The Star Wars Battlepod arcade game was first unveiled last October during Namco Bandai’s press show at the New York Comic Con. At the time, President and Chief Executive for Namco Bandai Amusement America John McKenzie called it an experience that hardcore Star Wars fans had to try out.
“Star Wars Battle Pod offers a real sense of flight combat action and delivers an authentic flying experience as if players are actually sitting in the cockpit of a battle pod in the Star Wars universe,” McKenzie said. “Players can experience the impact of the explosions and destruction that will leave them with a sense of actually piloting and taking part in action-packed scenes from the films.”
31st March 2015 - Reviewer: KingofMetal79 (James Bridcut)
Fast forward 6 months and the cabinets have started rolling of the production line and turning up in arcades.
On first inspection you will instantly notice that the control panel, seat and screen is completely enclosed inside a semi-transparent cabinet (or pod as you will). The 'pod' is designed to be instant arcade eye candy and each one contains a giant, curved screen that is designed to cover the player's entire field of vision, a thunderous sound system and several '4D' style effects (air blowers, seat vibrations etc) - similar to Namco's Mach Storm. All of these hardware elements lead to a great immersive experience. On the tech 'nerd' side Namco have stated that the game is the first arcade to be made using Unreal Engine 4 and runs at the equivalent of 1080p@60FPS.
On entering the pod the player is greeted by the obligatory sports car seat and a control panel that houses a flight stick and a throttle lever. Once the player inserts the required coins they are presented with a choice of 5 different levels/scenarios based on famous scenes from the original trilogy with varying degrees of difficulty. Namco has stated that upgrades and additional content can be added at a later date via a USB port on the machine. In addition they have been very coy regarding questions relating to further The Force Awakens based levels when it is released at the end of the year. Regardless of what does or doesn't happen further down the track I can confirm at launch the levels are as follows:
Trench Run/Battle of Yavin (New Hope)- Easy Difficulty
Hoth Battle/Rebel Transport - (ESB) - Medium Difficulty
Endor Forest Battle - (ROTJ)- Medium Difficulty
Death Star 2 Assault - (ROTJ) - Hard Difficulty
Vaders Revenge - (New Hope?) Extreme Difficulty
In my brief stint with the game I decided to play the comfortably fimiliar (and obligatory) trench run level.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise to any arcade veterans that the game is an 'On-the-rails' shooter. While the gameplay maybe basic and simply not really much more than a modern reworking of the early Star Wars vector/arcade games it is very immersive and truly exhilarating - an unique experience that couldn't be simulated at home. The graphics and framerate are very sharp and the sound system is also top notch. It's also worth noting that there is an energy meter that depletes when you shoot you cannons. When it reaches bottom you cant fire and you have to wait for the meter to recharge. This prevents players from simple holding the trigger down and requires you to be a bit more accurate and frugal with you gunfire.
That said there were a few elements that could be improved and most notibly of these are the limited camera views and seemingly pointless throttle. The game has just two camera views both of which from the first person perspective. However, the only apparent difference between the two is that one 'frames' the screen with a graphic to create the illusion you are in that particular craft's cockpit. Then there is the throttle; while a nice addtion to the cabinet that really adds to sense of immersion the game strives for it seemed to have little impact on the gameplay at least on the level I played. Throttle control hopefully plays a greater part on later levels with the likes of speeder bikes etc (for example remember Luke outwitting a couple of Biker Scout with the blast of the brake/throttle in ...Jedi?). Furthermore there is an element of auto-aim with the shooting that while making it a little more accessible for some younger players does reduce the overall difficulty and skill required.
Overall, I really loved the game and it was reminiscent of the classic Atari Star Wars cab certainly in terms of the way it made me feel. I'm looking forward to playing it again soon. I just wish it wasn't £2 a go.
NB - In time I will upload futher videos of me playing the other levels.