Star Wars Battlefront 2 preview

2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront was a huge commercial hit, but arguably a bit of a disappointment with fans - between the lack of a single player campaign and the limited multiplayer options, plenty of people hoped for more. Luckily, EA and developer Dice look set to deliver with the upcoming sequel, which promises more of, well, just about everything.

We’ve had hands-on time at Gamescom 2017 with one of the new game’s core modes - Starfighter Assault - to find out just how stands up.

What are the best Battlefront 2 pre-order deals?

Star Wars Battlefront II is out on 17 November, and as is typical for a AAA game release these days, there are both multiple versions of Star Wars Battlefront II available, and bonus content for anyone who pre-orders the game.

The pre-order bonus is tied to the upcoming film The Last Jedi, and includes alternate outfits and additional abilities for Kylo Ren and Rey, presumably based on what they get up to in Episode VIII. Anyone who pre-orders can get The Last Jedi Heroes, but it's not clear yet if it will also be able to buy after the game is out later this year.

As for different versions, you can pre-order the base game for £54.99 on console or £49.99 on PC from Game in the UK, or $59.99 for any platform from Best Buy in the US.

If you don't mind spending a bit more, the Trooper Deluxe Edition includes the Elite Officer, Heavy Metal, Armored Assault, and Master Specialist upgrade packs, which include new weapon modifications and epic abilities. It will also let you play the game as much as three days early.

Battlefront II pre-order bonus

That version of the game is available in the UK for £79.99 from Game, or in the US for $79.99 from Best Buy, though right now it looks to be console-only.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 preview

Battlefront 2 is essentially a massively expanded version of the original game. The core conceit is still there - massive online battles set in the Star Wars universe, usually in different stages, with assorted Hero units you'll recognise from the films. 

What's changed this time around is that a a single player campaign has been added, set in the wake of the original trilogy; that units, heroes, and battles from both the prequels and the new films will feature; and that plenty of core mechanics have been tweaked, refined, or revamped - most notably the space combat.

Sadly, we haven’t yet had any time with Battlefront 2’s ground troop and vehicle combat - or its  single player campaign - but we have put the game’s dogfighting through its paces on a PS4 Pro.

We’ve tried out one stage, the Fondor: Imperial Shipyard map, which sees waves of Rebel ships throw themselves against Imperial forces in the attempt to wipe out a Star Destroyer. This is one of the modes that will feature in the Battlefront 2 beta, which starts in October.

The fight takes place in a few stages - first the Rebels have to destroy two Imperial cruisers, then navigate a tight tunnel to take down a few shield generators, then remove four docking clamps, and finally fire upon the Star Destroyer’s reactor core. The Rebels win if they can destroy the ship, the Imperials win if the attacking forces run out of lives before they can succeed.

The core controls are complex - turns out flying a spaceship is hard, who knew? - but we mostly got the hang of it by the end of an hour or so of play. The right control stick steers, while the left handles acceleration and rolling the ship. This is the stuff that takes the most getting used to, and at first you’ll probably crash more often than you soar, but that difficulty should be familiar to anyone who played the first game.

The right trigger handles your main weapon, while the shoulder buttons manage your three specials - things like triggering a repair droid, getting a quick speed boost, or firing a photon torpedo.

The staggered mission objectives do a great job of focussing gameplay, so you’re rarely stuck just dealing with disorienting dogfighting in space - you’ve always got some sort of target to aim for, and there’s scope for tactical play in choosing whether to prioritise attacking or defending the current mission target, or distracting enemy fighters buy your teammates more time.

There’s more emphasis on the team too, as each time you do you respawn together with a few other pilots - this is your squadron, and you all get damage bonuses as long as you stay close together. This is a neat idea in theory, but in practice you’re probably going to get separated from your squad within seconds of spawning, and every time we got the squad bonus it was more of a happy accident than anything else.

There are other bonuses to be had in the form of collectible Star Cards, which you assign to your ships on the load out screen. They have effects like passive damage boosts, reduced weapon overheating, or making it harder for enemy missiles to lock on, and their effectiveness is governed in part by their rarity.

Each ship gets its own Star Card load out, along with its own array of powers, meaning there’s some scope to build a spec to suit your play style.

As you play, you’ll accumulate Battle Points (well, if you’re any good at least) and after a while unlock enough to allow you to spawn as a Hero Unit - in this case, things like the Millennium Falcon or Boba Fett’s Slave I.

Timeline purists might want to look away though, because it’s here that the game gives in to fan service by allowing Heroes from across the different time periods - in this case, the black X-Wing that Poe Dameron pilots in The Force Awakens, complete with BB-8, turning up in an original trilogy battle. Most people won’t mind too much, but the Comic Book Guys out there might object to the timeline smudging.

Starfighter Assault gameplay footage

Finally, you can watch full footage of one of our rounds of gameplay from our preview session, as we fight for the Rebels to eliminate the Star Destroyer:

OUR VERDICT

Until we've played more, we can't give a firm verdict on Battlefront 2. But based on what we've seen of Starfighter Assault, fans have a lot to look forward to, with tight mechanics, great gameplay, and absolutely gorgeous graphics. Roll on November.