Outside of my work here on io9, I tend to live and breathe two things: video games and Star Wars. Naturally, Star Wars games are right up my alley, and I was excited to try out the beta for the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront this past week. I wasn’t expecting, however, for it to make me feel like I was actually part of a universe I’ve loved for years.
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As a game, Battlefront is simply alright. What makes it so intriguing as a Star Wars fan is its ability to capture the vivid detail of the Star Wars movies, and suddenly make it a thing you can run around in yourself. When you find yourself as either a Rebel soldier or a Snowtrooper on the chilly plains of Hoth, duking it out, it certainly feels like you’re doing exactly that.
Above: A video of me playing a round of the game’s Hoth map. I’m all right as a Snowtrooper, terrible as Darth Vader, and kind of okay as a TIE Fighter pilot.
It’s not like there’s not been Star Wars games before that have immersed me in the franchise—I’d be remiss to not mention Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic, a role-playing game set in a period thousands of years before the films, and a game I love because it told a story that felt like Star Wars, without having the solid connection to the world of the films. But there’s something about Battlefront and its uncanny presentation and appropriation of Star Wars itself—the exact sounds, John Williams’s music, the literal look and feel of the movie’s real props and models, scanned in and turned into digital objects by a technique called Photogrammetry. There have been many Star Wars games before Battlefront, but none that really capture the visual and aural aesthetic of the films so well.
Instead of being just a game, it becomes almost like a movie set, the chance for you to pretend you’re running around Empire Strikes Back and blasting away at AT-AT walkers or Snowspeeders. By its nature, it’s never going to feel like the more intimate moments of the saga—it’s an action game about shooting many, many people, you’re not really there to chit-chat—but in terms of thrusting you into the manic intensity of the grand battles of Star Wars? It absolutely achieves this.
It’s a bizarre feeling to look over the plains of a digital Hoth and see the red streaks of blaster bolts fly through the air. The scream of snowspeeders overhead, the thump of AT-AT walkers, the cries of Snowtroopers and Rebels as they enter the fray. The sparks and smoke as those blaster beams hit soldiers or scenery, or explosions go off—as if they were a practical effect, a squib detonated by a member of the crew perpetually off-camera.
Bizarre, but if you’re like me, a very good feeling indeed. Until we get a glimpse of those crazy new virtual realities Lucasfilm are cooking up, this is the closest we’re getting to feeling like part of that galaxy far, far away.