Yes, there is actually a game behind all the controversy surrounding the microtransactions the world cannot stop speaking about. As a disclaimer, this review will focus solely on the microtransactions-free single player campaign of Star Wars Battlefront II. The multiplayer seems to be an addicting setup for Star Wars fans who have self-control enough to not spend their hard-earned cash on elements (with some time) unlocked otherwise through playtime, but for nerds like me, the single-player game is a refreshing break from the hectic, wily realm of multiplayer for a canon tale worthy of the famous brand.
Star Wars Battlefront II has the player take control of Iden Versio, leader of the Imperial Inferno Squad, for the majority of its several hour-long campaign. The premise: Iden and her men become disillusioned with the Empire after the destruction of the second Death Star (as seen in Return of the Jedi) and other traumatic events, leading to a riveting yet easy-to-follow plot of wavering allegiances and a changing galaxy leading to the currently-running sequel trilogy.
As such, there are surprises aplenty for the average Star Wars fan, and for the most hardcore of enthusiasts, Battlefront II offers Easter eggs and other intricacies that tie into the current Star Wars canon more seamlessly than the Legends brand of Star Wars ever did. Controlling characters such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in interludes dispersed throughout Iden's story feels natural and progresses the narrative in a complex way beyond just the perspective of special ops Imperial soldiers.
The story is solid enough, and so is the gameplay for the most part. The core structure of the original EA Battlefront is refined here, featuring equippable items for trigger buttons that can distract and harm enemy units in multiple ways. Stealth-inclined players may want to use smoke to their advantage; for example the dense shroud of trees on the forest moon of Endor could provide additional cover to allow for stealth takedowns with the press of a stick. Trigger-happy players may opt for thermal detonators that recharge instead of being restrained to an ammo counter. Blasters can overheat as well, but when they do, a brief minigame appears onscreen, and after the correctly timed press of a button, overheated blasters can actually turn into an advantage. This risk-reward style of fighting keeps things moving and provides a variety of different strategies for different kinds of players.
Movement can be a little clunky unfortunately. Iden cannot roll in the campaign, which stuck out as a sore point early on. However, things pick up again in the assorted Rogue Squadron-esque flight missions featuring iconic spacecraft: X-Wings, TIE fighters, and the Millennium Falcon. It's not conducive for those yearning for arcade-style flight like in Star Fox, but after some getting used to (and customatization featuring inverted flight controls and 360-degree movement), turning around and upside down, shooting proton torpedoes, and taking down other fighters feels very satisfying.
Lightsaber combat comes into play too and leaves a little to be desired. Using triggers to zoom and shoot a blaster makes perfect sense, but slashing in predetermined moves with the right trigger is not as exciting. Some Force attributes such as freezing and pushing opponents with the Force with face buttons makes up for lackluster Lightsaber options, but I still prefer shooting up troops in Battlefront II any day.
This campaign is not incredibly long, featuring a dozen variety-filled missions with various characters, planets, and control types getting the spotlight. Like with most shooters with a campaign, the single-player venture in this game really is a great insight into what the more fully fleshed out multiplayer of Battlefront II has to offer. Thankfully, beautifully rendered and acted cutscenes help make the experience more rewarding. Some may be surprised by the narrative turns, but for me, that surprise was welcomed and worthwhile for a Star Wars fan.
Star Wars Battlefront II has a movie's level of quality put into the campaign, making it the most exciting cinematic experience in a Star Wars video game in many years. For fans of the entire franchise, the fact that Iden's quest is canon to the current chronology of Star Wars makes it all the sweeter. The galaxy feels lived in, as it always does, and being able to interact in some of the most famous battles post-Return of the Jedi is a lot of fun. This is a must-have for all Star Wars fans. For all others, Battlefront II is still a fun romp and average third-person shooter on the PlayStation 4. Just don't waste your real-life money on the microtransactions, and be happy that more DLC for both the campaign and multiplayer are coming for free in the coming months!