It’s been about 28 years since I last played Elite.
The game was a transformative experience; a whole universe contained within a cassette tape and experienced, via my trusty old ZX Spectrum, through a 12” CRT portable TV screen.
Although my copy was without the pilot’s guide user manual (it may have even been a bootleg, sorry David) I gradually got to grips with the complexities of the game and spent many months trading and voyaging the universe.
Three decades later, I want to do it all over again.
The most recent version of the game, Elite: Dangerous, has recently come to Xbox One as part of the Game Preview programme. This is the first time the series has made the journey to console and at E3 last week I got some hands-on time with the Xbox One build and a preview of the new CQC (Close Quarters Combat) mode.
The first thing that sprung to mind as I took my position in the dimly lit demo room was just how similar the game feels to the original. The basics of the game are completely identical; the minutiae of space travel, the trading mechanics, the exploration of the universe… This is Elite.
The biggest concern with the transfer of Elite: Dangerous to console was the migration of the game’s array of keyboard commands to the Xbox One controller. The solution is simple, elegant and once muscle memory takes over, fast. Each of the Xbox One’s face buttons (A,B,X,Y) brings up a different HUD overlay of commands, each of these are mapped to the directions on the controller’s D-pad. Once you have worked out the lay of the land you can switch between commands quickly and effectively. One the Elite ambassadors at the E3 demo could use them so quickly that the HUD didn’t even have time to display before the action was received.
Controls aside, a short time with the game does not do the overall Elite: Dangerous experience any favours. It’s a sprawling, grinding, epic journey that can take months to consume and explore. Nonetheless, I saw enough to know that the game has survived the move to console intact. The Xbox One build itself is certainly impressive, running at a full 1080p and looking beautiful.
Perhaps cognisant that Elite: Dangerous is not your typical console experience Frontier Developments were also keen to show more of the game’s new CQC combat mode.
CQC is a completely separate experience to the main game. It features its own specific spacecraft and control mechanics to ensure that dogfighting in space is as speedy and responsive as it needs to be. The mode certainly looks fun, evoking everything from Star Wars to the combat sequences in the recent Battlestar Galactica series. CQC offers a variety of interesting environments and space stations to weave among, offering plenty of cat-and-mouse gameplay opportunities. All in all it looks to be an worthwhile addition to the game’s feature set.
The continual evolution of Elite: Dangerous was mentioned often at the E3 demo. In addition to the game’s recent Powerplay expansion there is more free content on the horizon that will expand the game, answering some of the accusations around lack of substance.
With the likes of Star Citizen, No Man’s Sky and even Star Fox Zero offering their own takes on space exploration and combat, the genre is suddenly a little crowded. But there is nothing quite like Elite, and the Xbox One version should open the game up to a whole new audience.
For me, it was just a pleasure to sit in the cockpit once again, stare into the inky blackness of space and begin a new adventure. It felt familiar. And it felt good.
As Han Solo said recently, ‘We’re home.’
We hate to ask, but...
Thumbsticks has a couple of goals. We want to write interesting articles and cover games that most outlets won't, and we want to give opportunities to new writers and new voices. And right now, with the current state of online publishing? It's tough to meet those goals! We hate to ask, but if you want us to continue writing what others won't, or to keep covering weird indie games, or to be able to give opportunities to new writers – and only if you can afford it – then please consider supporting us on Patreon.
Recommended for you
Latest from Thumbsticks
New Xbox releases for July 26-30, 2021
Microsoft Flight Simulator and The Ascent headline the list of new games coming to Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.
Battlefield 2042 beta set for September
Players can try out Battlefield 2042 this September ahead of an October launch.
Mario Golf: Super Rush review
Mayhem and mushrooms make Mario Golf: Super Rush another multiplayer delight for the Nintendo Switch.
Dead Space, Battlefield Portal and everything else at EA Play Live
Have you got those post-E3 blues? EA Play Live has you covered with a short presentation that packed a punch.
More great games join Xbox Game Pass from today
Microsoft Flight Simulator and Cris Tales are among the games joining Xbox Game Pass this month.
Hades wins big at the Game Developers Choice Awards
Hades and Ghost of Tsushima are the big winners at the 2021 Game Developers Choice Awards.
Umurangi Generation wins Grand Prize at the Independent Games Festival Awards
Umurangi Generation and Genesis Noir are among the winners at the 2021 Independent Games Festival Awards.
Pro Evolution Soccer is now eFootball in free-to-play shake-up
PES has gone free-to-play and it's got a new name to... stand out?