Stevivor was lucky enough to not only get hands-on time with Criterion’s Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission, a PS4-exclusive virtual reality (VR) experience, but to speak with Producer Pete Lake about its development.
After spending twenty minutes of hands-on time, I confessed to Lake that I was now considering the purchase of a PlayStation VR system just to be able to play more.
“This is free for anyone who has [Star Wars:] Battlefront on PlayStation 4,” he said, trying to ease my pain after I told him just how much PS VR cost in Australia.
He also promised the Gamescom demo was just a small taste of things to come.
“What you’re played is just a foundation. It’s just a kind of a tease, really,” he said. “What we’re doing is building something that is more in line with the missions you’ve been playing in Battlefront already.”
More specifically, the experience is one that leverages Battlefront’s Fighter Squadron mode, in which you pilot a Rebel or Imperial fighter and try to take out opposing forces. As its name suggests, Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission will focus on X-Wing missions that tie into the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story feature film.
“It will also have a lot of replay as well,” Lake continued. “We’ve got places like what we call the Play Spaces — the white kind of front-end area where you can explore the X-Wing [ahead of flying in space]. You can spend as long as you like in there.”
That might even be as far as some players get, using the feature to inspect vehicles from every possible angle. The Play Spaces mimic the existing Battlefront UI – white, simple and clean. In Star Wars VR, they open the experience and also give you a chance to inspect not only the finer details of Luke Skywalker’s iconic fighter of choice, but of other Star Wars crafts. The demo’s opening provided the chance to get up close and personal with a hulking AT-AT.
“We’re designing the experience to be played, seated, in a living room,” Lake said. “We know that this will be a lot players’ first experience in VR. When this comes out this holiday, this [Australian summer], you know, Star Wars and Battlefront are going to bring a lot of people into VR.”
Once players are comfortable in the Play Space, they can move onto the next step: X-Wing combat. In the craft, you can not only see your body, but your arms. They’re stretched out to control your craft’s flight stick, pretty much mirroring the way you’ll hold a DualShock 4 in front of you in real life to move and attack.
As players get comfortable with the basics, they can always challenge themselves to do more.
“It’s been really important to us, because we want fans and players of Battlefront to just be able to pick it up and have that truth depth of control and beyond, but we also want people who are new to VR to be able to fly the ship,” Lake said of finding a proper balance. “You’ll have depth, shields, projectiles, but you can also just fly around and just explore.”
We did both in the demo. Tasked to defend a Rebel cruiser, I first opted to fly around just to take in the vastness of space first. It was truly breathtaking to be able to fly around other X-Wings and cruisers, moving my head independent of my craft to take in stars, other ships and — of course — my trusty R2 unit, seated on the exterior of my ship, right behind me.
Moving onto my mission proper, I racked up 22 kills with ease. The controls are the same as in Fighter Squadron, with one stick steering your ship and the other managing power between engines and weapons. The added benefit of 360 degree sight meant the Empire never had a chance.
While you can obviously look around to keep tabs on your enemies, you can turn your attention down into your cockpit to see a blanket of different buttons. For my demo, I only had a lone functioning button, but it was an important one – opening and closing my X-Wing’s attack foils.
Lake assured me the other buttons each have a purpose.
“Oh yeah — there’ll be more to do and buttons to push and that kind of stuff,” he said. “We know what all those buttons do, because we’re working with LucasFilm. They know how an X-Wing works.”
After my limited experience, I feel like I know how an X-Wing works too… and I’m itching to prove that in the future.