Star Wars Battlefront II Starfighter Assault Preview

The premise of the Star Wars Battlefront series has always been making us live our Star Wars fantasy, and for many, that means prancing around with brightly colored laser swords — a playstyle many will enjoy in Star Wars Battlefront II.

For me, it’s different. My Star Wars fantasies pretty much always has to do with navigating X-Wing and TIE Fighters. After all, there is no “Star Wars” without wars… among the stars.

You can easily imagine my excitement when today I spent a considerable amount of time sitting in front of a PlayStation 4 Pro, playing several matches of the new Starfighter Assault game mode of Star Wars Battlefront II.

While the mode will be set in all three periods of the movies (prequels, original trilogy and sequels), I got to play a single engagement set on Fondor, with the Rebels striving to knock out a Star Destroyer docked at an orbital base, while the Imperial pilots have to defend it.

There are three basic classes of crafts you can pilot: Interceptors are quick and well armed, but tend to be glass cannons; Fighters are jack-of-all-trades; and Bombers are slow and vulnerable in the hands of an inexperienced pilot, but they deliver an enormous punch.

Star Wars Battlefront II Starfighter Assault Preview -- Red Five, Standing By

Filling the role of fighters we had the TIE/LN and the X-Wing, featured interceptors were the TIE Interceptor (duh) and the A-Wing, and TIE Bomber and Y-Wing were the bombers.

Each class in Star Wars Battlefront II plays in a very different way and will certainly appeal to different kind of players. Personally, I ended up favoring the TIE Bomber after trying them all. It’s a bit of a hog, but the map (if we can really call a “map” a three-dimensional area of space) is full of cover, so it’s very exciting to fly dangerously close to obstacles in order to stay out of sight, and then pop out to deliver a salvo of four heavy rockets in the face of an unsuspecting enemy.

You can also customize your starfighter with star cards, even if we only had three available in the demo, so their impact is still a bit difficult to gauge for the moment.

Controls are intuitive and feel much better than those in the first Star Wars Battlefront by DICE, granting a nice balance between control and thrill. I did enjoy the fact that the starfighters felt like they had inertia when flying through space, so flying through obstacles presents the right amount of risk and reward.

The only minor nag is that the default controls are set in the opposite way to how a real fighter is flown. When you push on the stick, your ship will climb; if you pull, it’ll dive. That’s very counter-intuitive for me, but I guess many will disagree. In any case, inverting the flight controls in the options easily solves she issue.

Star Wars Battlefront II

Another satisfying element is that hitting nimble fighters controlled by human opponents is actually quite challenging. It’s not as difficult as in a real flight simulator, but it certainly takes some work to master. Yet, when you do, and turn that enemy fighter in a ball of flames and debris, it’s very rewarding. This is, at least from what I could see, a mode very much focused on player skills.

Now, if only I had a proper HOTAS under my hands, and not a DualShock 4, it would have been even better.

Each starfighter has three special features assigned to L1, R1 and L1+R1. Normally the L1 control will be an utility feature, like the repair droid or electronic countermeasures. The other two are powerful weapons like rockets or proton torpedoes. Given the abundance of obstacles which break line of sight, and the agility of most ships, achieving a lock at the right angle isn’t always easy, and that’s exactly as it should be.

By damaging and destroying enemy ships, you can earn battle points that can be spent into unlocking hero ships. The demo I played included the Millennium Falcon, Boba Fett’s Slave I, Darth Maul’s Scimitar and Poe Dameron’s Black One. They all play very differently in Star Wars Battlefront II, even more so because they all carry very different armament.

For instance, the Millenium Falcon can soak up a lot of damage, while the Slave I can drop a devastating seismic charge that will wreak on anyone close by, especially in environments that constrict maneuverability. On the other hand, the Scimitar is a sneaky fellow, that can go into stealth to get into that perfect position to strike.

Star Wars Battlefront II Starfighter Assault Preview -- Red Five, Standing By

The mission itself was also quite interesting and engaging, with a chain of objectives that leads to victory if all are achieved. For instance, the Rebels needed to destroy a squadron of Imperial corvettes, which opened the path to a cluster of shield generators situated in a narrow tunnel. Once destroyed those, the next objective was breaking a bunch of supports holding the Star Destroyer moored, opening a time-limited window to attack the reactor directly.

The path to victory isn’t a cakewalk, but when it does happen it’s certainly exhilarating and rewarding.

Ultimately, I can certainly see myself playing this mode a lot, possibly even more than the standard “boots-on-the-ground” modes. The clincher will be whether or not the team will provide enough missions and settings to keep them fresh, even more so after release.

Now, if only we could get a new X-Wing vs TIE Fighter

For now, I leave you with the video below (courtesy of animator Paul Johnson). It’s not from my gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront II, of course, but that’s exactly how badass I felt while playing Starfighter Assault. You can also check out the official trailer from the mode, and some gameplay from yesterday’s live show.

Star Wars Battlefront II releases on November 17th for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.