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Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Star Wars: Battlefront

It’s time to live the dream. Take your blaster in hand and join the frontline with your Rebel comrades. Set foot on the sparkling Hoth snow, taking a brief moment to appreciate its beauty before staring up at the horizon to face the incoming Imperial onslaught. The AT-ST towers above you as it plods ever forward, seemingly not to be stopped under two Snowspeeders zoom overhead, their sudden arrival causing you to duck with momentary panic. You keep an eye on the aerial battle as you begin to trade fire with a legion of Stormtroopers, watching as one craft elegantly weaves around the legs of the mech. A tripwire is laced around it and it begins to stumble, just as it reaches your trench. Your jaw drops as the enormous mechanical beast starts to tip, giving you just seconds to clear out of the way. The silence that follows the thunderous explosion is broken by your friends cheering.

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For as long as we’ve been thinking about virtual reality (VR) technology, we’ve been thinking about its use with the Star Wars franchise. George Lucas’ legendary universe is easily one of the most sought after locations for a VR experience. Thankfully, with studios such as Industrial Light and Magic Experience Lab (ILMxLab) and the imminent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’ve never been closer to this being a reality. But with last week’s beta for DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront ending in success and the full title out soon, VRFocus is paying specific attention to one of the most popular Star War videogame series today.

Star Wars: Battlefront is the very definition of wish fulfilment inside a videogame. The series lets players take part in the most iconic battles in the series’ history as a simple foot soldier. While it’s possible to play as a lightsaber-wielding hero, the title is much more about capturing the experience the nameless Rebel soldiers and Stormtroopers that topple like dominoes around Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as they do battle. This latest entry, which serves as something of a reboot in time for the next movie, is the first to incorporate a first-person view, and as such begs for some VR comparisons.

Taking part in these unforgettable battles is something that many have dreamed of for some time. With VR, fans would get closer than ever to the action, using Oculus Touch or other such controllers to trade blaster fire with enemies as they duck behind cover in the various hangars, battlefields and other facilities that make up the universe. Imagine having the feeling of really being on Endor, pushing your way past the thick forest as red beams strike the trees next to you, setting off brilliant but deadly sparks.

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Perhaps it doesn’t quite fit in with the Star Wars: Battlefront style of play, but imagine being able to play something like Epic Games’ Bullet Train in this universe, blasting away Stormtroopers with dual wielding weapons, casually tossing Thermal Detonators at packs of enemies and coming face-to-face with an AT-AT walker and taking it down all by yourself. All of this is possible within VR and we’d love to do it within the Star Wars universe.

Of course, the hero segments that do let you play as a Jedi or Sith would also be compelling with Oculus Touch. Perhaps the ultimate goal of VR is to bring about realistic lightsaber battles and, while we’re a long way for that just yet, position-tracked controllers get us a fair bit closer.

The vehicles segments would also be incredible to experience in VR. Few experiences that use the technology right now can be perfectly realised, but sitting in the cockpit of an X-Wing is one of them. It doesn’t require any kind of movement on the player’s behalf, just sitting and naturally controlling the craft as they soar over the warfare. The same goes for controlling the previously mentioned walker, or even taking to the super-fast speeder bikes, which is something that ILMxLab is experimenting with.

Star Wars: Battlefront is shaping up to be one of the most exciting Star Wars videogames in years, and the idea of VR support makes it all the more mouth-watering. This entry won’t be seeing integration with the Oculus Rift or other head-mounted displays (HMDs), but perhaps future additions could.