This week, a games factory called EA announced it was going to craft multiple titles based on characters, locations, trousers and cats found in the Star Wars universe. Big news indeed.
Being as I am a soft nerd in my 30's, an affinity to Star Wars is obligatory. I was too young for Episode...1? But I think I was around for Episode 2. No, 3. The first films. You know, the old ones. The ones with Indiana Jones in. The original, proper ones. Is it IV or V? Or I? Or VI? Why do people think Roman numerals add an intellectual weight to things? If I call myself YinkYinkYinkenXXXVI will people suddenly start reading & commenting here, adding deeply incisive & relevant feedback to the deserted comments section? No, no they won't, damn them all to hell and back! Liars!
Sorry about that. The Star Wars area always makes me furious. I hate the way my childhood has been plundered, altered and defaced. It's like someone vandalising your Grandmother, and then sneakily giving her a gender-swap operation while you're not looking. It's still your old grannie, but you don't recognise her/him and certainly don't want to give her/him a kiss at Christmas!
Man, I love Star Wars. I used to get together with my friend from across the street, 'Marcus', when we were kids and combine all our Star Wars toys into a grand nerd army. There would be a pair of Milennium Falcons, which I know is a major lore error right there, but we were small and unaware of the importance of continuity.
We had all the major characters, but no Princess Leia, as a female action figure was considered a doll, of course, and would have lead to expulsion from the macho, working-class nerd gang I was in, due to contracting 'nits' from the contaminated girl toy.
We'd line up all 16 of our stormtroopers and then Mr. Darth Vader would hop down the ranks, inspecting the troops in a squeaky voice, with Ribena on his cape. Greatness!
I never had a TIE fighter, though, which still saddens me and keeps me awake most nights. I wake suddenly, and dart around my house opening all the drawers and cupboards rummaging frantically, until my scared, confused, crying wife injects me with something that makes me stop!
So, what has this got to do with games, I hear nobody ask? Well, Star Wars lends itself to gaming perfectly (you would think). So, in order to celebrate/mourn the news from EA, I thought I'd expose my memories to you. Sounds good, no? Yes! Hurry to read this huge extravaganza!
First up, The Empire Strikes Back on the Atari 2600 VCS! Look and be respectful, boss:
|Look at the tasty cover, Son.|
|This is like actually being nestled in George Lucas' beard!|
As the above shows, the cover of the cartridge was awesome. So convincing was it, I'd actually put my coat on to play it. The ice-world Hoff was a cold, merciless place full of plodding, fascist AT-AT walkers intent on pooping on your rebel bungalow, which you had to defend at all costs.
The point of the game? Shoot a weak-spot on the AT-AT walker with your speeder, before the AT-AT shot you down OR reached the pathetically weak rebel bungalow. The weak spot moved about on each walker, you'll be surprised to read, which was mind-blowingly challenging at the time. It was probably terrible, but it succeeded in transporting kids into the Star Wars universe, and made me nag for more toys. You win, Mr. Lucas! Have some money!
Next, this thing called Return Of The Jedi, memories of which can be found here:
|The loading screen to end all loading screens. Is good, no?|
It's Return Of The Jedi on the Amstrad CPC464! And wow, was it a looker. The graphics were so good, I'm going to put ANOTHER picture here so you can pretend you were with me too:
|RESPECT the SCENERY while you avoid logs & boulders, yo.|
As you can see if you can be bothered to point your face at the screen, this game was stunning to look at, really accomplished in that area. It had everything, speeder bikes being driven dangerously in a forest, that bit were Lando flies into the heart of the second Death Star with that Mexican alien, and a battle against an oddly-scaled Star Destroyer. Fwizzzz! (That's a light-sabre sound effect, baby.)
I think the point of the game was to simply revisit scenes from the movie, albeit via the dark world of isometrics. Or something. Stop hitting me with maths! Anyway, it worked, and I loved it. Again, it did exactly what it set out to do, which was grease the enormous wheels of cold, hard merchandising! Victory to Mr. Lucas!
Onwards, my invisible friends on the internet, to a place I like to call Star Wars Demoliton, which was to be found slotted into the PlayStation. It was basically the lovely Vigilante 8 with Star Wars skins, and it was awfully dull. Strange really, I loved Vigilante 8, so why I didn't love this is a mystery to me. Vigilante 8 was kind of like Twisted Metal, but far more imaginative and with lots more class. Imagine comparing a chicken to a chimpanzee, and you're on the right track, brother.
Oh go on then, have an image you greedy fool:
|It even has a sticker on the front confessing to it being a skin job!|
God, this is turning into a huge effort. No, I'll soldier on, like a wounded man desperate for the toilet.
Next up, well, it's the KOTOR titles. Knights Of The Obvious Resolution, if you are obsessed with acronym explanations!
These two titles are RPG style affairs, with levelling up, weapon customisation blah blah and all that Sith jazz. It is pretty much clear what is going to happen and how it will end, the best you can do is try to make the journey as funny as possible, like going into a supermarket and arranging all the vegetables into controversial poses before security 'catches' you!
I do enjoy silly chat options in games, and I solemnly swear I shall always choose the most ridiculous option available. Dragon Age Origins had me in stitches with the comedy available, but the KOTOR games weren't too far behind. Skyrim, however, is as dry and humourless as a forum reply from an overly-confrontational, know-it-all nerd desperate to crush you with his towering Google/thesaurus combo word-based ass-kicking! That is one miserable experience!
Quickly, stare in wonder as I flash my KOTOR at you, before someone sees:
|WARNING: Uninspiring pictorial representation of decent game.|
Next came the Battlefront titles. Perched in the FPS genre, these were the best of the lot. Similar in form to the Battlefield games, vehicular & infantry combat was included for our pleasure. They looked great, felt great, the locations were dynamic and immersive. For Dogs sake, you could even fly an X-wing into a big capital ship, get out and start some trouble, like a man riding a horse into a shoe shop, swatting at the staff with an umbrella and wrecking the displays! Glorious!
It looked like this in places, Chief:
|Alien lacking binocular vision attempts to fire RPG near expensive hardware: Heartbreaking disaster guaranteed.|
It was great. My mate was always pestering me to play split-screen with him, and it was awesome. It had a sense of scale, a sense of location. It was really rather charming. It had the lot, and for once had no apparent ulterior motive for its existence! Or maybe I'm too naive to see it. It was a properly good set of gaming trousers, for once. That goes for both titles, you needn't worry. I'm not expanding too much on them because they will feature in an upcoming article, so calm yourself! No need to rant!
Star Wars: Empire At War was rubbish, I'm not wasting time on it. Go away and never return!
Star Wars: Republic Commando was awful. Banish it to gaming hell, force it to wear a dress!
So, that's my incorrect and probably incomplete history done. How was it for you? Any of it familiar? Did you love any of them more than me? Did I miss a gem? Do you want to buy me a pint?
This brings us, bored & wheezing, to the conclusion.
EA are going to make Star Wars titles. DICE are going to be involved. DICE manufacture the Battlefield series. It's not unimaginable that DICE will revisit Battlefront. Is this good?
I hope so. I really, really do. I'd love a huge, immersive, multi-faceted shooter based in the Star Wars universe. I'd love to defend trenches on the ice planet Hoff with 60-odd other random loons online, as speeders scream overhead and AT-ATs rake our position with heavy fire. Yes please.
I'd love to watch someone struggle to manoeuvre a capital ship into position to defend evacuating troop carriers, while the opposing team throw wave after wave of TIE fighters at us, Star Destroyers appearing at the edge of the system making the whole scene more urgent & tense. Oh yes.
Are these things even possible? Marrying tactical space combat with solid FPS play, depending on each other to complete the overall picture? Or am I woefully optimistic about what can be achieved in our fantastic gaming age? I don't know, I'm too stupid.
Planetside 2 is doing OK, it seems, albeit with an inescapable impenetrability that seems to hold it back from being what it could be. But any game with such depth is bound to be difficult to get to grips with, right? Or wrong? Will EA, with all its experience with the AAA market, give us a huge experience that is attractive to everyone?
Will the PC, with all its power and increasing popularity, be overlooked once again as the main platform for such wonders?
Will the Star Wars legacy be treated well? Will we get the definitive experience, the one title that all fans, young and old, will look to and say "yes, THAT is what Star Wars is supposed to feel like to me"? Or will we get a generic shooter/strategy game every november until the Sun implodes?
I wish I knew, but I'm quietly optimistic. I want to believe, Yoda. Make it so. Oh wait, that's the other franchise starting with the word 'star'. Sorry. They're so similar. Space and all that.
May the force be with you, sweetheart.
GL & HF!