Star Wars Battlefront II
Star Wars Battlefront II's multiplayer didn't debut on a planet Poe Dameron frequents, or a place Jyn Erso calls home. Rather than piggybacking off of the recent success shared by the films Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Battlefront II's first multiplayer map takes gamers to the prequel era, and more specifically to where the gungans roam.
The map is called Assault on Theed, and is set in the heart of the capital city of Naboo, which is also home to Queen Amidala. Don't expect to see gungans saving the day through accidental actions, or even the queen's forces setting up a blockade outside of the throne room. This is not their fight, and it isn't a battle George Lucas dreamed up for The Phantom Menace. We are instead treated to a new conflict that sees the Separatists' robotic forces clashing against the Republic's clone army. If you're trying to work out when this battle takes place in the Star Wars timeline, don't. Darth Maul eventually reveals himself as a threat, as does Boba Fett, and then Rey and Han Solo show up to defeat them. This is not a canonical fight, and is instead a strange, but awesome mishmash of Star Wars eras.
Seeing Darth Maul end Rey's life hurt my Star Wars brain, but didn't rattle me enough to detour the fun I had with Battlefront II's multiplayer at this year's EA Play. Suited up as a clone trooper, the first few seconds of play brought me back to 2015's Battlefront release – offering a similar feel in control – but everything that followed was quite different. Many aspects of the Battlefront experience have been reworked, all for the better.
Don't expect much downtime on the battlefield. The point of engagement with enemy forces is faster, perhaps from spawn points being located closer to the conflicts, or missions doing a better job of funneling both factions to the same choke point. After a short sprint from my spawn location, I was always right back into the heart of the action.
You also won't see players dashing away from a conflict to pick up a token that will grant them use of a vehicle or hero character. Tokens are no longer littered across the battlefield. Players now earn Battle Points that are used to purchase vehicles or alternative characters. You'll need to die to reach the Battle Point store, which is a little puzzling, but may lead to interesting strategies in determining the best time to throw yourself into a laser beam. In this one particular match, a clone trooper could exchange 500 Points for a N-1 Starfighter, 750 for a V-Wing, 1,000 for the AT-RT, 2,000 for a Clone Jumptrooper (which plays a little like Boba Fett), and 5,000 for either Han Solo or Rey. This new economy pushes you to play better (as you'll earn Points faster), and also ensures everyone has a shot at every vehicle and hero. I also liked how people in our match sat on Points until the final push of the battle, which resulted in all of the heroes clashing at once. It sent the intensity level through the roof.
All of these additions make for a better multiplayer experience, but the biggest game changer is the reworked class system. Given players could sculpt their load out and essentially make their own classes in Battlefront, I didn't think default classes would make much of a difference, but they completely changed the way I played. The four classes are Assault, Heavy, Officer, and Specialist; each delivering more Battle Points when their abilities are used successfully.
The Assault class is your standard trooper, both mobile and well suited for short and mid-range conflicts. The default weapon is the CR-2 blaster, which fires off rounds quickly, and the back up rifle is slower in speed, but better suited for mid-range encounters. The Assault class is equipped with thermal detonators, and various disruption techniques.
I spent most of my time with the Heavy class trooper, which moves slower, and essentially functions as a walking turret. A heavy trooper can deploy a personal shield that appears in front of them and offers protection to their head and torso (their legs and backside are fully exposed). Their weapons rattle don't overheat as quickly and unload rounds. One of the Heavy abilities is a Gatling Gun-like mode that unleashes a short burst of chaos upon the opposition.
If a team is playing well, you'll likely see lightly garbed Officers positioned behind the Heavy and Assault classes. The Officer plays the role of support, and is only equipped with a pistol, but can deploy sentry turrets, and boost trooper health.
Well removed from the heart of the battle (and likely lurking in the shadows) are the Specialists, a class that basically functions like a sniper. Specialists have the least amount of health, and their weapons are slow in firing, but deal a great deal of damage when shots land. They can protect their nests with trip mines, and boost their speed to flee should an enemy breach their perimeter.
In the opening phase of this battle my team was tasked to stop a slow-moving, yet highly armored multi-troop transport (MTT). To accomplish this goal, we needed to lower its shield first. The only way to do this is to use Ion launchers. No class is equipped with them, so you'll need to hunt for these weapons (which are highlighted on your HUD). The influx of the Separatists' ground and air support made this task difficult, especially given the Ion launcher needs a few seconds to charge up before it fires. You're fully exposed in this moment, and I died several times waiting for it to heat up. We weren't able to stop the transport, which would have won the game for us, and were forced to retreat into the queen's palace to stop the Separatist invasion from spreading further into Theed.
This is where I noticed the classes were changing the dynamic of war. When the doors opened, two Heavy units marched forward with shields raised, holding off our fire long enough for other troopers to funnel in behind them. Our Specialists played a nice role in holding the perimeter with turrets, but we were once again pushed back. The Separatist army seized both points in this area, which earned them another victory condition. Their final goal was to seize the throne room. Again, the funneling of action was impressive. The match started out in a wide open area, become more intimate with action unfolding in two enclosed spaces, and concluded with all troops assaulting the same location.
The Separatist army flooded into the throne room, which is remarkably small given how many troops occupied it at once. The battle quickly transformed into madness rocked by explosions, bodies flying through the air, and lightsabers dashing through the darkness.
In this moment I had the chance to play as Rey, but my time with her was short lived. Along with standard lightsaber slashes, Rey can dash forward with the saber, use the Force to gain visual insight as to where the enemies are located, and use her mind trick to bend their will. I used my standard and dash attacks to chop down a few battle droids, but wasn't able to use any other powers before Darth Maul chopped Rey to bits. One thing to note: I don't think Rey was wielding Luke's old lightsaber. Does she build this one in Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Time will tell.
In each of the three combat phases both forces have a limited number of troopers, which are replenished if a victory condition is earned. The number of troops for your team are highlighted on the top of the screen, but oddly, you cannot see how many bodies are left on the opposing side. If your troop reserve is depleted the battle is over.
As intense as the throne room standoff was, my match ended without notice. I sprinted into through a doorway and the word "VICTORY" flashed onto screen. Given just how heated the battle was in the final seconds, this was an anti-climatic way to finish it. I had no idea why we won, and assumed it must have come from the Separatists running out of troops. I hope the final game does a better job of informing the player that the battle's conclusion is imminent, or at least outlines how the victory condition was achieved.
I was mighty impressed with Star Wars Battlefront II's multiplayer showing. It was just one map and one mode, but it was more entertaining than anything I experienced in the original Battlefront game. Electronic Arts said it listened to fans' requests for a single-player campaign, but attention was also clearly paid to the frustrations people experienced with multiplayer. All of the changes add up to a much more satisfying and varied experience.
Star Wars Battlefront II launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on November 17.