The Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta is out, allowing those who pre-ordered the game to get the chance to try it out before it releases next month. EA has marketed the sequel by insisting that it has righted many of the wrongs of its predecessor, with this being their first opportunity to show a wide audience that this is the case.
So, is the sequel better than the last game? Will those who were disappointed by DICE's first take on the Battlefront series find that their issues with it are resolved this time around? I've now plugged a good few hours into the beta, and while it isn't representative of the final product, I do believe that it highlights a number of significant changes that are primed to make Star Wars Battlefront 2 the game its predecessor should have been.
Here are the best improvements DICE has made to the game since their first crack at the Battlefront whip:
Star Wars Battlefront 2 introduces Battle Points, a brand new system that completely replaces the in-game power-ups players could obtain in the last game. In Battlefront 2's predecessor, playing as a Hero / Villain or hopping into a vehicle required the player to simply run over to an icon on the map, before respawning as Luke Skywalker or an AT-ST. It required no skill on behalf of the player save for successfully making it to a power-up before their teammates.
Battle Points eradicates this system, instead rewarding players based upon their success in eliminating enemies, scoring assists and playing the objective. The more BP you rack up, the better characters / vehicles you'll be able to unlock, ranging from an Armored Assault Tank through to Darth Maul or Rey. The great thing about Battle Points is that you'll ultimately have to weigh up whether or not it's worth cashing them in early on to acquire your team an initial helping hand, or whether you should keep saving them up in the hopes of eventually unlocking Darth Maul and hopefully using him to lead your army to victory.
Even for inexperienced players it's not all too difficult to begin racking up BP if you stick to the objective, so those concerned that this new system will prevent them from playing as their favorite Jedi or Sith needn't worry. It instead offers a way of ensuring that both teams can get their hands on the cool stuff, but that said cool stuff must be earned rather than idly stumbled upon. It also ensures that when you come up against a player with a lightsaber in their hand, you know that they've earned the opportunity to do so, therefore making your encounter with them much more intimidating. It's an excellent system and dramatically improves the action.
While the original Star Wars Battlefront was a great looking game, its environments didn't feel like the living, breathing worlds that the Star Wars series is known for. With DICE having significantly upped the ante in terms of dynamic environments in Battlefield 1, they appear to have given a similar level of attention to Star Wars Battlefront 2, with the handful of maps available in the beta exemplifying a significant improvement over its predecessors mostly static locales.
On the Galactic Assault map Theed, both the Separatist Droid Army and the Clone Army begin by facing off against one another along a large sweeping street, firing their blasters at one another from a distance while the innocent civilians caught in the middle rush to safety. If you take a moment to look around you, you'll see a bunch of neat little animations during this opening — a droid can be seen detaining a Clone Trooper, while another can be seen communicating with a small engineering droid. Similarly, rushing through Theed's abandoned markets often sees players disturbing flocks of doves, who fly off into the air leaving a trail of feathers behind. It's this attention to detail that makes Star Wars Battlefront 2's maps feel much more realistic, and help to cement that authentic Star Wars feel that DICE is gunning for.
While ground-based combat is still Star Wars Battlefront 2's bread and butter, its aerial combat has fortunately received some attention since last time, too. In the last Battlefront, dogfighting lacked any of the intensity you'd expect from a Star Wars game, with it taking place in open and empty environments mostly packed with AI ships to shoot down. These AI ships make a return in Battlefront 2, but the one map offered up in the beta — the space above the planet Fondor — sees players able to whizz around an Imperial shipyard, flying through its corridors to shake off enemies before attacking Imperial Cruisers.
The controls have been tightened up this time around, too. While the ships feel very slow to handle, there's now a steeper learning curve to successfully control them, which will inevitably give way to some impressive dogfights in the hands of the right players. Unfortunately, I still found this mode to be much less thrilling than Battlefront 2's ground combat, though it seems like it's shaping up to be a much stronger deviation from the game's core modes than it was in the last game.
Customization was dull in DICE's first stab at Star Wars Battlefront. You could spend in-game credits on Star Cards, which unlocked you a new grenade, cooldown ability, damage amplifier or another upgrade, but it was a very shallow system when compared with the loadouts employed by other major shooters. Fortunately, Star Wars Battlefront 2's customization options are much more robust, giving players the chance to tweak their loadout in a variety of ways in order to suit their play style.
This time around Star Cards have a much more dynamic impact upon a match, with players able to freely swap them around at will. With Battlefront 2 also introducing four classes, many Star Cards are now class-dependant, meaning some can only be used for certain classes while others can be used by anyone on the field. There are plenty to unlock, so unlike the original Battlefront it feels like there's much more to work towards than simply buying the best weapon.