they join the Alliance and save Alderaan and there’s some things that happen, you play as Han to get some information on how to get past the Empire’s blockade over Kashyyyk to free the wookies. I’m kind of trying to walk my way back through it to remember. Oh yeah, then you have to play as Lando for some reason to go destroy a secret Imperial factory that’s pumping out weapons and vehicles on Sullest. Billy Dee Williams is just not a good voice actor, I’m sorry. The lines he was given aren’t fantastic, but the delivery is pretty awful. The guy playing Shriv is way better from a performance standpoint, and I’m not really expecting BDW to be a fantastic voice actor, but it makes me wonder why they went out to get him to reprise his role and not anyone else. I guess of the original cast, he stills sounds the most similar to how he sounded forty years ago, but it’s not that close either.
So you sink the weapons factory in lava and then there might be another completely forgettable mission or two in there before we arrive at the final battle – both in terms of the campaign and the universe – the Battle of Jakku. This is at least pretty cool to get to play through the most pivotal battle in the Galactic Civil War, and to see the scale of things going on, but of course that scale is completely fake. There’s a bunch of ships flying around not really doing anything, just being there to set the stage, and if you don’t look closely at the edges of the frames it looks fine, but this is something that the old Battlefront 2 did that annoyed me as a kid too.
Of course, I didn’t really have any concept of the technical load that it would have to actually have ships fighting all over the sky just for realism and aesthetics, but I wanted it. With the power of the modern gaming device, I think we should have been able to upgrade from having swarms of X-Wings and Tie Fighters flying around aimlessly, clipping through each other, and not even firing. Once again, this isn’t really something you’re going to notice unless your brain is actually still running while you’re playing though this last level.
The premise of this final mission is that Del (Meeko) is in charge of the Corvus (Oh, right. Your flagship in this game is called the Corvus.) while Iden and Shriv (Oh, right. Shriv is a side character, he’s part of the Rebel Alliance.) launch from there in their X-Wings to go provide close air support for the forces in the air and the landing forces attempting to capture strategic objectives on the ground.
However you don’t really do close air support at all – and let me tell you – I’m something of an expert in providing close air support. What you’re actually doing is flying to an objective marker, destroying the five to ten Tie Fighters that it marks as targets, landing, and then doing some kind of task on the ground before taking off again. First you destroy a hanger full of bombers in a downed Star Destroyer which requires you to shoot some guys, then you have to help defend some Rebel soldiers that are waiting for extraction after their transport was shot down. This one strikes me as being particularly dumb, why the hell did I have to land and fight on the ground with them? Why couldn’t I shoot the Stormtroopers from the sky in an X-Wing? Anyway, after that the Corvus gets hit by some bombers so you have to go defend it where you fight Hask. Hask gets shot down (and we all know that bad guys being shot down has literally a 0.0% fatality rate, despite the fact that parachutes and ejection systems have not been invented in the Star Wars.) and then you inexplicable have to go land on the Eviscerater to rescue Iden’s father.
This I really don’t understand.
The twice we see Iden’s father in the story he’s a complete fucking dickhead. Then, might I remind you, HE ORDERED HIS OWN DAUGHTER TO BE EXECUTED ON SIGHT. Despite this, as his ship goes down in flames, his crew frantically trying to escape, and his empire crumbles around him, Iden decides that now is a good time to go and make up to try and convince him to leave the Empire and join the Light Side. Why. Just why. He literally tried to kill you. He literally ordered Hask to come kill you not five minutes ago, and yet here you are, Iden, trying to save him. Then they have a little bit of a moment where he seems to admit the error of the Empire’s ways and that he’s fought for the wrong side this entire time, but I guess he decides that he’s in too deep and this point, and so the captain goes down with his ship. I can respect that. Iden bails out of the crippled ship in an escape pod, which don’t have parachutes by the way. They just hit the ground at terminal velocity and rely on the Force to stop their cargo from liquefying. Queue Han saying “That’s not how the Force works.”
Here’s my actual thoughts about the campaign now:
Everything above was a bit of a confused summary/rant/review of it, but here I’m actually going to try to evaluate the story based on a few things: How true to the universe is it? How is the writing and plot? Is it entertaining?
So in that order: Fine, I guess. Mediocre at best, pretty bad at its worst. Not really.
In regards to the first point, it’s not like there was some wild divergence form canon where Luke and Han were involved in an “intense, sexual relationship” or anything. Everything seems perfectly believable within the context of the canon and the universe, except for the few things that I pointed out, like the Rebels apparently landing additional ground troops on the Forest Moon of Endor while the assault on the Death Star 2 was still underway, which really doesn’t make a ton of sense. Maybe if there were Imperial airbases there or something that they were worried would be able to provide reinforcements to the moon-sized battle station or some kind of surface-to-orbit weapon systems, but there is no indication that this is the case in either the films or the game, so they’re really just there to give the characters a reason to be on the ground to watch the Death Star explode because it made for a good moment in the trailer.
The story really isn’t good. If you told me to write the most generic action game story that I could possibly think of and give it a Star Wars skin, I would have come back with something pretty similar to this. Main character starts out on the bad side, but then realizes they should actually be on the good side, so they jump ship at the last possible second to turn the tide of the war, while their squad is split in half leaving behind one character who we’re going to not kill later on. The story is everything that two decade’s experience not watching movies told me that it was going to be, and I knew the plot beat-for-beat as it was happening. I swear to God that I have seen this exact movie three times before, and played the game twice. It’s just such a cliché all the way through that there’s nothing particularly engaging about it. I don’t care about any of the characters because I already know what’s going to happen. I already know that Iden and Meeko are going to kiss right after one of them almost dies in the final battle but doesn’t as the Rebels come out victorious in the face of overwhelming odds, and I could have told you all of that after reading the summary of the story provided by EA in the game’s marketing material.
One strong point for video games however is their ability to engage the person that is consuming the content, more so than movies or TV shows can manage, since nothing really happens unless the player makes it so. This is a blessing and a curse, as this new dimension of engagement can make some more bland stories that would flop completely in the box office or be cancelled after their first season a halfway decent experience, but it is not a miracle worker. In this case, we have a bad story, told badly, that plays badly, making for an overall tedious and draining slog to play. I swear to God I have played this game for ten hours, but when I check my playtime in Origin, it was only four. Everything felt like it was dragging on for such a long time, and I just wanted it to end.
Honestly, it’s far from the worst story I’ve ever seen executed. That said, the multiple minute long cutscenes interspersed throughout the experience make the story feel like it wants center stage so badly that it’s dreadfully unfortunate that the story has stage fright.
Now if you’re one of the five people that read my recent Titanfall 2 review, you would now that I didn’t have much praise for the story and the writing, finding it to be a bit generic and cliché as well, but the gameplay and the story were so seamlessly integrated and the thing I was playing was always so much fun, that the story didn’t need to be fantastic. Battlefront 2’s rather weak offering in the story department means that it needs its gameplay to really carry it along to round out the experience.
The gameplay is an unmitigated disaster. Shit frosting on a moldy cupcake.
I would honestly prefer a game that just completely crashed on the menu to this. Now that might sound just a wee bit inflammatory, but let me explain. Playing this game is constant frustration. I did not go sixty consecutive seconds without experiencing some kind of issue. And no, I’m not exaggerating here. There is some kind of small bug, or some error, or some inconsistent behavior all of the time, to the point where I would rather just not be playing the game since playing it feels like a legitimately worse experience than just not.
I experienced so many bugs in my first five minutes with the game, that I decided to start keeping a list of every problem that I encountered that I felt was worth mentioning, so I did. This is part of the reason that I considered this review to be unfair, since until now this is not something I have done, but I will be continuing this practice in the future if I decide to review more games. We’ll just hit some highlights real quick here.
When I first tried to launch the game, the Discord overlay was invisibly launching, making it impossible to move my mouse or use my keyboard. I’m told other games have this issue, but this was first reported online the week the game came out. Fucking fix it.
If you thought Anthem’s loading screens were bad, you’d be right. And these ones suck too. Getting into the game can take up to an entire pick/ban phase from a professional League of Legends game, which is about twelve minutes. From clicking “play” to in the game, twelve minutes. Between the mission and cutscene, it’s about five to six minutes. On either side. If you die – Oh you can bet that’s a loadin’ screen. These ones were inconsistent, ranging from forty seconds to seven minutes per death. If you kept dying in the same place it would drop down to about fifteen seconds, but that required at least five attempts.
Some of the cutscenes have some of the most spectacular screen tearing that I have ever seen.
The entire screen goes black when you try to drag the mouse sensitivity slider, so you just have to guess.
The keybindings were designed for a lizardperson with eleven fingers per hand and a prehensile phallus.
The game pauses for a few seconds when you open a crate or get sucked into an in-engine cutscene, during which time you can still take damage, and still be killed, without being able to move or do anything at all. This happened more than once. Four times, in fact.
Your gun can clip through objects and shoot out the other side in third-person mode.
Enemy bullets can clip through objects and kill you.
Enemies walking through walls.
Enemies turning invisible.
Enemies suddenly becoming invincible.
Scripted events not triggering.
Scripted events triggering and then mission flags not updating.
Enemies can’t crouch behind cover properly.
And I tried to keep it there to just the things that I could tell were not intentional, there are a number of incredibly frustrating intentional gameplay issues too, like Luke being able to swing his lightsaber for all of six seconds before he gets tired and can’t raise his arms anymore to stop himself from being shot to death. Even though the shitting thing is called a LIGHTsaber, it must be pretty heavy.
That list might not look that long, but that covers one hundred percent of the gameplay. All of these issues are constant. I could not tell you the number of times I saw the last one in particular, where the enemies would attempt to crouch behind a box, but then rapidly start teabagging, or clipping into the sky and turning invincible, or starting to slide across the world in their crouch animation. I’m not exaggerating when I say one of these happened AT LEAST 75% of the time an enemy tried to take cover.
Besides all of the game issues that make the gameplay bad, it’s just bad. It’s so hard to see anything in the third-person mode and the sights on the guns in first-person are so awful that I don’t want to use those either, plus during the hero missions (which are ULTRA MEGA ASS, by the way) you can’t switch perspective at all.
Speaking of the hero missions, it’s a Star Wars game. You’re almost contractually required to play as Luke Skywalker, too bad this mission made me wish I was playing as literally anything else. Remember before when I mentioned that thing about only being able to actually do anything for about five consecutive seconds before you have to go take cover behind a rock so the Stormtroopers don’t murder the shit out of you? Yeah. Remember when Luke did that in the movies?
Remember when Luke fought a bunch of cockroaches with his laser sword? I’m sure that will make for riveting gameplay. There’s a lot of skill in surviving an onslaught of bugs with only thirteen well placed swings of your weapon. It’s just bad. It’s not fun, the dialogue is bad, and the story reason for being there also sucks. It should have been cut, but it’s a Star Wars game and you’re contractually obligated to play as Luke Skywalker, so it wasn’t. There’s one where you have to play as Kylo Ren basically chasing Del through a super low-budget and poorly done Far Cry fever dream nightmare sequence, and that one is even worse. Remember when Kylo Ren was killed multiple times because THE PEOPLE THAT HE WAS CUTTING WITH HIS FUCKING LIGHTSABER TURNED INVINCIBLE AND STARTED CLIPPING THROUGH THE FUCKING FLOOR. YEAH? ME TOO. THAT WAS A WEIRD THING FOR RIAN JOHNSON TO INCLUDE IN THE MOVIE.
Boy you should have seen my face the second time it happened. I just kicked myself back from my desk and threw my hands up in a “What the fuck was that?!” gesture. The third time I just wanted to hurt something. 2005’s Battlefront 2 wasn’t flashy. It didn’t really have a story mode. It didn’t have tremendous detail or hyper-realistic performance captured cutscenes. What it did have was polished, fun gameplay that actually worked. Here we get all of those creature comforts of the modern video game, like a 76 GB install size, without any of the things that make you want to actually play a game.
The only real strength of this game. Once again, DICE delivers probably the most visually stunning game that I have ever seen in my life. Even on a relatively cheap, 1080p 60Hz monitor, it looks incredible. It is one of the few games that somehow manages to look so real that it actually looks better than reality. I’ve seen trees in the real world before, and they don’t look as good as these ones.
Is it over? Oh, thank God, it’s finally over. I could talk more, about the cliffhanger ending to presumably be wrapped up in the story DLC that was released that I started playing and just said “Fuck it” and closed the game after five minutes, so of course this review always could be longer. I just don’t care anymore. This game was a slog to play and I don’t want to do it anymore.
So should you buy this game?
Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017, EA): 2.5/10