Once more 'round the gas mining plant we go! Star Wars Battlefront gets its second expansion on Tuesday, June 21st, and I was able to spend a few minutes at E3 running around its version Bespin, that wonderful city in the clouds from The Empire Strikes Back. For anyone who’s absolutely starving for something new to do in DICE’s sparse-but-satisfying multiplayer game, the Bespin expansion is a light and effective snack. For anyone looking for a new reason to fall in love with Battlefront, whether because your favorite character was added or because of new and exciting modes, this probably won’t bring you into the fold. Unless you’re a hardcore Dengar fan. Or you enjoy dressing up like a toilet paper mummy. Dengar’s into that.
If you don’t know who Dengar is, he’s one of the bounty hunters that appears in that brief but intensely memorable scene in the middle of Empire, when Darth Vader asks other thugs of fortune to track down the Millennium Falcon. Dengar isn't one of the sweet-looking robots; those are 4-LOM with his bug eyes and IG-88 with his lava lamp-shaped head. He’s not the hissing lizard man going barefoot; that’s Bossk. Dengar is the tired-looking dude with the toilet paper on his head.
He's one of your new heroes in Battlefront’s Bespin, and his rifle is admittedly pretty snappy for sharpshooters with a penchant for blind-fire sniping. Perfect for the wide-open, gleaming plazas in Cloud City’s take on Conquest. Easy as it was to make fun of Dengar, especially when the Empire team voice over tries to make him sound like a badass when he joins the fray, he was effective. Definitely a better addition in terms of strategy than Greedo in the Outer Rim DLC. Lando Calrissian, meanwhile, didn’t feel immediately different than other laser pistol-wielding hero characters like Han or Nien Nunb. It’s more fun to play as Lando just for the novelty of getting to see his jaunty blue cape, but he’s also not going to redefine the way you think about fighting in the game. Same for Bespin’s new ship, the twin-pod cloud car, which is blue rather than the classic orange from the movies. The patrol ship handles steadily like the X-Wings and TIE Fighters from the initial 2015 version of the game.
It has to be said up front that my E3 Battlefront demo was not held under ideal circumstances. Local hardware problems and server issues kept me from playing the new hero-fighting mode Sabotage entirely, and getting into basic Conquest matches to check out Bespin was spotty. Playing just three matches is ample time to get a feel for such simple shooter - Battlefront’s simplicity being both its greatest asset and its greatest handicap - but it also isn’t enough to really explore the hidden potential in its new characters.
That said, it was plenty of time to notice that Cloud City is weirdly sterile compared to past Battlefront environments. Tatooine has its Jawas scampering away to their sandcrawler from firefights, and even Hoth’s Echo Base hallways hide away treats like tauntaun bones leftover from old wampa meals. Little Star Wars flourishes like that do a lot to spice up the game. Cloud City, meanwhile, looks like an abandoned shopping mall with a crashed X-Wing in the middle of it, open and beautifully rendered but also deeply sterile. Some ugnaughts running around or even an area with Lando’s righthand man Lobot taking a cyborg nap would have added a lot of the Star Wars flavor that is Battlefront’s raison de etre in the first place.
As with everything Star Wars Battlefront, your mileage may vary with the Bespin expansion. Anyone still playing the game will welcome even these modest additions, but those still yearning for a game as robust as Star Wars Battlefront 2 for the original Xbox will be stuck waiting for next year’s sequel developed by DICE and Motive Studios.