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Star Wars: Squadrons is excellent — here are 3 other games simulation fans deserve

Star Wars: Squadrons nails the feeling of being inside a starfighter. The effect is even better when you’re in virtual reality.

In my mind, this proves that modern gaming technology is finally able to meet the creative minds at Lucasfilm on a level playing field. Electronic Arts’ Motive Studios has made X-wings and TIE fighters not only accessible, but has turned them into a platform for skilled players to use in creating their own Star Wars adventures. So why stop at spaceships?

Simulation games and the fans who love them are ready to support new experiences set inside the Star Wars universe. More importantly, EA has the expertise on hand to make these games happen — from the screen-accurate renders of props, costumes, and miniatures to the creative minds behind franchises like Burnout and Need for Speed.

Here are three games that I — and many other simulation nerds like me — would love to be able to play.

Star Wars: Speeder Bike Simulator

A pro-painted miniature of an Imperial speeder bike and scout trooper from Star Wars: Legion at Gen Con in 2017.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Why isn’t there a Road Rash-style racing game about a swoop gang doing underground racing through the mean streets of Corellia? Say what you will about Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’s furry little guerrilla fighters. In my mind, the real stars of the show are the Imperial scout troopers and their high-performance speeder bikes. What I wouldn’t give to pilot one of those things in the first person!

VR systems like the Valve Index and the HTC Vive — even the latest Oculus Rift — have the motion controls they need to make the experience enjoyable. Imagine leaning forward over your bike’s handlebars, using the grip triggers to take your hand off and manipulate the little sliders and dials on the dashboard with your virtual fingertips. You deftly adjust the power settings, and then take off at top speed through the forest moon of Endor.

Coming upon a group of Rebels, you reach down to your ankle holster, pull out your tiny little holdout blaster, and take aim while steering with your off hand. When your power cells are empty, just throw on the brakes and open up with your bike’s main gun.

There’s no reason to limit the game to the Imperial perspective, either. Swoops are common in the prequel trilogy, all of the animated TV shows, and even in The Mandalorian. Once players have mastered the basic gameplay loops of managing their systems and actually controlling their bikes, you can place them almost anywhere in the canonical timeline.

Star Wars: AT Pilot

AT-AT pilots on approach to Echo Base in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
Image: Lucasfilm/Disney

There’s an entire genre of simulation that EA hasn’t really spent much time with and, for lack of a better term, I’m going to call it the Euro Truck Simulator Genre. Within that category fall a ton of different experiences, however, including train simulators, farming simulators, big rig simulators, and even some parts of existing spacefaring simulators.

If you’re looking for a deep-space version of the wildly popular Spintires series, look no further than the Star Wars universe’s many two- and four-legged walkers. I’m talking about all-terrain vehicles like the AT-AT and the AT-ST — also known as the “chicken walker.”

I would love to be inducted into the Imperial ground transportation corps. There I would cut my teeth on smaller, scout versions like the AT-RT. That tiny little walker has handlebars, just like a speeder bike, but lifts the rider up off the ground on two mechanical legs. From there, I would graduate to the larger AT-ST, and later to the massive, multi-crew AT-AT.

There are so many places where these massive four-legged machines are simply part of the background, so why not bring them to life? Sure, you could participate in the Battle of Hoth, but what’s it like to drive these things in the deserts of Jakku, through the jungles of Dagobah, or the dense urban environments of Coruscant? Honestly, even if developers built the game around the cargo-hauling AT-ACT walkers from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, fans of games like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen would show up in droves.

Reboot Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, you cowards

Anakin and Sebulba neck-and-neck in the third and final lap of the Boonta Eve Classic in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Image: Lucasfilm/Disney

The reaction to the Star Wars prequel movies has always been mixed. For every Jar Jar Binks hater there’s a Darth Maul stan, and even painfully awkward on-screen chemistry can’t completely invalidate the story arc of Anakin and Padme. Here’s hoping the troubled production of the live-action Obi-Wan biopic gets sorted out. But, while we wait for that … someone should really remake Star Wars Episode I: Racer.

A recent remaster leaves Racer as the sole surviving member of an entire generation of Star Wars video games. What the game truly deserves is a next-generation upgrade — including proper VR support.

In Squadrons, when you come at an enemy starfighter head-on and blow them out of the sky, your reward is the tinkling sound of their blasted bits cascading over the surface of your own ship. The effect — thanks to Motive’s excellent use of binaural audio — is striking. Now, imagine that kind of audio detail being part of the feedback in a modern podracer. Let’s get the audio engineers that make franchises like Burnout sound so good working on a new fleet of podracers.

Just imagine coming through that big left turn in the Boonta Eve classic, your left-hand engine dragging along the ground kicking up dust and gravel. That’s your cue to pull back on the throttle on that left side. There’s a rattle that you can just barely hear, but it’s hard to see on the far right side of your right-hand engine. Do you chance putting the pedal down? Or do you pull back, save the ship, and live to race another day? That’s when Sebulba comes charging at you from behind, the weird throb of his engines letting you know that the race is on in the final straightaway.

These are just a few of the potential opportunities for the Star Wars franchise following the success of Star Wars: Squadrons. Obviously, the best outcome here would be a more fleshed-out sequel to the starfighter game itself. But there are plenty of skilled developers that would love to get their shot at a simulation game set in a galaxy far, far away. And I, for one, would love to see what they come up with.

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