Where the Fun Begins: Hands On with Battlefront II’s New Hero Starfighters Mode

Begin takeoff procedure -- and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars Battlefront II, like its 2015 predecessor, is a game that lets players live out their wildest action-figure fantasies within an all-out combat simulation. Up until now, my favorite Battlefront modes have been Starfighter Assault and, more recently, Hero Showdown. So imagine my delight when the EA Play conference in June brought news of a new game type that combines the core aspects of those two experiences into one.

This week’s update introduced Hero Starfighters, a fun twist on the heroes-versus-villains formula that’s long been a staple of the series. Half the fun of Battlefront II, for me, has been in role-playing as my favorite iconic characters from the series — Han, Lando, Maul, Rey. In Hero Showdown, I’ll usually team up with a friend and choose my hero based on their relationship to whichever character my friend picks: Han and Lando, Luke and Rey, and so on. With Hero Starfighters, players can now have that experience in outer space, taking control of familiar ships like the Millennium Falcon, Maul’s Scimitar, Slave I, and Yoda’s Jedi interceptor, regardless of chronology or location.

Hero Starfighters pits four hero players against four villains, each piloting a unique vessel of their choosing. You and a teammate can’t both fly the Falcon in a single round, for instance, but there’s an opportunity to swap out your selection between skirmishes. It’s an elimination-style mode, so you only spawn in your chosen hero ship once per round; after that, you’ll respawn in a standard light fighter of your choice (e.g., a TIE fighter or X-wing). The first team to take out all four enemy heroes wins the round, and three round wins will result in a total victory.

It’s a challenging mode, given that every red blip on your HUD is an actual, human player. I find myself getting into a competitive spirit when I play Hero Starfighters; it can be a more intense experience than the similar Showdown mode. As a result, victory often delivers a serious rush of adrenaline, and there’s no greater thrill than zooming in, taking aim at the final enemy hero ship, and getting the kill that wins the round — or, better yet, the game.

Thanks to the customization available through the game’s Star Card progression system, all of the various ships can be tailored to better suit your individual play style, though you’ll eventually find yourself picking a handful of favorites. Large, heavily armored craft like the Falcon or Slave I will last longer in one-on-one engagements, and may deal incredible amounts of damage, but they’ll also be an easy target for smaller, more lightweight fighters, like Poe Dameron’s X-wing. There’s a lot of fun to be had in trying out different starships with different Star Card loadouts.

I feel confident in declaring Hero Starfighters my new favorite Battlefront mode. It’s got all the excellent character and flavor of Heroes vs. Villains or Showdown, but I’ve tended to gravitate toward Starfighter Assault since launch. This latest game type combines all the elements I love about Battlefront II into a single high-stakes experience that makes me want to improve at the game. It’s tough, but it truly feels like Star Wars. And with more exciting updates on the horizon — not to mention all the great Solo-inspired content we got in Season 2 — I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had with a Battlefront game.

Since the game’s November 2017 release, DICE and partner studios Criterion and Motive have kept up a steady stream of free content support for Battlefront II. In December, the game rolled out a season’s worth of new characters, maps, and vehicles centered around The Last Jedi. The Han Solo Season, which began in May, brought a wealth of cosmetic appearances, locations, and new modes Hero Showdown and Extraction.

In the coming months, the game will get a series of updates centered around the saga’s fan-favorite Clone Wars era — featuring the planet Geonosis, an all-new large-scale mode, and additional characters like Count Dooku, General Grievous, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker. Can’t. Wait.

Star Wars Battlefront II is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Syfy Wire, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.

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