This week, Morgan takes his rage out on a massive corporation, which will never care about his problems nor even know his name.
Fans of Star Wars, I feel like there’s been a wedge driven between you and I. I know that everyone’s been treating it like a live nuke that will obliterate society as we know it unless it’s on the receiving end of three years’ online bum-bouncing, but let’s take a page from publisher Dice’s book and exercise some restraint, please.
Star Wars Battlefront 2, then, the third-person online shooter by EA and Dice, licensed as always by everyone’s favourite corporate overlords, Disney. I have no love for the first game; I think I was in the room at some point when someone was playing it. But naturally, being the pessimism-seeking missile I am, I’d have been a fool not to have noticed the panning it received on release, its Metacritic page covered with more red dots than the average measles infection.
Fifty pounds for a glorified multiplayer mode? Clearly, this had the tell-tale grease marks of EA’s hands all over it.
“But don’t worry!” they hurry to assure us, “The AI and three-hour story mode prove that its completely viable as a single-player experience, too!”
It’s shit playing with the AI and you know it.
Dice must have had a real job during this game’s development, not only acting as designers but also ninety per cent of EA’s impulse control. Loot crates and microtransactions? If EA completely had their way, it wouldn’t have been enough to charge you money; there would have been a flaming hell-contract claiming a portion of your soul.
It’s as if they were afraid of the story mode, the number of crevices I had to access within the main menu in order to reach the bloody thing. I understand it acts merely as damp padding to inflate the price and is little more than an advertisement for the online matches, but there’s no need to act like I’m on suicide watch:
“Surely, there’s been some kind of mistake: we’ve got this great online mode available, surely you’d rather play that instead?”
“How about now?”
Wasn’t planning on it.
“That’s okay. I’ll just remind you again the next time you blink.”
The story, which you can finally get to if you promise to be in the multiplayer by nine and get all your homework done, is as follows: Iden Versio is an Imperial commander with an allegiance to the Empire so deep she apparently can’t go two sentences without saying something to the effect of Oh, our totalitarian dictatorship is so great, I want to kiss it on the nob. Serving alongside Del Meeko and Gideon Hask (you know, this article will go by a lot faster if you stop pausing to laugh at the names), she helps subjugate a few planets for all of maybe two missions before there’s a plot twist about as smooth and natural as a parallel park in the Death Star trench and she and Meeko become rebels, instead.
The very first mission involves Iden escaping a rebel prison ship, the game not-so-subtly cramming a stealth tutorial down your throat every alternate step just in case you’ve contracted Alzheimer’s in the last point-six seconds. I remember thinking at the time that if this was a sign of missions to come, I was out. Because variety is the spice of life and all, but despite people’s differing opinions on what Star Wars needs right now, I think we can all agree it isn’t hour-long dregs of sneaking up behind people to clobber them over the head and hoping they don’t accidentally fart on you in the meantime. But then things swiftly devolved into repetitive shootouts and by the time I was standing knee-deep in stormtrooper corpses all I could think was Please God, forgive me, bring back the stealth sections and liven this the hell up.
Not once is the stealth ever used after that first mission. Not once.
This was the segment that really stuck with me, not least because everything else was the standard third-person shooter-based tedium. Help me out here, why was stealth so forcefully contrived into a single half-hour slot in the campaign, only to be thrown aside like the toy of a spoiled child? You certainly can’t use it in the multiplayer, where everyone is as twitchy as a coked-up grasshopper, ready to shoot indiscriminately if one of their own burps happen to sound a single octave higher. In retrospect, stealth could have provided a methodical challenge and at least have been a damn sight more enjoyable than the vehicle segments.
There are numerous sections where you’re piloting a starfighter, as programmed by roadkill: fly across all twenty metres of an open galaxy before being forcefully shunted right back into the combat area. You also can’t turn around without six weeks’ planning permission, because of course we wouldn’t want anything to spoil the pacing of this absolute rollercoaster ride. I sure hope that Squadrons game for Virtual Reality isn’t anything like this, spinning around three hundred and sixty degrees in order to shoot that one TIE fighter that just won’t sit still and adamantly refuses to be shot at. You’d be getting more use out of the hazard warning lights than the throttle, what with having to repeatedly bend over mid-firefight and pull out the sick bucket.
Then there’s a tacked-on ending which I can only assume was borne of somebody in the office saying:
“Hey, do you know Kylo Ren? That whinging Vader-wannabe of the new trilogy? Isn’t he, like, barely in it?”
“…well, I really wish you’d brought that up sooner, Henry. Alright, we’ll shove him into the final mission with little more than a “to-be-continued-in-multiplayer” post-it at the end, just to obliterate the last bouts of hope anyone had about reaching a satisfying conclusion.”
At its core, it’s about the online mode and yeah, it’s a Star Wars shooting game: waddle around a beautiful, open expanse of absolutely fuck-all like a Rancor with polio, before some bastard fifty miles away who’s been playing since the day it came out hurtles out of nowhere and castrates you with the help of his lightsabre. Every so often you’re graciously permitted to pilot a giant mech of some description in a tone-deaf attempt to rejuvenate the formula, in the same way a chronic slug infestation rejuvenates a cabbage patch.
As with any multiplayer shooter, I have to step back when coming to a conclusion. I enjoyed what time I spent playing with friends, but the moment those friends were gone, it was just third-person laser-battle safari that would occasionally involve some dickhead with an oversized glow stick prancing around the middle of it all.
Props to Dice for trying as hard they could under such pressure, I suppose. You can practically smell the fear of putting one foot out of line and having Darth Disney and his legions of Storm-lawyers descending on them.