When Star Wars Battlefront launched in 2015, one of the biggest criticisms leveled at the reboot was its lack of a single-player campaign. The inclusion of such a mode was one of the first things that EA announced about Star Wars Battlefront 2 – and the finished product should please fans a great deal.
Earlier this month, Game Rant was invited to EA’s office in New York City to play through the first three missions of the Star Wars Battlefront 2 campaign. Based on the early going, it seems like the single-player offering will supply an engrossing companion to the game’s multiplayer mode.
The campaign gets started with protagonist Iden Versio in the hands of the Rebellion, locked up and being grilled about the Empire’s plans. Before players ever get their hands on a blaster, they take control of her ID10 seeker droid, sneaking through air vents and zapping guards as they attempt to break Iden out.
“I think a lot of people will have an idea about what the Battlefront 2 campaign will be,” said Mark Thompson, the game’s director, when we asked about the decision to kick off the single-play prologue in this fashion. “That was, as much as anything else, just like ‘let’s surprise people with something they would never expect.”
This sequence certainly does serve to throw the player a curveball, but it simultaneously sets the scene rather nicely. We’re introduced to Iden’s companion droid, who is on hand throughout the portion of the game that we played. Furthermore, it establishes that we’re fighting alongside the villains this time around – an Imperial officer having to escape rebel forces is something of a role reversal when it comes to Star Wars.
Putting the player in control of a droid also makes it clear that the campaign isn’t just going to be about running and gunning. Over the course of the first three missions, players will spend about as much time piloting a TIE fighter as they will with boots on the ground. The pacing works well, as different styles of gameplay are given just enough time to get into a groove before something new is introduced.
It’s clear that making campaign mode varied was a big priority. Each mission could easily have been a tweaked version of a skirmish with bots on a tweaked version of a multiplayer map, but that is far from the case.
The two meaty starfighter sections included in the demo are a good example. Sometimes players will be traveling from point to point and engaging in combat, sometimes it will take the form of a dogfight in an individual area. Anyone looking for Rogue Squadron 4 might come away disappointed, but every effort has been made to transform the same basic mechanics used in multiplayer into a fully fledged campaign.
Case in point is the game’s third mission, The Dauntless. There’s plenty of TIE fighter vs. X-Wing action, but there are other challenges to tackle, also. A fellow squad member radios in with a bogey on his tail, and players need to navigate through the structure of a space station to give chase. A capital ship needs to be taken down, with its weak points highlighted by a targeting computer.
Again, while the nuts and bolts of piloting a ship and shooting down enemy craft will be familiar to anyone who’s spent some time in multiplayer matches, the scenarios freshen things up. The same approach carries over to gunplay.
The bulk of the on-foot sections we played see Iden fighting alongside stormtroopers to take down rebel forces – which shouldn’t be too surprising, given the very basis of the Battlefront franchise. The best encounters come when you’re attempting to storm a particular location, and there’s typically more than one different approach to take.
Again, the biggest strength of the on-foot missions is that they don’t just feel like multiplayer with bots. This really is a bespoke campaign, even if some of the locations will be familiar from other modes.
That said, there’s still plenty of reason to poke around every corner. There are collectibles that encourage this kind of play, but other advantages, too – on Endor, I managed to hunt down a sniper rifle that allowed me to use a different set of tactics on a tough fight. Hiding away powerful weapons is a minor touch, but it goes a long way to make the campaign feel fleshed out, rather than just being a basic mode designed to satiate players.
Motive, Criterion, and DICE are onto a winner with the Battlefront 2 campaign. It skillfully transplants the game’s core gameplay into carefully crafted missions. What’s more, the story is very engaging, at least based on the first few missions. Iden is a strong protagonist, the new additions to Star Wars canon fit in perfectly. By the end of the portion we got our hands on, I was eager to see more of her homeworld, Vardos, and to find out what the Emperor had planned as his holographic presence did his bidding.
The multiplayer modes included in Battlefront 2 are obviously the main event for most players, but the campaign is much more than a mere afterthought. While it might not completely erase the hard feelings Star Wars fans are nursing in the wake of the closure of Visceral Games earlier this week, this is the single-player experience players were so desperate for when the first rebooted Battlefront landed in 2015.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 launches for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Game Rant attended a preview event for the purposes of this article, for which Electronic Arts provided travel.