Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR Mission is an ideal, thrilling taster for virtual reality

DICE’s free Battlefront bonus is shaping up excellently.

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At this early stage of virtual reality’s modern revival, it makes sense that the games are short and sweet, rather than lengthy big budget productions. The cynical reason for this is the uncertainty of VR’s immediate future following the launches of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and the imminent release of PlayStation VR.

Studios don’t want to invest heavily in games for systems that may flop, but they also see the potential in virtual reality. They also know the role popular IPs can play in helping VR take off and hit the mainstream.

This is why at E3 2016, Sony showed off its PlayStation VR headset with a lot of big-name IPs; including Final Fantasy 15, Batman Arkham and Star Wars Battlefront tie-ins and spin-offs. I played the latter at Gamescom, and in many ways it’s an ideal VR launch title.

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It’s short, sweet and relatively simple for the team at DICE to put together, but offers the developers a chance to learn the VR ropes. It also showcases VR’s potential for gaming in a fun way made more accessible by the famous license.

The premise is simple: Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission will be a free update for the PS4 version of DICE’s shooter Star Wars Battlefront, that tasks players with a single mission in which they pilot an X-Wing.

The X-Wing controls as it does in the main game, so really this simply elaborates on the first person view available already. It may feel similar in terms of how it controls, but the addition of VR adds a lot to the experience.

Before the mission begins we were presented with our X-Wing, and a handful of points around it that we could jump to take a look at the wonderfully-detailed vehicle model. Two of those points takes us up the ladder and into the X-Wing, where we can take a look around the cockpit before setting off on the mission.

That mission is as you’d expect: TIE fighters are coming and the Rebellion needs to fend them off before they bring down an important transport ship. There’s dialogue and a little set-up to get us there and give players time to get used to flying in VR, but then the action begins.

The thrill of shooting down a TIE fighter improves tenfold in virtual reality, the slow movement feels more natural and being able to physically look around to keep an eye on enemy craft is one of those uncanny moments that will pepper these early days of modern VR.

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After a while taking out TIE fighters, a Star Destroyer started to loom overhead, signalling the next part of the mission, but the end of our demo. If what remains adds further spectacle to the excellent VR dog-fighting, then X-Wing VR Mission is shaping up to be a PSVR must have.

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