Star Wars: Squadrons puts you in the cockpit of iconic star fighters

SW-Squadrons

Motive/Lucasfilm Ltd./EA

I’m a child of the ’70s, so I’ve always dreamed of being in the cockpit of an X-wing. Now you can, in ways that were never imaginable when that first movie hit theatres. 

Star Wars: Squadrons, developed in Montreal by EA’s Motive Studios, puts you in that cockpit. The game is available now for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One (it’s also playable in VR with PSVR on PS4 or on a Windows box using Oculus or Index/Vive).

And you’ll be exploring both sides of the Star Wars conflict, flying both X-wings and TIE fighters, and bombers, interceptors, and support ships. 
“Hunted”, a short film set in the moments after the second Death Star has been destroyed in the events of Return of the Jedi, sets up the story you’ll play in Squadrons and the kind of dogfights you’ll be getting into.

Squadrons is not only a chance to pilot the fighters you’ve watched in the movies, but it tells an interesting part of the larger story that we tend to ignore: what happens after the big battle sequences? Because the people in those stories continue on. 

You’ll want to play through the 14-mission, single-player campaign—it’ll take around eight to 10 hours—before going into the multiplayer modes; frankly you’re going to need the practice. 

Because while we’ve been able to pilot an X-wing in games before, it’s never been like this. 

More simulation than arcade

Back in the mid-’80s, we could become Luke Skywalker in an arcade playing the vector graphic cabinet game, Star Wars, best played in one of the sit-down units with the yoke controls. 

Then there were the Rogue Squadron games for various Nintendo consoles that were released between 1998 and 2003. They brought the arcade to your living room.

But those were all arcade games. 

Squadrons is more simulation than arcade, and you will need to learn about the instruments in your cockpit and how they need to be used. When to put power to shields, or thrust, or weapons. 

And you’ll also need to learn how to fly and navigate. Because there’s no gravity or friction, cutting the throttle doesn’t stop your ship; you’ll still be moving forward. 

Remember: there’s no “up” in space.

Once you’ve mastered flying you’ll realize that the real thrill in Squadrons comes with the two multiplayer modes: Dogfight and Fleet Battles. 

The former are fast and frantic five-on-five tussles, while the latter incorporate dogfights into more expansive combat scenarios, either against other players or against the game’s AI. This is where teamwork and tactics become fundamental to success. 

Not all controls are the same

You can play Squadrons with your usual game controller. True flight simulator aficionados, though, will be using a joystick or even a “hands on throttle-and-stick” (or HOTAS) system. I suspect the game is easier to play with a joystick, but wasn’t able to test that theory. 

Sadly, I also wasn’t able to try the game in virtual reality because this is one of those games that seems meant for the medium. I can imagine that it would be exhilarating with the immersion possible in VR, seeing the cockpit around you as you turn your head. 

Star Wars: Squadrons is lean, but it delivers on the promise of a convincing space-flight experience. 

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