Whether you're somebody who enjoyed the Star Wars fighter pilot games of the past, or you're completely new to the idea of taking to the skies for some space combat, Star Wars: Squadrons is a video game release that should pique the interest of the majority of sci-fi fans. Promising a truly immersive experience and even being offered up in virtual reality, just how good is the latest Star Wars release?
Gone are the days of the pixel intergalactic gaming adventures. Whilst the likes of Space Invaders provide some nostalgic relief, many of us are constantly looking forward in the hopes that developers will be able to achieve something astronomical, offering up a video game experience unlike anything we've been through before.
A small group of Star Wars fans at Motive Studios felt the same way, posing the question of what a modern Star Wars space combat game would look like, before turning that question into a real-life pitch that gained the full support of Electronic Arts and Lucasfilm. The developers saw their dream become a reality; but when all is said and done, is the game any good?
In a word: yes.
In a few more: it's bloody brilliant.
Set after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, players will be able to engage in five-versus-five battles online, against strangers and alongside friends, becoming a legendary pilot that the galaxy can be proud of. Two unique multiplayer modes are available from launch - Dogfight and Fleet Battles.
Whether you're fighting for the New Republic or Imperial forces, Dogfights will force you to get strategic as you zoom across the airfield, taking down as many enemies as possible in the opposing squadron. If you're familiar with online multiplayer combat games, think of this as a Team Deathmatch-esque mode, where you're encouraged to finetune your loadout for ultimate speed and accuracy.
Fleet Battles are a little more complicated. These multi-stage fights see you take on an opposing team in a bid to achieve multiple objectives, forcing you to work closely with your team if you're to succeed. The ultimate goal is to destroy the other team's flagship, but there will be other challenges along the way that'll make that task a reality. This is where the real multiplayer action can take place, with utterly fascinating results. Fleet Battles are never not fun, even when you're on the losing side. Just make sure you check out the tutorial before diving in; you can even play against AI if you're looking for a more laid-back experience.
Those who do prefer to stick it out alone will no doubt enjoy the single-player story, which offers up a prologue and 14 separate missions set near the conclusion of the Galactic Civil War. A cast of original characters come together with rich personalities and backstory, with cameos from familiar faces sure to put a smile on the faces of all those who have been fans of the franchise for some time.
The best thing about the campaign is the shift in perspective. You're not forced to side with either the New Republic or the Galactic Empire; instead you'll move between the two as a customisable pilot serving in the Vanguard Squadron, and in the Titan Squadron.
Controls do take a little getting used to, but learning exactly how to dodge and weave incoming lasers and missiles is extremely satisfying. You'll soon go from rookie to master if you keep the pressure turned up on your star-fighting education!
It's hard to imagine what could have been done to make this experience a better one. It's smooth from start to finish and the narrative is incredibly satisfying. The space combat is immersive and there's endless replayability with the multiplayer modes currently available. Hopefully, more modes will be added in the weeks and months to come.
Star Wars: Squadrons is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. A code for Xbox One was given to Female First in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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