As much as I love Star Wars and as much as I love virtual reality, I've always been slightly disappointed by Disney's official Star Wars VR offerings.
It's not that they're bad, mind. I've had a lot of fun with them, especially EA's Star Wars: Squadrons. My problem is that they always feel like they do the bare minimum when it comes to immersion or run time.
I think Disney's episodic VR games like the Vader Immortal trilogy are a good example of this. The pitch for that series in particular is great. Use the Force! Shoot blasters! Fight Vader! But, it all comes at the cost of a very slow and plodding adventure that has the pacing speed of a Bantha. When they work, they work. But most of the time they feel like bite sized adventures that were built to pass the time in a queue for a ride at Galaxy's Edge, rather than be an epic space adventure in their own right.
And that's where this week's episode of VR Corner comes in. While this fan-made VR remaster of Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast has a run time of meer minutes, as you'll see in the video above, it shows us the seeds of what a really immersive, Jedi combat VR game could look like. If only Disney allowed the player to be let off the leash a bit, that is.
Don't let the name 'Jedi Outcast VR Fan Remaster' fool you into thinking this is a mod for the original game though. While the developer behind the project is working on recreating levels from the actual game, this demo is fully standalone and more of a teaser of what the full experience could end up playing like.
As the words 'fan remaster' may suggest, this isn't a commercial project either and you can grab the demo for free from their Patreon page. Perhaps to further distance themselves from Disney's legal team, over on their Twitter profile, the developer also describes the project as "a fan desire and an exercise on UE4."
For a short, and often clunky demo though, this VR remaster is incredibly impressive and it gives us a glimpse of how much fun could be had with a Star Wars game that has the confidence to let you off the rails. From dual wielding lightsabers and tossing thermal detonators at Stormtroopers through to aiming down the sights of a Wookie Bowcaster or shooting panels to open doors, it's the freedom to do what you want that makes this experience feel so much more immersive than the official releases.
And on that note, and because no one asked for it, here's my pitch for an actual VR Star Wars game with using this demo as a frame work for the concept.
I'm thinking a series of open-world sandboxes for the levels - a bit like The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners but instead of zombies you'll need to avoid Imperial forces, either by stealthy means, or by killing them all. You'd play as force sensitive petty criminal who gets caught up in some kind of escapade that triggers their journey into full on Jedi warrior. Then, instead of sailing a raft to different areas of New Orleans like in Saints and Sinners, you could jump into your starship and fly at lightspeed to a number of different open world areas set in the Star Wars galaxy. One sandbox could be Mos Eisely, another a small district of Coruscant and so on.
The more you play and level up, the stronger your Jedi powers become. Perhaps in one of the main questlines you could steal and scavenge your way through these areas in order to find the parts needed to construct your own lightsaber and then take it with you for an epic showdown with a Sith antagonist onboard a Star Destroyer.
That's all a pipe dream of course, but the potential for an actual, epic Star Wars VR game that embraces player freedom is massive. As far as I'm aware, no one is even working on an official VR Star Wars game at the moment, but perhaps some fan made demos like this one will finally show Disney the way of the VR Force.