Star Wars: Battle Pod Let Me Kill Han Solo, Yet I Still Don't Love It

By Ian Dransfield on at

I played the Star Wars: Battle Pod last week, and I think it made me realise two things: one, virtual reality has spoiled immersive experiences for me a bit; two, killing Han Solo doesn't get you showered in the praise you might expect from colleagues.

Battle Pod, which we briefly looked at before, is totally an experiential thing:  it's not made to be a game you put hours into, nor is it an arcade machine taking advantage of any cards or tokens that keep your progress when you're away from the machine.

No, Star Wars: Battle Pod is something the modern arcade has to be – a spectacle. It's impressive from the first time you look at it: a huge, ungainly... well, pod, with a big door you have to enter it through and Star Wars-related decorations littering the outside.

The screen envelops you, the sticks vibrate, air whooshes out from around your feet when you're swooping around in whatever swoop-machine you're in – it's an experience. It's a ride.

It's a very basic on-rails shooter with someone throwing buckets of water over you every now and then while shouting 'whoosh, pew pew pew!', effectively. You can fly the second Death Star attack in the Millennium Falcon, around Endor on a Speeder Bike (yes, with Ewoks everywhere), dart between the legs of an AT-AT on Hoth... but best of all, you can play as Darth Vader in the immediate aftermath of the original Death Star's explosion.

It plays the same as any of the other levels – you hardly have any control (the auto-aim is strong in this one) – but you're Darth mothereffin' Vader, and at the end of the level you get to kill that scoundrel Han Solo and his furry chum Chewbacca.

Just remember that, after you've shot first, you may well get booed by those around you for killing the most charming rogue sci-fi has ever produced. I'm sorry, OK?

I should love it. I should be utterly obsessed – I mean, it brings to life childhood dreams. But I think playing about with VR space shooter EVE Valkyrie or the Oculus Rift version of Elite: Dangerous has sort of spoiled Battle Pod for me.

While the latter two experiences felt revelatory, confusing my brain and making me genuinely drop my jaw in amazement, Star Wars: Battle Pod made me smile mainly because it's Star Wars. Other than that, I could take it or leave it.

Just like Bayonetta ruined all third-person combo-happy games for me by being so incredible, it looks like Oculus and its brethren has ruined one of arcade's last grasps for glory for me too. The home has been able to compete on graphical terms for a long time, and now it can compete on the total immersion front. Damn you, progress.

I do think it's cool and I would say it's fun, but I can't see Star Wars: Battle Pod bringing about the rebirth of the long-dormant arcade scene. It's not the cure for that ailing world; it's a symptom of what it has become.

Battle Pod is quick and showy spectacle; it's the sort of thing that leaves you smiling immediately after you've killed Han Solo, but is forgotten 10 minutes later – unlike some other 'experiential' arcade games you might remember.