Thoughts about ‘Battlefront II’: Stories told in a very impressive new way

 

On a lighter note we are living in some interesting times.  I have been very encouraged by the glimpses of the future that are emerging, especially the new Tesla tractor-trailer that has the potential to dramatically change the transportation industry.  I am a person who gets very excited when I see things come along that expand the imagination of the human race on a mass scale, like the latest Star Wars products—whether it’s a new toy, video game, or motion picture installment.  With each new addition to that fantasy/science fiction mythology the imagination of the human race is expanding dramatically.  And that has never been truer than in the new Battlefront II video game by DICE and Electronic Arts that expand the efforts of the first version of that game for all the major platform systems over what was released in 2015.  This 2017 edition is just marvelous, jaw dropping cool, and a seriously interesting look into the nature of politics and the human soul.  There are a lot of interesting things going on with Battlefront II that are indicative of some of the greatest art our culture has ever produced.

Nobody buys a game like this to play the single player campaign mode, they buy it to play online with thousands of potential people at all hours of the day and night all over the world.  People in cultures where guns are unfortunately banned can play a game like this and instantly they are playing the most modern version of cops and robbers that we all aspired to as kids, before public schools made it impossible for kids to even make a pretend gun with their hands.  Boys, girls, young and old are all thrown into these battles together and they force you to work toward team objectives to survive by heightening your individuality to the quickest reaction times and personal aptitude.  The desire to play such a game is a very primal one, and this game is certainly one of the best to date at making everything work well and allow players to just enjoy the experience.  I enjoy the ground based combat quite a lot, but it is the flight combat that I love the most.  I thought the first Battlefront was pure heaven for my personal tastes, but in this second installment, it’s so much better, better than I thought it could ever possibly be.  One of my favorite video games that I played as a kid was the Activison Star Wars game The Empire Strikes Back which was a blocky 2D Defender type of thing involving snow speeders and a constant wave of Imperial Walkers, each that required precisely 48 hits to kill unless you managed to hit a little sweet spot that sometimes appeared on the top of the shell.  So the aerial combat in Battlefront II is just beautiful to look at and participate in.  Stunning really.

But the real star to Battlefront II is their new story mode campaign that I was excessively impressed with.  Not only is it a nice story to add to the Star Wars canon fitting in with the movies nicely, but it’s some seriously good science fiction.  For instance, the Empire has a new weapon in this story which are satellites in space that fire into the cloud formations of planets to heat up the atmosphere and cause hurricane like storms on the ground to harass their enemies.  I thought that was a very interesting concept considering that this very year in real life we saw four major hurricanes hit the United States alone, three of which made ground fall as upper category storms.  Many conspiracy theorists believe our current government can do something similar to this now, so I found it interesting that a big platform game by Disney would even allow something like that into a Star Wars storyline.  But it worked and was very interesting.   Does it advance conspiracy theories or address a tyrannical problem indicative of world governments—I think it does a lot to get a conversation going about the temptation to use weather as a weapon against dissidents.   If the Romans could have done something similar, or the Nazis, they would have.  In Star Wars, the Empire does.

The other big surprise for me was a scene where Kylo Ryn was mind walking through the memories of a captor he’s interrogating.  It was a dreamy sequence that you play through as a participant and it reminded me of an old game called Shadowman—where you had to walk through the world of death to solve problems.  I thought it was very intelligent and exhibited great skill in advancing a pretty complicated story.  The game was already one of the best campaign story lines that I’ve ever played, so this last sequence was very interesting.  At that point the makers of the game I thought were just showing off.  They knew they had a great game and at that point were just putting an exclamation point on the end of it.  They could have played it safe, but then it wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie.  In Star Wars fans expect innovation and risk.  When science fiction fans watch something like Star Trek: Into Darkness we know we are seeing touchy, feeling content that is popcorn to the base fans—Star Wars seeks  to blow minds wherever possible with ever-expanding concepts—so it’s good to see that ambition still alive even under Disney control.

Battlefront II is a massive game with huge investments put into it.  Its targeted release was announced months ago for November 17th.  I preordered it which allowed me to start playing it on November 14th, three days early and I have to say, this is one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had so far.  Previous winners were of course Uncharted 4 and the latest Zelda game for the Nintendo Switch.  Battlefront II is a massive game with a lot to do and it holds that massive population of a world that wants to play it all at the same time very well.  The scope of the game is so big that I saw it being advertised on the NFL website heavily last weekend, and everywhere else that Disney felt they could penetrate popular culture.  But honestly, no wonder NFL ratings are down.  People may be turned off by the National Anthem issue, or the high salaries and spoiled brat attitudes of the players, the concussion protocols, and the softening of the game to appeal more to women but with competition like Battlefront II to occupy people’s time, a passive NFL experience is pretty boring.

If you are looking for a great video game to invest in, then this is it. It is released to the general public today in time for the Holiday season and is the perfect thing to do when it’s cold outside and the days are short.   With two new Star Wars movies coming out over the next six months, the announcement of a new trilogy and the Disney parks putting the finishing touches on their new Star Wars lands there is a lot to be excited about for even passive Star Wars fans.  Even as Hollywood is struggling massively; Star Wars is still good enough to keep the industry alive for a bit longer all by itself.  It won’t last of course.  The motion picture experience will likely give way completely to the small screen and video games like Battlefront II.   In many ways the video game industry is still able to tell stories in the classic way that great movies like THX-1138 did; only participants can actually be part of the story instead of just viewers.  That’s what makes Battlefront II such a great offering, because it is truly great science fiction and fantasy that we experience typically in great literature and it puts you in the action as a participant to interact with other people, and that makes it extremely unusual.  Not so unique for the kids who have grown up with these games, but for the tapestry of human history where information is exchanged through art–this is a real showpiece worthy of a great deal of respect.

Rich Hoffman

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