When Star Wars: Battlefront came out, I could waltz around with the default laser rifle and take out enemies from across the map. Sniper rifles and close range weapons felt too situational, only necessary at specific points. Otherwise, I’d just play my all-around soldier, an average grunt with the hit percentage of a Jedi.
In Battlefront 2, the lasers feel like chunky retro future weapons, replete with more recoil, rhythm, and scatter to make them feel like deadly light containers on the verge of exploding at any minute. These lasers don’t go pew-pew, they go BOOSH BOOSH. Or something. Whatever a laser and a football tackle sound like combined.
During the EA Play event, I got some hands-on time with the multiplayer, specifically on the Theed map set on Naboo from the best Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace. The map changes over time, starting with a slow MTT crawl towards the Theed palace. Destroy that thing and the match ends there. If the MTT breaches the palace walls, the map changes from an open field to tight interiors with distinct flanking routes where the enemy needs to capture an interior point before finally planting some feet in the final capture point, the throne room.
I played on the Republic team, so I can’t comment on what it’s like to be a tin soldier, but I can say that Battlefront 2 feels less like an arcade-y Star Wars homage and more like a Battlefield game, a cacophonous, strategic push and pull between two massive teams. But in place of aimless lone-wolfers, the new class system encourages and actively rewards coordinated team play.
There’s the Assault class, the soldier meant to push the frontline equipped with an automatic rifle and a special ability that grants them use of a powerful shotgun. I used it to clean out a corridor of droids pressing into the Theed throne room and yelled ‘Hell yeah, Star Wars!” which is out of character for me. The rifle, which is one of many, was good at close to mid-range, but fell off quickly after 30 meters or so. With a chunky, metered kick, it felt like just about any mid-range rifle from Battlefield.
The Heavy class specializes in big blasters and shields. It’s become the standard for shooters at this point (because it feels great), but they’re equipped with the laser equivalent of a minigun. It takes a bit of wind up to get firing, but once it’s on, it’ll dissolve anything at close range and chip the paint off anyone at mid-range. It overheats quickly though, so it’s meant for deliberate pushes, not reactive defense. Paired with a shield power-up, it’s great for making such pushes, almost like popping an Uber in Team Fortress 2. During the final stage of the match, another heavy and myself popped our shields at the same time and focused fire down the main corridor leading into the throne room. 10 opponents were gone in seconds.
Officers are a more passive support class, equipped with an automated turret and class-specific AoE abilities. During the demo, I had access to Fortitude, which was a general power and defense buff for anyone within its circle of influence. It wasn’t a very useful power at the time, but only because we were joining random teams with little idea how to properly use the new abilities and classes. With a dedicated, experienced team, popping the right power in tandem with other class abilities (like the heavy shield) could make for some creative team tactics.
I spent the least time with the Specialist class, but it essentially fills the sniper role. They’re equipped with long distance weapons and traps, which means they’ll be great for the more devious lone-wolfers. I’m not very smart and during the match I attracted Darth Mauls like a moth to a flame, but I get the impression that Specialists will be good at sabotaging the best laid plans of heroes, vehicles, coordinated squads, and other devious lone wolf jerks.
With distinct classes, teamplay in Battlefront 2 is a must in order to stay competitive. It’s encouraged further by the Battlepoints system, the replacement for those annoying power-ups from the first game. For every contribution you make to the game that earns points, you’ll also earn Battlepoints, which you can exchange during the respawn menu to play as vehicles or more powerful characters.
I had a short stint as Han Solo during the final minutes of the match, and he felt more like a glass cannon than he did in the first game. Because I deliberately chose to play as Han Solo (after saving up 5000 points), I felt extra incentivized to protect my investment and used him for picking off powerful droids and enemy heroes at a long distance. Each hero seems more defined by their particular tactical use than temporary god-mode empowerment.
Darth Maul is meant to flank and disrupt the enemy backline while Rey’s mind control power disables enough opponents at once to allow for ally squads to move up. And because the maps change between stages, team compositions and tactics will need to change just as often. With a promised doubling of the ‘content’ and a complete single-player campaign, Battlefront 2 could be the shaping up to be more than just a pretty ode to Star Wars. It could turn out to be one of the best shooters this year.