The Best PSVR Experience Of 2020
Since EA acquired the Star Wars video game license, we’ve seen very few ‘AAA’ offerings worth your time and money.
Last year’s Fallen Order was certainly a great effort but its release was soured by Battlefront II’s microtransaction-laden mess before it. Before that though it’s hard to remember a decent Star Wars game post-Lucasarts.
Thankfully, Star Wars: Squadrons offers up some comfort to those looking for a wholesome, complete package taking you to a galaxy far, far away.
Now, Squadrons is far from perfect. The story mode is basic and – despite some enjoyable plot beats – largely forgettable. The multiplayer lacks the longevity needed to keep fans sticking around for the long haul. And that’s before mentioning the entire title feels designed for VR users.
Despite its flaws though, Squadrons is certainly a welcome effort from EA – one with (thankfully!) no microtransactions or loot boxes to speak of.
Star Wars: Squadrons is essentially split into two distinct areas. The first is a 6-7 hour campaign that sees you switching between the Empire and Rebel fighters just after the conflict on Endor at the end of Return Of The Jedi.
These two pilots “shape the balance of power in the galaxy”, with 10 different campaign missions designed to get you accustomed to the controls and completing basic missions – usually in the scanning or shooting category.
Most of these missions are pretty basic, with some variety thrown in through the use of different ships and additional objectives to complete.
These missions are broken down into several different tasks with dog-fights interspersed between expository-driven chatter.
Most of this sees you sole-flying toward a white objective market where you listen to chatter from your team-mates.
Outside the missions there’s some interactive(ish) areas back at base where you receive your briefings. These sees you talking to different characters with a stock screen and one-way expository-heavy dialogue exchanges. It’s all pretty basic stuff but far more immersive in VR – which this game is so clearly designed for (more on that later).
The story is okay, with some nice cut-scenes and a great use of licensed music. This feeds into the locales explored which really give the feel of this being set within the Star Wars universe.
There’s some decent missions along the way and the feel of pelting an Imperial Star Destroyer with lasers before dipping out with a barrel roll and plunging outside the missile range is absolutely exhilarating.
Where the story fails, the moment to moment gameplay helps to prop it up a lot. Flying is controlled with the left and right analog sticks (or a joystick if you’re playing on PC) while the directional pad controls where you plug your energy reserves. Tapping left, up or right diverts that energy into flight maneuverability, weapon power or fixing your engines respectively.
You’ve got your basic scanning, target locking and an intuitive UI all designed to immerse you into this experience as much as possible. And flying is one of the most satisfying experiences from a Star Wars game in quite some time.
The VR is wonderful, with some excellent lighting effects and an immersive experience inside the cockpit that really makes you feel like you’re flying.
Unfortunately I suffered quite badly from motion sickness while wearing the headset and after numerous barrel rolls and throwing my head around to track fighters, I was forced to play normally. That’s a damn shame because the whole time I longed to get back under the head-set.
Eventually I did take the plunge for some of the later levels and Squadrons is undoubtedly the best PSVR experience right now. If you have the money (and the stomach) for VR then this game alone is worth the price.
In terms of performance though, I did run into a fair few problems while playing. The first mission completely glitched on me and I had to restart from the beginning as I ended up stuck on a loading screen.
Another time I kept an eye on my team-mates while they were chatting and their ships kept doing 180 turns on the spot while flying in figure 8 patterns.
Given it’s just outside your peripheral vision when this flip occurs (I leaned forward and to the side to spot this), it may just be a minor point many players will miss.
The graphics are decent though and visually, Squadrons does an excellent job making the most of the Star Wars license. The story mode in particular has a variety of different alien races that you encounter across your time and it all feeds into a more vibrant and colourful world.
The story is undoubtedly entertaining but you can tell the real star of the show here is the gameplay. To be honest, that’s not a bad thing and during cut-scenes and dialogue, you’ll be itching to get back into another fight.
When you’re done with what’s essentially a 7 hour tutorial for the multiplayer, the bulk of your time will be taken up by playing online. This is disappointingly sparse though, with 2 simple modes to try out.
The first are the aerial equivalent of deathmatches, aptly titled “Dogfights”. These see basic 5X5 fights to the death take place. The other is titled “Fleet Battles”, boasting a multi-stage conflict that’s essentially an aerial version of Capture The Flag.
Given how embarrassingly bad I was at both modes, it’s nice to see the inclusion of AI options to try your hand at doing this. There’s even a 2 player co-op option to team up with your buddies.
With no live service clutter, monetization options or upcoming DLC, Star Wars: Squadrons is a wholesome experience but also an alarming red flag over how much video games have become dependent on this live service stream for longevity.
I won’t get too much into this but if you’re after a proper multiplayer experience without predatory gambling mechanics, microtransation or live service clutter, this is honestly one of the better options out there.
It’s disappointing that there isn’t more variety with the multiplayer but it’s also nice to see EA actually delivering a competent multiplayer mode without the need to try and Nickle and dime its players.
With an entertaining but forgettable story and a sparse but enjoyable multiplayer, Star Wars: Squadrons shines through with its gameplay. Flying is incredibly immersive and if you have a VR headset (and the stomach) this one boasts the quintessential immersive experience. For those without though, this feels like a decent but not-quite-great option.
It doesn’t feel like it has the longevity needed to keep players around for months on end either. That’s a shame because there’s certainly some brownie points here for no predatory gambling or monetization. If you’re looking for a flight sim to take you to a galaxy far, far away, Squadrons is a decent choice.
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