A hail of green laser fire rips precariously near my X-Wing’s cockpit as I rocket through the particles of a downed Star Destroyer. A TIE Fighter provides chase, and my astromech system signals me that a rocket strike impends. I put my X-Wing into a spin and dive through a narrow space in the wreckage, narrowing scraping a wall. In this minute, the Star Wars dream of piloting an X-Wing screams with enjoyment, demonstrating how delighting the dogfighting in between the Rebellion and Empire can be. Developer Motive Studios has actually produced a wonderful multiplayer experience that has the visual information and edge-of-your-seat delights of Star Wars’ impressive area fights, however just fires direct hits in the online area, having a hard time to mesmerize with both its single-player material.

Star Wars: Squadrons is set after Return of the Jedi, with the 2nd Death Star spread to universes and the Empire pulling away while trying to find methods to strike back at the Rebels. This period provides us the cool ship styles from the initial motion picture trilogy, however with more firepower than Luke Skywalker had at his fingertips. Whether I remained in an A-Wing in a hunter function versus a TIE Interceptor or a Y-Wing on a battle run versus an Imperial flagship, each craft feels unique and is a blast to manage. The motion is so smooth and accurate that you can avoid along the surface area of an asteroid and securely snake through a spaceport station’s interior without denting the hull. And even if you do, the video game is forgiving in damage, permitting you to rapidly remedy the flight course.

Unlike most area shooters, Squadrons is just playable from the first-person point of view. This is an odd style offered simply how renowned these ships are, however the locked perspective makes good sense offered the number of systems the gamer needs to keep an eye on at any offered time. Rather than cluttering the HUD with these meters, the majority of them show up within the ship’s cockpit, and they all operate very well, enabling fast keeps reading ammunition, radar, and most significantly, how power is well balanced throughout the ship. With a click of a button, the gamer can change the power to prefer guards, weapons, or speed. I was continuously changing for numerous requirements, and it constantly feels excellent to get that additional increase in the thrusters or to rattle off more laser blasts to down a TIE or A-Wing.

The loadouts of each of the 8 ships can likewise be fine-tuned in a variety of methods, such as changing a stable laser to rupture fire or quiting hull stability for guards. The variety of elements that can be switched is relatively deep, permitting the gamer to fine-tune efficiency in a variety of tactical and rewarding methods.

No matter what ship I was piloting, the individually fights versus other player-controller ships are usually extreme. These battles can be rather long, as the targeted vessel can dash, dance every which method through chaotic airspace to evade laser fire, and possibly get the upper hand and begin firing back. If an opponent is shielded and at full health, you’re in for a good fight. Missiles will be dodged with countermeasures, and repair kits used to get health back. The maps are also nicely designed, providing surprisingly cluttered areas for the harrowing chases and open space that can be used to lure enemies into traps if you are coordinating with your teammates.

The online multiplayer in Squadrons is limited to just two avenues of play: Dogfight, which is wildly fun and is determined by kill count, and Fleet Battles, the heart and soul of this experience that delivers awesome wars of attrition. Fleet Battles flow to a moving front that forces you into offensive and defensive positions. Victory is achieved when your opponent’s flagship is destroyed, which takes time; victory can come down to barely visible slivers of health on both opposing flagships.

Both multiplayer modes are 5v5 conflicts. The small number works well for dogfighting, since the maps accommodate it. Fleet Battles could use more players, but the scale feels massive thanks to the healthy presence of A.I.-controlled ships, many of the larger variety. Both modes deliver plenty of exhilarating dogfighting moments, gorgeous backdrops to fly against, and iconic Star Wars music and sounds to set the tone.

After a match concludes, experience points are accumulated and currency is handed out to purchase new cosmetic items for both your ship and pilot, including goofy bobbleheads which are always viewable in the cockpit. The player can use a different earned currency to buy new ship components to add even more depth to the loadouts.

 

I love EA’s stance of not having microtransactions or DLC, but the well of unlockable cosmetics is surprisingly shallow, and relies too heavily on alternate colors for the same item. I only had my eye on around a dozen items, and the unlock time isn’t extensive. While multiplayer is great on its own and has depth in just being fun to play, not having that carrot dangled in front of you to get new stuff you care about hurts the drive to play more.

While Squadrons’ single-player campaign introduces a number of cool Star Wars characters, most of the story is told as they stand around in a hangar or at the briefing table. It doesn’t have much of a pulse, even though the narrative setup of a mysterious “Starhawk” project is quite good and remains an intriguing focus point for the entire arc. When plot is delivered mid-flight, the dialogue is rough and lacks impact, and certain moments could be framed more clearly.

Flying all of the ships in the single-player experience remains enjoyable, but the enemy A.I. doesn’t put up a good fight, and is the worst part of the entire game. The A.I. pathing is also a mess. Watching a TIE Fighter fly directly into an asteroid and then slowly spin on its axis to get free made me cringe. Some of the set pieces are good, but most of the campaign missions play out like mini tutorials, teaching new tactics even late into the game.

All of Squadrons’ content is fully playable in VR, and is a perfect fit for this medium. Through a headset, the battles feel like they are much larger in scale (even though they’re exactly the same as on TV), and I loved being able to sneak a quick glance at my astromech unit whenever it chirped. A variety of flight sticks are also supported, though I did not play with one for my review. EA included a full suite of accessibility options, and crossplay is supported for all systems, including VR.

Squadrons’ single-player may fizzle out frequently like a malfunctioning hyperdrive motivator, but the multiplayer continually impresses and is worth the price of entry alone. Flying in formation with a group of friends put a smile on my face, and that was just the calm before the storm. When the lasers begin flying, Squadrons’ multiplayer can be nothing short of exhilarating and a great test of skill, pushing players to be clever in the cockpit to outthink and outmaneuver opponents. Given just how enjoyable it is to pilot an X-Wing or TIE Fighter, this is a multiplayer experience I will continually go back to, even if EA doesn’t support it with new content. It’s just fun to play, supplying something different compared to the majority of today’s competitive video games.