The Star Wars Battlefront series has been one of the videogame industry's most ambitious franchises, yet it's never fully realized its potential. Beginning in 2004, each release was highly anticipated, delivered immersive Star Wars experiences, and yet (due to questionable design choices) the various versions were both loved and hated -- often by the same fans. The 2015 Electronic Arts (EA) reboot absolutely nailed the visuals, but the gameplay was too twitchy, and too heavily favored hardcore players, which essentially alienated its casual and mid-core audiences.
EA recently announced Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and we've got the video to prove it. The question for many fans and gamers: can EA address the series missteps and finally provide the Star Wars shooter experience that has long been promised, but excruciatingly under-delivered?
A large source of fans' angst resides in the franchise's chaotic development history. Way back in 2008 I worked at LucasFilm, in their LucasArts videogame division, on a super-cool project called Star Wars: Battlefront III (BF3), which was developed by an incredible team in Nottingham, England called Free Radical -- the guys responsible for the legendary N64 game Goldeneye 007, and the slightly less legendary Timesplitters series. Free Radical is gone now, because of bad luck, bad timing, and bad decision-making by LucasFilm (it's a long, frustrating story with an unhappy ending for me, Free Radical, and a couple hundred dedicated employees in both organizations).
When EA took over the Battlefront series a few years ago, I and many of my former colleagues were conflicted. At our hearts we were all Star Wars fans, but seeing this new iteration released when our previous effort was so close to the finish line was deeply painful. I won't bore you with the details, but check out the many BF3 videos online; suffice to say the overly ambitious project offered amazing PC, XBox 360, PS3, and Nintendo Wii online-multiplayer and singleplayer functionality for the time (the number of concurrent platforms should provide a clue as to why the project struggled). Yet, it's this very ambition that makes Battlefront so intriguing.
EA struggled with its first Battlefront game, which lacked a compelling singleplayer experience and relied too much on expensive DLC, which fragmented its core audience -- it was difficult to find fully populated servers just a few months after release. However, EA relates that Battlefront 2 offers more game modes, more balanced gameplay, incredibly jaw-dropping visuals, and a deeper singleplayer campaign that focuses on the Empire (tied to events in the recent Rogue One film); as an aside, this was the premise of Free Radical's BF3 campaign, too!
The new Star Wars: Battlefront 2 trailer shows off gameplay, and cutscenes, that are completely indistinguishable from one another; gone are the days when trailers faked the funk, what you see in this footage is what you're eventually going to get. Battlefront 2 covers all three Star Wars eras, continues to provide both ground and space combat, includes more emphasis on heroes/villains and weapons promise to be more distinct, and compelling.
Finally, one huge, huge step forward for EA: no more paid DLC. The industry has finally realized that players don't want to pay for a game twice, the long tail of modern online gaming is predicated upon amassing, and sustaining a dedicated playerbase, and we gamers are all the better for it.
Everything about this new Star Wars: Battlefront 2 trailer screams quality and depth, suggesting that many lessons were learned by EA (and their developer DICE). In a strange way, this iteration finally delivers on the innovative concepts Free Radical pioneered over a decade ago -- maybe now we can all let the past go, it's time (for me at least) to embrace the future of Battlefront games, and that future looks pretty awesome!
Will Star Wars: Battlefront 2 be the epic shooter that we've been waiting multiple gaming generations to experience? Let us know in the comments down below!
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 releases on XBox One, PS4, and PC on November 17, 2017.
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