Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing VR Missions
Don't even pretend you're not excited
Before my session with Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-wing VR Mission (phew), I’d been briefed on how amazing the experience was by a colleague. Dangerously, I let my expectations balloon to the same impossible heights as when the prequel trilogy was first announced. But I didn’t get The Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks and a whiny pre-supervillain whose biggest gripe with his home planet was sand that got everywhere. What I got was The Empire Strikes Back of experiences.
Even the obligatory PlayStation VR calibration screen is impressive. As I got the headset into focus, an immaculately recreated AT-AT stomped overhead and for a moment I forgot I was supposed to be flying an X-wing starfighter. Before the flight, there was an option to have a tour of the exterior of my X-wing. True to what DICE achieved with its damn- near photorealistic recreation of iconic Star Wars vehicles in the core Star Wars Battlefront game, X-wing VR Mission developer Criterion Games has injected an impressive level of fidelity into the Rebel ship.
The only downside is that you can’t walk around the X-wing, with preset teleportation points the only option for exterior observation. “We built the game ground-up to be a really comfortable experience for everyone, [whether] you’re a VR veteran or you’ve never played VR in your life,” explained producer Peter Lake, when I complained. “So we haven’t included it, basically, for that reason, and it’s not something we’re looking to include at the moment. But we are looking to expand that area.”
After some limited ogling – everyone was only assigned 15-minute slots for the demo – I hopped into the cockpit and waited for the mission to start. It’s strange to think that the demo, in actuality, was only five minutes long, but the final version will be longer, albeit not massive.
“It’s meant to be a mission, so our original goal was to be as long as any of the other Battlefront missions, so it can sit beside them,” said Lake. “Honestly, I think it’s going to be slightly longer, mainly because of our enthusiasm and what we’ve got planned it just is slightly longer. I guess you could blast through it in 15 minutes if you really wanted to, but I think most people are probably going
to spend half an hour doing it.”
The demo started at the beginning of the Mission, as my greenish pilot character shot out of hyperspace alone. Despite the concern in the pilot’s voice, I took the opportunity to marvel at the faithfully recreated cockpit. Behind me, my R2 unit chirped and, naturally, I had to swing around to look at him, but was distracted by the closed S-foils, then marvelled when I looked down and saw my flight-suit-adorned character.
The controls are identical to Battlefront’s simplified ship control, meaning right stick takes care of movement, which is mimicked by your avatar’s hands in-game, and the left stick is used to throttle up or down. In prioritising accessibility, Criterion has missed the opportunity to implement Move controls so that, say, a right-hand-held Move controller can move the flight stick and a left-hand controller can work the throttle.
It’s a shame, but it really is splitting hairs in what almost immediately amounts to an incredibly immersive experience. Your avatar isn’t alone for long. First, the temporarily lost X-wing squadron appears, taking it in turns to berate you for exiting hyperspace early. Next, the rest of a Rebel fleet appears, and it’s hard to not grin as familiar ships materialise above you. You can take the time to fly close to them and gawk at their impressive digital recreations, or you can move on to the business of swatting TIEs as a distress call comes in and your squadron leader volunteers your squadron’s services.
Another Rebel ship is under attack not too far away, but its proximity to an asteroid belt means the larger ships can’t jump close enough to help in time. Naturally, that’s not a problem for a squadron of snub fighters. Reaching the rally point, we made the jump to hyperspace and soon appeared in front of a heavily damaged Rebel frigate near the asteroid field.
When the Mission was first announced, the general consensus was that it’d be an on-rails experience, but Lake said you can spend time in those asteroids, if you like, but you’ll likely fail the time-sensitive objective of protecting the frigate from what comes next.
“We designed it to have a sense of escalation, and not just in kind of experience but also in gameplay,” said Lake. “Obviously, there are moments where there are objectives where you’ve got to go to. We’re not doing anything that’s going to be on-rails. We’re a company that’s about player choice and player agency so, as Criterion in general, to take it away from them is not what we’re about. We want people to feel free. We want people to have fun.”
The real fun was what happened next, even though it was incredibly obvious. A squadron of TIE fighters returned to finish their damaged prey, but they hadn’t counted on the presence of a squadron of X-wings. There’s a single interactive button in the cockpit that locks S-foils in attack position. I mash it and ready for battle. True to the Imperial attack patterns of the original trilogy, each successive squadron of TIEs approached in a vertical wall-like formation, before they split off to engage us individually.
This is the kind of experience for which VR is built, as I throttled down to improve my turning circle and simultaneously boosted the power of my cannons. I used my head to track targets through the transparent parts of the cockpit, pre-firing the pitchperfect-sounding laser cannons as I lined up kill after kill. It didn’t get old.
But as any Star Wars nerd would know, TIE fighters are short-range ships. Before I could wonder too hard about where they might have come from, a possible answer appeared: an intimidating Star Destroyer entered the fray as the demo faded to black and I uttered disappointed expletives. Obviously, I wanted more.
Alas, it’s unlikely there will be more, at least not anytime soon, as Lake admitted this is intended as a one-off and, sadly for fans of LucasArts’ Star Wars: TIE Fighter game, Criterion is “not working on that [a TIE fighter mission] at the minute”. To compound the disappointment for Star Wars fans on other platforms, it’s also definitely exclusive to PlayStation VR, so you can stop holding your breath for a Vive and/or Oculus version, too.
Disclaimer: The above image is from Star Wars Battlefront: Death Star. There are currently no available images of Rogue One X-wing VR Missions.
Platform Category DeveloPer Publisher Due PSVR Combat flight Sim Ea DiCE