Someone’s finally done it. Someone (in this case Burnout developer Criterion Games) has taken the flying bits from Star Wars, stuck it in VR and not messed it up – huzzah! In this case, PSVR owners that own Star Wars Battlefront are being treated to a free downloadable mission that ties directly into this month’s next blockbuster instalment in the legendary sci-fi franchise; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and wonderfully, it happens to be one of the most essential things you can play on PSVR right now.
Attention to detail is the theme here and before you even step into cockpit and shoot off into the cosmos beyond, it’s something that hits you in the face harder than being on the business end of a Wampa-powered left hook. Most notably, the neat Photogrammetry technique that developer DICE employed everywhere in the main Star Wars Battlefront title, in pursuit of a photorealistic look akin to the original film sets and props, is brought to bear impressively here. Indeed, the player can walk (teleport) around a hanger bay that holds the X-Wing craft and inspect every detail of the iconic starfighter; the dirt and unkempt nature of the X-Wing, itself feeling like a hand-me down after years of wear and tear, perfectly reflecting the ragtag and make-do nature of the rebellion itself.
After you’ve done your walkabout inspection and then clambered into the X-Wing itself, the deluge of movie-perfect detail continues unabated. In fact, one of the mission’s earliest eye-opening VR moments comes when you strap yourself into the cockpit of the X-Wing; fulfilling that enduring childlike fantasy of what it would be like to be inside of the famous Rebel starfighter, with every button, dial and display being immaculately realised when compared to its movie counterpart. Certainly, the ten year old inside of me was screaming, while the thirty-five year old on the other hand, merely settled for trying to free his jaw from the crater in the floor – it’s that detailed.
Once into the mission itself, players are cast as ‘Red Four’, a member of a rebel X-Wing squadron tasked with escorting K-2SO (the new, silver-tongued android in the upcoming Rogue One movie) and his ‘precious cargo’ which may, or may not be a certain famous member of the Resistance. Broadly speaking, it feels similar to how the space battles work in the main Battlefront game, in so far as AI enemy kills are easily had and the ship handles extremely forgivingly (though for obvious reasons the ability to do stomach churning half-loop manoeuvres has been removed).
Equally, the mission objectives are of a linear nature, often requiring you to escort a particular ship, destroy a number of enemy craft or reach certain waypoint. Deep stuff it most certainly isn’t, and while the whole experience clocks in at no more than fifteen minutes of your time, there is some scope to go back and replay it all, simply because the game grades your score at the end of every run and uploads your performance to a global leaderboard for potential bragging rights to be had.
Clearly though, the space battles excel and enthral for the exact same reason that initial hangar and cockpit sections do; it provides the player with the opportunity to become close and intimate with Star Wars in ways that no other experience or videogame has been able to achieve to date. Whether you’re dodging and diving through a densely packed asteroid field, dogfighting with scores of Tie Fighters across the bow of a Star Destroyer, or jumping to warp alongside a massive group of Rebel cruisers, Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission lovingly bleeds Star Wars in fashion that no other tie-in has managed to do.
So poignant is that feeling which this tiny morsel conveys to the player that the mind boggles at just what a full bodied Star Wars VR title could look like. Just imagine for a moment, taking control of the Millennium Falcon but playing online co-op with other folks who could take up turret positions on the craft as you scream through the innards of the second Death Star, or, teaming up with a bunch of friends to tackle the iconic Death Star run from A New Hope. Look, there’s no getting around it; this just needs to happen because as a proof of concept, the potential in this small offering is simply too great to ignore.
Ultimately also, it feels good to see Criterion Games saddle in the developer seat once more; their last full bodied effort (helping out on Battlefield: Hardline doesn’t really count) being PS4 launch title Need for Speed: Rivals, to return with what is essentially fifteen minutes of the most exquisitely crafted Star Wars fan service that I’ve ever seen, it leaves me hopeful that the legendary UK developer will be put to some proper use sooner rather than later.
For now though, one can only hope that all the great press that the Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission is getting is enough for the money men at EA to go full bore on a proper and complete Star Wars X-Wing VR experience.
Red Five standing by.