Yesterday, we tried out the multiplayer portion of Star Wars Battlefront II, and today we played the campaign, which was nowhere to be found in its predecessor. While DICE is working on the game’s multiplayer side, Motive, another EA-owned studio, is taking the helm for the single-player story. The small level we played offer a small glimpse into the kind of action you can expect in the campaign, but it’s the mysteries within the game's overarching mission that could potentially keep you hooked for many hours.
The campaign mode puts you in the shoes of Iden Versio, a soldier assigned to an Imperial special forces unit. At the beginning of the mission, Versio returns to an Imperial destroyer ship where her father, an admiral, delivers grave news--the Emperor is dead. However, he left one final message before he died: The admiral must begin the first steps of a secret plan called Operation Cinder. The details of the plan are on a need-to-know basis, and Versio doesn’t have the clearance, but if successful, it could ensure the survival of the Empire and its forces.
However, Versio’s mission for Operation Cinder is immediately put on hold as Rebel ships launch a surprise attack on the the destroyer and other Imperial ships. The first playable part of the level put us in control of Versio as she piloted a TIE Fighter. The controls were simple enough, at least on the PlayStation 4, because we only used the two analog sticks to maneuver the ship. Similar to the multiplayer, we also had three abilities, or Star Cards, for the TIE Fighter, but we rarely used them. The standard barrage of laser shots quickly decimated our enemies. After destroying a large Rebel corvette ship, we had to use our ship to fly into a Rebel hangar on another spacecraft. By taking out the Rebel ship’s ion charges, we could prevent further attacks on the Imperial ships.
From this point, the game let us control Versio on foot. As expected, gameplay in the campaign doesn’t differ from the multiplayer experience, but there is a notable feature that will let you experiment with abilities. As we found out in the multiplayer demo, each player has four Star Card abilities, one of which has a passive effect. However, the single-player campaign will feature only three cards. In our playthrough, the third card was a powerful thermal imploder. Our other cards included the ability to throw a grenade and a small droid that shocked multiple enemies if they were close to each other. As you progress through the story, you can unlock new cards that will let you try new gadgets or droid abilities. When you make your through a level there are a few places where you can stop and change your loadout. This gives you the freedom to try out new abilities on the battlefield, and more importantly, ythe chance to use them in the single-player mode before using them in the multiplayer battles. In a way, the campaign serves as a training ground to newcomers, but also as a testing ground for those who want to see how specific cards work in multiple combinations with other abilities.
Throughout our time with the demo, we approached each encounter aggressively. If we saw an enemy, we took a few shots and sometimes threw a grenade to catch any other foes in the vicinity. However, you can take each area stealthily as well. One of the developers showed us an example of Versio silently killing an enemy with a melee attack. You can also use the droid to quietly knock out one or more enemies. Regardless of the approach, reinforcements will still come when you expose the ion charges. At this point, it’s just a matter of survival. These additional forces can easily flank you, but you can take them down fast with a few well-placed shots and the occasional grenade. (We couldn’t use the droid because it was busy hacking the ship’s systems.)
The demo ended with the charges destroyed, with a large piece of one floating into space to destroy another Rebel ship. However, that same ship was now heading in our direction, and it eventually tore through the hull, sending us flying through the air and potentially floating out into space with no life support systems.
Despite the demo’s cliffhanger ending, the single-player experience didn't impress us much. It’s always fun when new abilities are in play, but the level lacked the same intensity you'd find in multiplayer. Computer-controlled enemies don’t behave the way that other humans do, and it’s that difference that makes online play exciting.
However, we're not giving up on the story. We're curious about the details of Operation Cinder and how the Empire plans to survive with the death of its Emperor. Motive is still crafting Iden Versio’s story, but a team from Lucasfilm is also consulting with the developers on how to craft a story worthy of the Star Wars moniker.
The campaign takes place between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of The Force Awakens. That’s a 30-year span between two major installments in the franchise, and that should be more than enough time for Motive to make a story with memorable characters and moments that add to the lore of the Star Wars universe.