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Star Wars Battlefront 2's space battles could do with a little George Lucas

Why DICE and EA could do with loosening up a little for the sequel.

Star Wars Battlefront 2, and its all-new space battles, demand absolutely nothing of you. Maybe a couple of rounds to figure out the spectacularly counter-intuitive flight controls, if you're anything like me - but nothing else.

And I quite like that. Just hop into your immaculately rendered cockpit, pootle around a shimmering, faultless vertical slice of far-away galaxy and shoot some nice, canonical lasers - maybe you might do the noises yourself - wac-wac, wac-wac-wac (that's an X-Wing, obviously), but not if you don't want you. This is your space. You destroy some ships, then fly inside the bigger ship, then blow up some bits on the outside of the other ship, just in time for the bombers to arrive. Basic and maybe a bit shallow but always fun and never controversial. Just like it was when you were younger, you whisper to yourself. It's all just like it was.

The upshot is that much of Battlefront 2's space combat feels tremendous. The Millennium Falcon, for example, is heavy, meaty, and brash, its thundering exhausts and thronging lasers the cavalier extension of its pilot. One of the Hero units that you now unlock the chance to play by earning points within a round - a much better system than pegging it to the pickup's spawn point that we had in the last Battlefront - it won't quite be every game that you get to play with the Falcon, but it feels much more rewarding when you do.

Space battles now follow a similar format to those on the ground, too. It's a tad formulaic: shoot the big ships, fly inside the bigger ships and shoot some bits in there, then come back outside and shoot some more external bits (probably powering a shield?) and repeat. It's fun and breezy and absolutely canonically sensible. I haven't checked, and I won't, but I could tell you with complete certainty that all the little bits and bobs I'm hurtling past whilst making those X-Wing noises will have appeared for a least a tenth of a second in some form of official canon.

But where's the risk? Where's the nonsense? I think we've become more than a little bogged down in the specifics - and I say "we", because I genuinely believe Disney, and EA, and DICE are all just reacting to what we think we want - everything has to be exactly like it was, not a midichlorian out of place. Heaven forbid what the fans might say otherwise! It's what makes games like the last Battlefront, whilst charmingly simple, also feel cold, and shallow, and a little empty. Battlefront 2, just like the previous, is trying so hard to be exactly like you remembered - and it's doing such a good job of it - that it's tumbling into the Uncanny Valley right next to the real thing. A lot like digitally recreating a legendary, deceased actor's likeness without their consent, instead of having a bit of respect for the dead, or just showing the faintest sign of creative invention and working around their very inconvenient unavailability.

It's easy to forget that Star Wars, and subsequently much of pop and video game culture, is built on a man's peerlessly absurd fever dream of an imagination. Han Solo was going to have a big blue collar and green skin, and gills. The Wookies were going to be in the space battles. Ewoks are actually in a film. We've all heard those stories, but we, and the army of brand-guardians that watch over all newly-produced Star Wars 'content', still like to gloss over the weird bits like the entire prequel trilogy because, as well as being categorically terrible crimes against cinema, they're also hard to contain within the confines of a safely-managed brand. But they're also Star Wars in it's purest form. George Lucas' childish hallucinations on tap, straight from the source. And they're perfect for video games, the cousin that's too weird to hang out with cinema anyway.

Battlefront 2, despite some of the more marketable assets like Darth Maul and CGI Yoda creeping out from the license basement, is still very much a product of the sanitised, revisionist take on Star Wars. The fact that characters and places from the prequels are being slowly introduced means that Star Wars games could be getting back to that weird and wonderful place, gradually. I wish they'd hurry up.

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