High Horse is a rotating opinion column in which GamesRadar editors and guest writers are invited to express their personal thoughts on games, the people who play them and the industry at large.
Yeah, I was there with you. Everyone was. We saw the Wii remote, we saw Zelda, we saw trailers for Red Steel, and our mind all went to the same place: Star Wars. “Finally,” we whispered in one collective breath, “they’ll finally make the lightsaber game we’ve always wanted.”
But they didn’t. And we complained. Zelda’s motion controls amounted to waggle, Red Steel sucked, and the Star Wars games on the Wii never gave full 1:1 control of the lightsaber. “WHYYYY!!!111” we posted on forums, “WHY DON’T THEY JUST MAKE THE LIGHTSABER GAME? IT’S SO OBVIOUS! WHY ARE THEY STUPID?!” These sentiments filled every comment thread on every review. We all got together and huffed and puffed, acting like we knew better than all of the game developers in the world. They, for whatever reason, refused to make the 1:1 lightsaber game we wanted.
But guess what: they were right, and we were wrong. Wrong, and sort of naive. 1:1 sword controls sound great as a premise, but in practice they’re actually completely impossible. Even if we ignore the input lag, there are a number of really obvious reasons why that 1:1 lightsaber game you wouldn’t shut the hell up about wouldn’t have worked this generation – and might not ever actually be possible.
Let’s break down exactly what we want from a 1:1 lightsaber game, so we can see why it’s absolutely stupid. First, let’s take the most common scenario: fighting Stormtroopers (or droids or whatever). In your mind, you see yourself cleaving apart dozens of enemies as you run through the stage with your trusty saber in hand. Vwiiiiiing. Vwiiiiiing. Clash clash clash!
That’s your fantasy. It’s cool; it’s mine, too.
But in reality, you’d cleave apart like seven, and then start tweeting about how much your arm hurts. Remember when the Wii first came out and people complained about “Wii elbow”? Remember when you played Boom Blox and your arm hurt for a week? Remember when Red Steel 2 actually gave you fairly good controls but you had to stop playing every 30 minutes because you felt like your arm was going to fall off?
That’s because swinging your arm around a lot exerts a lot of energy, and you’d get sore pretty quickly if you did it for more than a few minutes at a time. Most reviewers who played Deadmund’s Quest, Sony’s recently-released Move-enabled sword-fighting game, praised the 1:1 sword fighting for being the best in its class, but complained about the fact that they had to swing so hard to attack enemies. Deadmund’s Quest took its swordplay seriously – if you swung too slowly, the game would gently ask you to swing harder. Problem is, that’s the only way to make it work; it’s just something you have to do. You’re not going to cut things apart by swinging slowly. You need to swing hard, you need to hack, you need to slash, and that gets painful fast.
But wait! What about lightsaber battles with other Sith and Jedi! That’s where the fun is, right?
No, that would be even worse. First of all, you’re not a freaking swordsman. You’re (most likely) not a kendo master, and your parents (probably) never let you sign up for fencing. You may imagine yourself standing in your living room, having an epic lightsaber battle like the ones in the films, but it would likely look more like a caveman trying to bash another caveman with a club.
Oh, and there’s no feedback, either. Lightsaber battles are one percent hitting, 50 percent missing the enemy, and 49 percent clashing sabers. You’d have no saber to clash with. You’d just keep swinging, thus completely and utterly negating the point of the 1:1 battle to begin with. Unless rumble suddenly takes a generational leap forward and is so powerful that it honestly feels like you’re hitting something, you’d just swing your arm around like you’re playing Wii Music.
Maybe in the next generation, someone will develop a videogame controller that makes this possible. Maybe the Kinect 2, the Move+, or the Wii-U will suddenly change motion controls forever. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll have the lightsaber game you want before you die. But as of now, your best bet is going to the store and getting a few of the plastic lightsabers and having battles with your friends – which, to be honest, is actually a ton of fun, and likely better than anything you’ll see from a game within the next decade.