Video Games

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is free on PC, and deserves a comeback

Star Wars Battlefront 2: Celebration Edition is free on the Epic Games Store until Thursday, Jan. 21, and there’s never been a better time to play the game.

The quality of Battlefront 2’s single-player campaign and the breadth of content in the multiplayer modes at launch in 2017 was overshadowed by EA’s controversial monetization strategy, which relied heavily on loot boxes. Players were upset, and EA ended up completely reworking the game’s economy. The drama dominated the headlines, and then it seemed like everyone just kind of moved on. There was a half-hearted apology at E3 the next year, and that was that for most folks.

That original version of the game doesn’t really exist anymore, though, and it hasn’t for years. No more updates are on the way and the awful original player progression system has been reworked, and what’s left is a huge bucket of single- and multiplayer Star Wars content that spans all the movies and ties into The Mandalorian as well. You can even include Baby Yoda through a PC mod.

The noise has been removed, in other words, and what remains is pure signal. And there’s enough interest in this kind of large-scale Star Wars experience that the new players crashed the servers when the game was first offered for free last week.

Battlefront 2’s campaign isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than it has to be. It features a great performance from Janina Gavankar as Iden Versio, an Imperial officer with the job of finding and destroying the rebellion. In other words, you’re one of the baddies, and that puts you in the uncomfortable position of having to do horrible things in the name of duty.

Here’s how Dave Tach put it in Polygon’s original review: “Versio’s internal struggles intensify as the narrative unfurls. She begins with the sort of personality that could conceivably buy the pro-Empire arguments about maintaining order and keeping the galaxy at peace that Emperor Palpatine tries to sell throughout the films. But few people can compartmentalize their morals when faced with doing or witnessing things that are clearly wrong. It’s here, after the first few missions, that Battlefront 2’s story finds its footing, and Versio’s character gains some much needed depth.”

It’s that journey that makes the narrative so interesting, even if there are some clunky moments.

“There are more narrative swerves and cameos, which I won’t spoil here because they’re catnip for Star Wars fans, but suffice it to say that the campaign isn’t quite as simple as it first appears,” Tach continued. “The story’s perspective occasionally shifts away from Versio, which gives Battlefront 2 the opportunity to explore the central conflict from different viewpoints. The downside is that these are often more interesting as a story than a mission to play.”

Now that the economy has been removed and more content has been added to the multiplayer component, Battlefront 2’s various modes are more like a buffet of cool Star Wars moments than any kind of cohesive whole, but that’s part of the charm at this point.

Seeing all these characters, from so many eras and movies, all working together or fighting each other across so many battles and modes and options feels more like playing with my Star Wars toys in a literal sandbox than playing a traditional video game. Nothing is perfectly balanced, but that’s almost beside the point; everything looks, feels, and sounds so perfectly Star Wars that the weird mishmash of characters and ways to play gives the whole thing a sort of joyful, adventurous quality that was often missing from the latest movies.

This is the perfect time to jump in if the last time you thought about Battlefront 2 was during a heated online debate about in-game economies. What exists today is a huge pile of sights, sounds, environments, vehicles, characters, references, and even plot twists, all of which acts as a celebration of all things Star Wars.

It’s also free right now, so you have nothing to lose, except a bit of time. If The Mandalorian proved that fans are in the mood for lighter, less self-serious Star Wars experiences, the Celebration Edition of Battlefront 2 is the perfect way to keep that mood going.

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