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Watch an hour of Star Citizen's campaign, Squadron 42

Hobbes is still the best wingman

Despite reports of a brewing legal struggle between Star Citizen studio Cloud Imperium Games and one-time engine partners Crytek, the enormously crowdfunded studio have released another big chunk of gameplay footage, this time focused solely on Squadron 42, the story-driven singleplayer campaign mode. It's a broad mix of gameplay styles, showing off everything from dialogue to dogfighting, some zero-G EVA exploration and a chunk of planetary on-foot stealthy action.

If nothing else, it features an eerily accurate digital recreation of Liam Cunningham - the tip of a star-studded iceberg - looking a little less crispy around the edges than he did in Game of Thrones, although no less world-weary.

I must admit, it's getting closer and closer to what a mega-budget Wing Commander sequel looks like in my imagination. One of the only things holding this chunk of footage back from being truly impressive is the performance, with some quite significant stutters as it caches and loads data. Presumably this is all captured on a top-spec development machine as well, which implies there's a lot more optimization work to be done.

Cover image for YouTube video

Still, it's probably a good sign if that's the worst of my complaints at this point. The game looks shockingly pretty, if a little grim and militaristic in its colour palette. While I don't doubt that lesser PCs are going to have to sacrifice a few of the nicer bells and whistles in order to get a smooth performance, the consistent art direction of the game is finally shining through.

One little design quirk I find especially interesting is the choice to have your protagonist's internal monologue echo your dialogue choices before speaking. I'm reminded a little of the orbiting thought-bubbles from Heavy Rain, although perhaps not quite as ham-fisted. The end result here is an interesting juxtaposition between what your character wants to say and what they end up actually vocalizing, and I wonder whether they'll be used to any clever effect later on in the game.

If you want a little more insight into what you're seeing in this footage, there's a second version of the video available, dense with developer commentary picking apart and explaining. They are at least quite honest about the performance issues, so that's something.

Star Citizen's Squadron 42 campaign was originally included as standard with all copies of the game, but is now planned to be a separate release. Despite this sounding like an excuse to sell you the same game twice, a glance at the storefront for the game reveals that the solo campaign is currently a $15 purchase on top of the $45 base price for the MMO-ish 'core' game (the part with the absurdly expensive digital spaceships), which seems a little more reasonable and priced on par with most other AAA games.

So, are any of you feeling a little less skeptical about Star Citizen? It's been a long road with no shortage of controversies, but I feel like the game is finally starting to look like something developed with a $150m budget, and the first high budget space combat game that we've seen in a very long time.

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Squadron 42

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Dominic Tarason