You can’t fault EA for listening to the fans, at least. When its revival of the Battlefront series came out in 2015, the main complaint was how basic it all was, and how developer DICE had watered down the epic skirmishes of Pandemic’s original for a wilfully dumb shooter.
And now, with DICE taking onboard feedback and having layered on the complexity for the sequel, I find myself yearning for that simplicity. There’s something to be said for a mindless shooter in an age where the genre’s often obfuscated by needlessly complex systems, and for all my gripes with the original Battlefront it’s still something I was happy to return to again and again until I realised I’d played some 70 hours and hit the level cap.
It’s a lot harder to switch off and just wallow in the fan service in Battlefront 2 – though rest assured that, once again, the fan service is impeccable, with an outrageously sumptuous rendering of the Star Wars universe and one of the most visually striking games you’ll come across this year. There’s a lot to get your head around now, whether it’s the slightly forced squad system, the all-new classes or the battle points you acquire, or even just how to navigate the Naboo map that’s the centrepiece of the beta (you can read about them in a bit more detail in our recent preview of the beta).
And there’s even the fundamental gunplay that takes a while to become accustomed to. The original Battlefront didn’t have the hard edges of its shooter rivals, but instead it was a beautifully accessible game that sold the more playful nature of Star War’s fights well. This time out, DICE seems to have moved more towards a more traditional shooter, with more violence felt in the firepower and with more lethal effects (I don’t ever remember dying quite as many times in the original as I have the last couple of days) and it’s a change I’m not quite yet sold on.
The problem is, in aligning Battlefront with more modern shooters – such as DICE’s own Battlefield series, of course – a lot of the personality of the original has been lost, and it ends up inviting comparisons that aren’t necessarily favourable. Pitted against Call of Duty, Destiny and the rest, Star Wars Battlefront 2 can feel like a sluggish, cumbersome shooter that’s weighed down with all the mod cons EA believes modern players want (that and loot crates, of course, the price you have to pay for the jettisoning of the season pass and the free map updates that are part of Battlefront 2). It’s all a bit of a mess, and I just wish someone had shown some restraint before hurling absolutely everything at Battlefront to see what would stick.
It’s early days, of course, and a lot of this is no doubt the culture shock that comes with first encountering a sequel to a game you’ve piled dozens of hours into. The confines of the Theed map maybe aren’t the best showcase for this new brand of Battlefront, and it’s going to take a while for it all to come into focus. I’m just hoping that, in responding to the fans, DICE and EA haven’t lost what made the first game so much fun.