We sense something. A presence we haven't felt since - oh, sometime in November 2005, when Star Wars: Battlefront 2 screamed out of hyperspace on a collision course with the original Xbox. As if to stave off the pernicious influence of Kinect Star Wars, the internet is talking itself to a standstill about Star Wars: Battlefront 3.
Some say Sparks Unlimited is leading the charge, citing clandestine meetings with LucasArts (which, by the way, has at least three new games in the works - an RPG, a first-person shooter and a flight sim). Others point to the existence of Star Warsy art assets on the Operation Raccoon City disc as evidence that Slant Six Games is handling the beast. It's also possible that Free Radical, down to develop the game before it went bankrupt in 2008, may have clawed back control of the project following its rebirth as Crytek UK. Could the recent surfacing of a pre-alpha Xbox 360 gameplay video foreshadow an E3 reveal?
And does the franchise have the cajones to compete with the reigning big team shooter crop? Are its shields buff enough to withstand firepower of that magnitude, or are tune-ups necessary? Short answer: of course they are. Long answer is below, in six easy-to-digest instalments.
1. Let us rule the Galaxy online
Battlefront 2's Galactic Conquest mode is an obvious offline precursor to the likes of Armored Core 5's capture-the-territory component, or whatever the hell it was Chromehounds had that flat-lined in 2010. The equally obvious next step, then, would be to take this strategic squabble to Xbox Live, but Sparks/Slant Six/Crytek UK (known henceforth as Sparks Six UK till somebody announces something) need to do more than just plug in the Ethernet.
We want a brace of clan or party options, catering to everybody from the Friday night drop-in to the week-long Republic commander. We want the state of the strategic map to have a decisive impact on individual firefights. We want some sort of resource management aspect - nothing C&C worthy, but meaty enough that we don't feel like we're waging war for bragging rights alone. We want logistics, damn you. We want regular, tournament-style "galactic events" that oblige us to alter our tactics. We want the obligatory competitive and cooperative mode types to feed down into specific planetary stories naturally, without contrivance. We want in-game notifications that alert us to events in the wider universe. We want tonnes of stuff.
2. Make the maps Star-Wars-sized
We also want land maps worthy of Lucas Films' prodigious original sets and special effects sequences. Firing up Battlefront 2 for a nostalgic replay, it's odd how pokey everything feels. Tatooine, for instance, is basically a bathtub full of sand with a granite doughnut sticking out of the middle.
3. Spruce up the space battles
Impressively, the aforesaid distinct shortage of grandiosity also carries over to the space battles, despite the saber-stiffening prospect of taking a Star Destroyer apart from within while a friendly X-Wing pilot tears it up from without. In hindsight, it's the flaccid star fighter handling that's probably to blame, coupled with capital ship defences that couldn't deter a moist breeze. Next time, Spark Six UK, take a few tips from the Freespace series when you're gluing the engines on. And make those Star Destroyers, Calamarian warships and so forth more complicated. Triple the number of Peripheral Bits that need to be detonated, shot or powered-down before the doughty forces of the Repubic/sinister Imperial legions can mount their daring/dastardly assault on the requisite Glowing Energy Core Thing. Lost Planet 2's epic train gun chapter could be a useful precedent.