Thursday, May 5, 2016

Star Wars Battlefront II - 20/20 hours

Running and shooting and killing things. Sometimes dying unceremoniously, sometimes going on an epic kill streak that turns the tide of battle. Flying a spaceship and being outclassed because the enemy used a sabotage special, but winning anyway because the AI doesn't know enough to focus-fire on mission objectives. Jumping into Yoda or Mace Windu or Jango Fett and dominating the battlefield for a brief period of time. Games of Capture the Flag rendered pointless by my superior human brain's ability to avoid areas of dense fighting.

Star Wars Battlefront II is basically just a series of impressions to me. I have a feeling, though, that I'm going to want to play this game again in another five years. Because the impressions I have shortly after getting through 20 hours of the game are more or less the exact same impressions I had prior to starting the game. You could look at it as being evidence that I didn't grow or learn during the entire experience, but I think it's more the case of the game being extremely straightforward about what it promises - Star Wars-themed action devoid of narrative context, but executed well and allowing you to play a wide cross-section of the setting's military characters.

I will confess to loving the Tantive IV mission. Regardless of what side you played, it felt like you were playing the movie. I suppose the Geonosis level was much the same, but it loses points because the movie wasn't as good. But my favorite part of the game was the inevitable Hoth level. It was a nice change of pace being inside the AT-AT instead of the snowspeeder, though from that perspective it becomes clear exactly how absurd that scene really is. I'm a massive, nigh-invulnerable engine of destruction and you're going to take me down with a freaking rope? Come on!

I went back and beat the campaign (the permanent defense boost I unlocked from all my battles in Galactic Conquest mode was just enough of an edge to get me past the hump). I don't like that it ended on a triumph note for the Empire. Maybe every long-running franchise experiences a flowering of maturity where people become interested in exploring edge-cases and new perspectives, but I think Star Wars is one place where I like my heroes to be heroes and my villains to be villains. Han Solo shooting first is about as far as I want to go with the whole "conflicted antihero" thing (maybe that was what was wrong with the prequels).

Overall, I'd say that Star Wars Battlefront II is a reliable workhorse of a game. At no point did it surprise or delight me and because single-player mode was just a slightly tweaked version of its core multiplayer gameplay, it lacked the over-the-top spectacle and violent excess that is, to me, the hallmark of a truly great action game. But what it does, it does well. And it is completely understandable why it has such a persistent online following (the third-party matchmaking software showed 13 active games, at 1:30am, on a Wednesday, 11 years after the game's release). Sometimes, all you want to do is blast Storm Troopers with 63 of your closest friends. And I can't think of a game that does this better.

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