Star Wars: Squadrons has a high skill ceiling. It had to have, really. You only ever leave the cockpit to make loadout adjustments, so Motive needed to pack in a lot of variety between hangar and dashboard. Variety means nuance, and nuance means that it always feels like there’s more to learn. During your first few matches, you’re Bantha fodder. You might get in a couple of kills if you’re lucky. Here’s the thing, though: even if you only get one, that single kill will feel like such a thrilling, authentic, fantasy-fulfilling Star Wars experience that it’s going to make all those deaths instantly worth it.
Star Wars: Squadrons – A+ Squadrons is primarily a competitive multiplayer game. Sure, it has a story, which is about eight hours long, and is basically just Star Wars doing a Star Wars. You like Star Wars though, don’t you? You probably do, because you’re reading about a Star Wars game – in which case you’ll probably like the narrative that unfolds here. It might leave some players wanting, but I can’t criticise story length in a game that was transparently marketed as being primarily multiplayer. If anything, it’s all far more generous, well-produced, and thoughtful than it needed to be.
There are two multiplayer modes. Dogfight is a 5v5 kill-everyone-that-isn’t-on-your-team affair. Fleet Battles are huge 5v5 laserfests involving dozens of AI dogfighters, frigates, and capital ships, where you’ll need to use teamwork and learn how the different classes operate to succeed. You’d be forgiven for thinking this sounds restrictive, but they do their job. Namely, providing the theatres of war Squadrons needs for its kinetic, cerebral PvP improv to clang out from every laser-scarred, sizzling balcony.
Here’s the crux: even the simple act of flying, of moving between asteroids, or threading industrial alcoves, is gut-fluttering in its thrilling believability. I have, and will again, play entire matches where I haven’t even attempted a single kill, just boost-drifted, feinted, and otherwise evaded opponents, and had the best time doing so. This may have not been the most helpful for my team, but if you want to play a match as a slow, hefty bomber, or a shield-generating support ship, Squadrons makes these options viable and satisfying. Even the standard X-wing and TIE fighter offers half a dozen viable loadouts and approaches.
There’s not much point in me explaining what the opportunity to fly an X-wing or a TIE fighter should mean to you, in a game that looks this good, sounds this faithful, and is this astonishingly absorbing to play. All I can say is, aside from a few technical hiccups with controls and VR that look like they’re being regularly patched, Squadrons nails the landing. To subvert an online adage, Motive did, literally, have one job: to let you fly some Star Wars ships. And every dial on every panel of every starfighter is tuned to doing that one job better than anything that’s come before.
Boosting, cutting engines for a drift, and rapidly looping to face the ship that was tailing you moments before, then unleashing hell with your lasers. Absolute bliss.
A triumphant homage to classic Star Wars flight sims with all the bells and whistles of a big-budget modern release.
Genre: Action/Flight sim | Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One/ PC (tested) | Developer: Motive Studios | Publisher: EA | Price: £34.99 | Release: Out now