Hands-on with the opening hours of single player hints at the humanity behind the Empire
The story of Star Wars Battlefront II opens with an interrogation. Commander Iden Versio, disarmed and bound, glares at the Rebel soldier holding her captive. The slow, steady tension of the scene runs contrary to the often bombastic, spectacular battles that Star Wars is known for. But Iden’s story is one of military precision, political motivation, loyalty, and betrayal. And also bombastic, spectacular battles.
Iden serves as a humanizing element to the Empire — a force we have spent decades fighting in the Star Wars universe. She and the other agents of Inferno Squad represent the discipline and devotion that the Imperials glorify. But the most striking quality of her wonderful character impacts the entire narrative: her courtesy.
The single-player campaign of Star Wars Battlefront II takes place in the moments before and immediately after the conclusion in Return of the Jedi. The prologue mission follows Iden as she deftly escapes Rebel capture, then assists Imperial forces on Endor following the destruction of the second Death Star. But as she stealthily creeps behind enemy lines and uses her tactical droid to survey soldier positions, her whispered command spoke volumes. “Scan, please.”
Iden address both her fellow agents and her droid with an alarmingly calm politeness. It is immediately endearing, and a small detail among many that make the beginning moments of the campaign so enjoyable. It showcases that Iden and her team are not inherently evil. They are soldiers fighting on the opposing side. But even Iden has misgivings about the Empire’s plans, and those eventually boil over…
Few games look quite as good as Star Wars Battlefront II. The motion capture and texture work employed here brings Iden (Janina Gavankar) and her fellow squadmates to life. This superb detail extends into the nigh overwhelming environments, from the debris-littered reaches of space to the lush, leafy moon of Endor. These environments make for fantastic stages to all the action, which Iden anchors.
While on foot, Iden has access to standard Imperial weaponry, as well as rechargeable skills including an Impact Grenade, the aforementioned Scan, a tactical Shock, and a Pulse Cannon built on DLT-20A framework. These abilities add a welcome wrinkle to the running, gunning, and sneaking of each mission. The Pulse Cannon, especially, gives Iden a powerful long-range tool for dealing with officer units that enhance the prowess of soldiers around them. Targeting these officers from a hidden position before starting the battle in earnest was a useful tactic during the introductory missions.
Early in the campaign Iden takes to the sky (or space, more accurately) and pilots a TIE fighter against Rebel forces. These ship battles are delightfully chaotic, with the ship itself having its own suite of abilities from rapid-fire bursts of laser fire to tracking torpedos. Making sense of enemy positioning, and avoiding dangerous debris, are challenges in and of themselves.
If the beginning hour of Star Wars Battlefront II is any indication, players can expect a cacophonous ride filled with action and tense, quiet moments of story. And at the centre of it all is Commander Iden Versio, who still has the sense to thank her droid for a Scan well done.