Talk about improvements.
If there’s one thing EA’s first Star Wars Battlefront got right, it was a sense of scale and place. Battles were massive, and everything emulated Star Wars nostalgia perfectly. Despite having solid gameplay one mode stuck out, the space dog fights. It wasn’t for a good reason they stuck out either, as the mode just felt a little slow and uneven compared to the rest of the game. Ships didn’t control all that well making the mode a little frustrating to play, let alone how slow they could get with the only objective being to take down other ships. These are all problems that Star Wars Battlefront 2 addresses with its fantastic Starfighter Assault mode.
Twinfinite recently got a good amount of hands-on time with Star Wars Battlefront 2’s multiplayer, including Starfighter Assault. On face level, the mode is mostly similar, pitting a team of 12 players against another. The immediate biggest difference, however, is the fact that the mode is now objective-based rather than kill-based. One team has to attack a set of objectives with a limited pool of points/lives, while the other fends off the attack on the objectives. This provides much more of a focus to each match, rather than just wandering the battlefield endlessly.
Some objectives are nicely varied too, like when my team played as The Republic and we had to take down the shield generators on a giant Separatist ship. Once those generators were down, it opened up the hangars on the bottom of the ship, where my team could fly in and blast the core before swooping out of another hangar. These objectives, of course, differ between the maps, with some being simpler than others. While I had problems with some of the objectives in Star Wars Battlefront 2’s Galactic Assault mode and how dreadfully slow they felt, Starfighter Assault objectives were generally strong. There was room for players to focus on taking down fighters to protect their team, while others on the team could put their attention on taking down the objective.
Just as importantly, the controls for your Starfighter have been tightened up and refined a good deal. The control scheme still functions the same, but everything just feels more responsive and quick, not like steering a boat through waves, which is the impression the first game left me with. You boost, slow down, and tilt your ship with the left stick, while the right allows you to turn. Special attacks and weapons are mapped to the triggers. It’s quite easy to pull off tight turns, and angle your ship just right to shoot through a small gap.
The three classes of ships return as well with Fighters, Interceptors, and Bombers. Each one functions differently in battle, and has specific abilities. On top of that, the ships for different factions function slightly differently as well. For example the top ability for a Republic Fighter pops up an automatic turret that fires at enemies behind you, whereas the top ability for a Tie Fighter fires off a quick stream of laser blasts. The classes function mostly the same between factions, but it provides a little bit of fun variation depending on which map and era you’re playing in.
On top of all these small changes, space ships now have their very own Star Cards as well. The system to unlock these works the same, as you can purchase Starfighter Crates that can give you cards, or you can unlock them through the menu with scrap. These affect your ship’s abilities, like boosting Proton Torpedo damage or giving your ship slightly more armor. This lets you add a little more customization onto your Starfighter experience, something I appreciated more as I found my own style. Hero Ships are featured in the game again, and each one even has its own set of Star Cards to unlock and equip.
Unlike the last game which had you grabbing power-ups in battle, getting Hero Ships revolves around the same system the other modes in Star Wars Battlefront 2 do, Battle Points. Every action you take in battle rewards you with Battle Points, whether that’s shooting down an AI enemy, shooting down a player, or attacking the objective. As you earn points you can spend them on Hero Ships, letting you play as Poe Dameron’s X-Wing, Slave One, Yoda’s Jedi Starfighter, and more. There is a limit to how many Hero Ships can be in play on each side, so if your teammates are already playing as them, you might not be able to spend your points until later.
There’s a nice flow to things in this regard, as the only thing you spend Battle Points on in Starfighter Assault is Hero Ships. This means both sides introduce heroes at various points in the match, throwing a powerful enemy in the mix. Although Hero Ships are certainly stronger, I didn’t find them to be an unfair hassle. They’re easily taken down if a couple of ships gang up on them, or if you keep a tail on the ship with some strong offensive abilities. The best use of these heroes is as a rallying point for the rest of the team to gang up with on an objective or a group of fighters.
While I certainly appreciated all these small additions and changes to the mode, the way that Starfighter Assault really grabbed me was with its sheer scale. Matches feel like true Star Wars space battles, with ships, lasers, and explosions happening left and right. Star Wars Battlefront 2 smartly throws in secondary forces to each match to make them feel larger. Capital ships come into battle providing objectives and firing support, AI turrets are dotted on structures and out in space firing on ships, and AI fighters pack even more ships into the battle. Certain maps even inject some interesting obstacles.
My absolute favorite map available in Starfighter Assault right now, saw the Rebel and Imperial forces fighting in space above Endor. The battle took place in the wreckage of Star Destroyers and the Death Star II. This meant that the map was littered with wreckage and metal, some of which had lightning and electricity zapping between it, that could damage and destroy your ship. This map proved to be incredibly hectic, as you had to weave through wreckage and lighting, all while battling enemy ships and avoiding fire. It was madness, in the best kind of way possible.
There are a few issues that still crop up here and there. At times my ship crashed when I still had a bit of space between me and a surface, and collisions can get a bit wonky if you hit another ship or obstacle. While I had problems with some of the objectives in Battlefront 2’s Galactic Assault, and how dreadfully slow they felt, Starfighter Assault objectives were generally strong. Over about 5-6 hours with the mode, however, these were small issues.
Across the hours of gameplay I had with Star Wars Battlefront 2, Starfighter Assault left the biggest impact on me. It feels like a fully realized mode now, and not just something tacked on to have space battles in the game. Going into my playtime with the game, never did I think Starfighter Assault would be my favorite part of the experience, but it is. These battles are thrilling, and the slight improvements to controls are enough to help the mode stand up straight. Matches don’t last nearly as long as Galactic Assault either, which can take upwards of 40 minutes sometimes. This makes it more digestible, and easier to jump into if you don’t have a ton of time. After all the shooting on the ground, it was a refreshing surprise to find space battles that could at least capture a bit of what the Star Wars films have portrayed.