Star Wars: Squadrons – “Hunted”

With EA’s new game Star Wars: Squadrons just weeks away, we were treated this week to a 7 minute long CG short on YouTube focusing on Varko Grey, Squadron Leader of Titan Squadron and a character we will meet during the Imperial side of the game’s story mode. Though not likely to figure in the game itself (I imagine there will be references to it, but it won’t be a playable mission), the short, produced by Industrial Light & Magic tells its own story to help set the scene ahead of the mission, while also being a fun little story of its own. So, I thought I would take a chance to have a quick look at this and treat it similar to my episode reviews.

Plot Summary

The short opens in the midst of a space battle above the planet Var-Shaa, where Imperial forces are trying to hold off a New Republic attack on their orbital station. Varko Grey leads a squadron of TIEs to form up on him in an attack run, but gets a message from his commander, Terisa Kerrill, who informs him that the station is lost and orders him to break off the attack. The fighters disengage and make their way back to the Star Destroyer Overseer, but Grey laments another defeat on the way.

Grey overhears a transmission from Titan Three, whose bomber is under attack from 3 A-wings and will likely not make it back to the Overseer before it jumps to hyperspace, Kerrill being unwilling to risk the loss of another Star Destroyer by waiting for every last fighter. Grey returns to the battle and takes out the A-wings pursuing Titan Three, but as they continue towards the Overseer, an X-wing destroys Titans Three and damages Grey’s TIE Interceptor. With the Overseer about to jump to hyperspace, Grey transfers full power to the engines and begins weaving through the debris, but the Star Destroyer jumps to hyperspace just seconds before Grey can reach the hangar.

With Grey left alone against the New Republic fleet, he completely powers down his fighter and lets it drift amongst the debris, hoping that the fleet will not notice him before they leave. However, one X-wing – the same one that shot down Titan Three – makes its way through the debris, hunting for survivors.

Grey power his fighter back up and fires a volley at the X-wing, which evades it. Grey tries to escape by entering the planet’s atmosphere, but is pursued by the X-wing. Grey survives multiple attacks, including a missile, while utilising cloud cover and his Interceptor’s superior manoeuvrability to get a hit on the X-wing, destroying it’s R2 unit.

The chase continues into a canyon, with Grey dodging both the X-wing’s shots and debris from the battle above. As the damage to Grey’s ship intensifies, the X-wing lands a hit that causes damage in the cockpit, leading to Grey removing his helmet for better visibility. The canyon leads to a lake and Grey uses his Interceptor’s engines to shoot up a wall of water. The X-wing passes through this and the pilot, blinded momentarily by the water on his canopy, does not see the rock wall until he is too close to pull up and crashes into it. Heavily damaged, the engines of Grey’s Interceptor cut out and the fighter plunges into the lake.

Grey crawls onto the shore of the lake and sits there remembering a transmission from the X-wing pilot as they passed through the canyon, telling him the war’s over. The radio in Grey’s helmet cmes to life as Titan Squadron come into view, looking for their Squadron Leader. As Grey makes his way over to Titan Squadron, he tells the memory of the X-wing pilot “It’s not over yet. Not for me.”

Review

I absolutely loved this! I used to love watching the cinematic trailers for Star Wars: The Old Republic and its expansions, each of which told their own story, and this is somewhat reminiscent of that, a short story created as a trailer for an upcoming game. I would honestly love to see a handful of CG shorts produced every year for Star Wars that were not trailers to games but perhaps related to some of the games and other content – imagine how great it would be to see something similar following a pilot during the Battle of Jakku!

As is always the case with Star Wars trailers and games, the footage looks fantastic! The Battle looks incredibly detailed and chaotic, while there were some shots that really stood out to me in the form of the station being destroyed, Grey on the lake shore and the final shot after he puts his helmet back on, where you can see the reflection of the arriving TIEs in his visor. I also thought that it was very clever to have Grey take off his helmet during the short, while the X-wing pilot was kept as faceless as possible with the use of the visor – it did a great job of having us feel sorry for Titan Three and Grey and think of the New Republic as the enemy.

While the short works very well on it’s own, there were some very clever nods towards the upcoming game. Of the 8 ships we will get to play as in the game, the only one I haven’t been able to find in the footage is the U-wing, while Grey’s drift turn in the clouds is a move the trailers have shown we will be able to do. Grey’s setup inside the cockpit is very similar to what we will see as well, with the targeting screen, radar and ship health all looking very much like what we will be using when we fly in the TIEs. We also see the use of a countermeasure that allowed Grey to send the missile back against the X-wing (a countermeasure confirmed for the game) and also saw him changing the system balance towards the engines for extra speed, another function we will have in the game.

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What did you think of the short? Does it get you more excited for Squadrons?

Thanks for reading.

Red Five, standing by!

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