Great video games have come out of the original Star Wars Trilogy. A few decent games were made based on the prequel trilogy. So far, the newest trilogy hasn’t lead to any halfway decent games, and that’s a shame. It isn’t a matter of the source material either, because the largely reviled film, The Phantom Menace, inspired one of the best Star Wars games in history, Star Wars Episode 1: Racer Now, podracing is going to be cool forever, so I think it would be wise for Electronic Arts to consider the viability of producing a podracing game for current or next generation systems.
The original title is beloved for many reasons. For one, it had a sensation of speed that few games could create at that time. The fragility of the vehicles underscored this speed, to create a sense of danger. The courses were perilous, blending clean stretches and lofty jumps with narrow canyons and obstacles. All the while, competition was also trying to take you out. The game featured a large cast with iconic vehicles that just begged to be unlocked. It’s pure, simple, and well-crafted and I see no reason that the formula couldn’t work today.
Recently, a CG Artist named Rob Jin created a demo of how a podracing game might work in Unreal Engine 4. The demo was quickly taken down, but video footage remains. This video footage is a beautifully rendered nostalgia trip and, while watching it, I could swear that I could feel a controller in my hands. My fingers twitched against my palms, emulating the game’s inputs. I didn’t play the game, yet somehow came out of the video feeling like I had experienced gameplay in some manner. That’s how precise the original controls were, that’s how powerful nostalgia is, and that’s how ravenous my newfound hunger for this hypothetical game is.
Electronic Arts is in a good place to create a game like this and, based on responses to the demo, the company absolutely should. For starters, it has studios that could handle the challenge. Need for Speed games have become sprawling affairs, but they still feel fast. If the open world nature of the speedy arcade sims were refined and distilled into a linear series of tracks, it is likely that the company, who is the only major company touching the Star Wars ip right now, could finally churn out a game worth playing. After the failures with the Star Wars Battlefront games and multiple cancelations of other, relatively unknown Star Wars titles, EA could use a win.
I would hope that EA had also learned a thing or two about microtransactions from the whole Battlefront kerfuffle. Unlocking items and vehicles is fun; it’s an emotional hook that pulls a player through a game. It would be a shame to see that side of gameplay go away only to be replaced with DLC. Worse, if it remained, but was disincentivized by an oppressive material grind. The closer this hypothetical game stays to the spirit of the original, the better.
Of course, there would be changes required to really make the game excel. Podracing is chaos. Online multiplayer is chaos. I’d love to see a dozen players or so careen around the tracks, fighting for positioning only to misjudge their opponent and explode. There could be a story mode that helps expand on current Star Wars lore. What is going on in the galaxy, away from the central conflict of the films? And hey, it’s 2019, so you just know that they’re going to throw vehicle customization in there if a game like this should happen.
It just seems so easy and obvious at this point. Electronic Arts needs a win and fans deserve a good Star Wars game. It doesn’t even have to be a big budget game, honestly. I’d settle for a smaller, downloadable experience. Honestly, I’m just desperate for something at this point.