The Force is strong (and free) with Star Wars: Battlefront II
Star Wars Battlefront II (Multi)
A FEW years ago, I stood face-to-face with Bristolian behemoth and Darth Vader's bones, Dave Prowse, at a Belfast Star Wars expo.
They say never meet your heroes, and the iconic octogenarian had one hand forever outstretched for punters' cash in exchange for signing momentarily ironic stills of Darth reaching his mitt to Luke.
Battlefront 2, with its fun-so-long-as-you-cough-up-the-cash model,brought the memories flooding back.
It's a trap! In one of the biggest own-foot-shooting incidents since Jar Jar Binks, EA had your credit card firmly in their tractor beam with this sequel to the 2015 reboot, which offered a Star Wars gaming experience for the Call of Duty set.
Its epic multiplayer warfare took place in one of the most beloved nerd franchises of all time, but with the sequel's best trinkets earned through either a laborious grind or by simply giving EA your hard-earned creds, it marked the nadir of the coveted collectibles culture that was created by Star Wars in the first place.
With such unbridled corporate greed in a full-price game, you half expected to find Gordon Gecko ‘neath Vader's helmet: Such was the negative press, EA cancelled all pay-to-win elements – but while microtransactions are easily startled, they could soon be back, and in greater numbers.
Without having to spend a Bib Fortuna, players are now free to focus on the game itself without getting into Boba Debt – and, thankfully, it's a stormer.
While the original was criticised for not having a single-player option, Battlefront II appeals to soloists with a campaign that's part of the Star Wars canon as players step into the leather thigh-highs of Iden Versio, an Imperial special forces officer dealing with the fallout after the second Death Star's destruction.
Its 13 run-and-gun chapters are peppered with blistering X-Wing and TIE fighter battles and dribbling fan service as mini-missions introduce Luke, Leia, Lando and a bearded Han Solo.
While relying heavily on old favourites (like the new Abrams-era flicks), it bridges the gap between Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens nicely, and will at least make the Dagobah until Last Jedi hits the fleapits.
Like its predecessor, though, Battlefront II's priorities lie with online multiplayer. With a forensic attention to detail, iconic locations such as Endor and Naboo shine.
New modes make an appearance and it all looks, sounds and feels like Star Wars, though the rather basic gameplay only sings once you've earned enough perks to bejazzle your foot soldier.
All additional content, however, is set to be free, with December's Last Jedi pack focusing on the upcoming film and introducing the likes of Finn and Captain Phasma as playable characters.
Much like Vader himself, Battlefront II's impressive, shiny exterior hid some ugly innards, and fans felt like they were getting shafted more than the Emperor at the end of Jedi.
But just as Vader made good with that very scene, EA have found redemption by binning the pay-to-win model. As ole Ben Kenobi would say, it was as if millions of voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
It's just a shame the title's formative weeks were overshadowed by this disturbance in the Force, as the underlying game is so good. Its simple joys won't tear hardened Destiny or Call of Duty vets from their online battlegrounds, but as a child of the ‘80s, this sure beats playing in some waste ground with your three inch poseable plastic Solo.