The Story in 'Star Wars Battlefront 2' Definitely Feels 'Authentic'

The Story in 'Star Wars Battlefront 2' Definitely Feels 'Authentic'

The 'Battlefront 2' campaign walks and talks like 'Star Wars,' but is this enough? EA

It walks and talks like real-deal 'Star Wars' – just don't call it 'canon' (they don't like that word)

It walks and talks like real-deal 'Star Wars' – just don't call it 'canon' (they don't like that word)

EA and Lucasfilm go out of their way to refer to Battlefront 2's campaign as "authentic" Star Wars. It's the term they use instead of "canon," and while it's tempting to read this as them hedging their bets when it comes to the game's – or all games? – place in the Star Wars legendry, all evidence points to something more simple: they just don't like the word. Which is understandable. "Canon" carries an constraining connotation; abiding by canon is arduous, a one-way ticket into the bickering minefield of the fandom's most hidebound precincts. "Canon" looks to the past and "authentic" looks to the future: a line of films, shows, games, and merchandise that will outlive us all. A cinematic universe to end all cinematic universes.

In my mind, the first glimpse of what this really means and looks like is Battlefront 2's single-player story, which I played yesterday. Part of the reason why is the period. Battlefront 2 starts out seconds after Return of the Jedi, which, despite all the prequel love going around right now, is still the most vital point in the Star Wars timeline. Significant details of the era remain vague and ultimately unknowable, and they're big ones – what's Luke been up to? How did the First Order become an existential threat to the galaxy following its tentative foundation at the ass end of space? Given its subject matter, and where it starts and presumably ends (around the time of The Force Awakens), Battlefront 2 is in a good position to totally go there.

Another reason, of course, is that Star Wars is at its most Star Warsy when you can feel it viscerally, which is something that good Star Wars games do very well. The piece of Battlefront 2's single-player campaign I played is exactly this. The vertical slice on show was perfectly curated to deliver a fully "authentic" Star Wars vignette in about 20 minutes. It starts out with a cutscene: as Commander Iden Versio, portrayed by Janina Ivankar (who seems fast on her way to becoming Star Wars royalty), you're ordered by your father, an Admiral of the Empire, to help execute on Operation Cinder, Emperor Palpatine's contingency plan to maintain Imperial order in the event of his death. (The "messenger droids," which deliver Palpatine's orders via a holographic projection of his face, excel at delivering the spooks.)

From there, it's into a TIE fighter to fend off a Rebel assault on an Imperial shipyard. The sheer fidelity and scale hit you immediately – you're totally flying around, weaving into and out of the guts of Star Destroyers, tailed by X-Wings and loosing barrages on CR90 corvettes (which feel like they go down way too easily, and yes, I realize I should be forever silenced as a pedant for pointing this out). You're constantly being goaded toward objectives, but the game seems OK with you just flying around taking in the sights. A producer from DICE later mentioned that a single capital ship in Battlefront 2 is bigger than any of the entire maps from previous games, and it seems totally plausible after playing this.

The objective was to disable the giant Mon Calamari cruiser anchoring the assault, which you do by flying straight into its hangar, blasting the ships and crew stationed there with your TIE like Finn and Poe did during the escape scene from The Force Awakens, and initiating a one-woman infiltration as Iden. It all went down seamlessly; no loading or transitions, just you landing a ship in an astoundingly huge environment, getting out, and commencing with the first-person shooting. Pretty impressive stuff. From there, it was a standard (though remarkably Star Warsy) linear first-person shooter. Many Sullustans, Twi'leks, and humans with Hoth-era Leia hairdos died to bring you this hands-on preview. The goal was to disable the cruiser's ion cannons, which you do by commanding your ID10 seeker droid (think: a cute, miniature probe droid from Empire, which can also stealthily disable enemies and artillery) to hack a console and then blasting it to bits. It ends at a suitable cliffhanger, with Iden and her subordinate about to get spaced after detonating a charge on the last ion contraption, and it definitely leaves an impression. The look and feel is 100 percent legit, perfectly-honed and realized Star Wars action. But also, I really hope they're going farther than this sort of tidy, self-contained action sequence with the campaign as a whole. Star Wars demands it, and the grandness of the tech demands it. Imagine something like Prey or even Titanfall 2's single-player campaign availing itself of the Star Wars license and Frostbite engine. That's certainly something to get excited about.

That said, we know that Battlefront 2's story will include numerous interludes involving real-deal Star Wars legends. There's even one that focuses on Luke Skywalker, whose story following Return of the Jedi, at this point, is largely untouched (all we have so far is the Shattered Empire comic, which Battlefront 2 harnesses quite readily in its setup; there's a kid's book coming out in October, but its stories are being framed as "myths and tall-tales"). Given all this talk of "authenticity," there's a good chance that the Luke Skywalker stuff in Battlefront 2 is the first we see of the character post-Jedi. That's kind of a trip, right?