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PS4 (PSVR) Game Review

Star Wars


Format: PS4 (PSVR)
Publisher: EA Swiss Sarl
Developer: Motive Studios
RRP: £34.99
Age Restrictions: 12+
Release Date: 02 October 2020

Take control of starfighters from both the New Republic and Imperial fleets such as the X-wing and TIE fighter. Customize loadouts and cosmetics, divert power between weapons, shields, and engines, while immersing yourself in the cockpit. In addition, players have the option to play the entirety of the game in virtual reality on PlayStation VR. Learn what it means to be a pilot in a single-player story set after the events of Return of the Jedi and seen from alternating perspectives between two factions. The New Republic fights for freedom. The Empire demands order. We need you to join the galaxy’s finest...

Review imageUnlike other reviews of Star Wars: Squadrons, which appeared in the first few days of the game being released (in a rush to appear they were on the ball) we've held off on publishing our review for three weeks. This isn't a game that can be fully reviewed after an afternoon's play and there's no way a reviewer could check out the online modes on release day and get a proper feel for the online community.

This is a game I've been eagerly awaiting for months... and on some level, since the '70s when as a young boy I was blown away by not only the original Star Wars movie, but also the vast swathe of action figures, vehicles and other merchandise. When I heard that this game was being released I was pretty excited. The buzz amongst my old friends was also pretty encouraging - some of them I didn't know played games, yet they were chomping at the bit to climb inside an X-wing and take on the Empire.

For anyone who played and enjoyed the Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission, the chance to take and create an entire game from it was almost too good to be true.

Review imageWhen I finally got to fire up the game for the first time I was a little disappointed with how blurry the graphics seemed to be. And, when customising your ships, I was shocked to see that a couple of the holographic trophies you can display on your dashboard, weren't showing the graphics when you flicked through them to see how they looked.

I went to bed that first night quite disappointed. The next morning I fired the game up again and things seemed a lot more interesting. I found a tip online to improve the graphics (by going into the video settings and turning the film grain option off and lowering the brightness to 30%) that made quite a large improvement. I've since reset the visual settings to their presets and I honestly can't understand why I originally had such an issue with them. Yes, the graphics are a little blurry, but when you're flying around in space, focusing on taking down the enemy, you really don't notice this at all.

The controls were also a little tricky. Not overly impossible (I'm a huge fan of flight sims) but I really thought I needed a flight stick. I'd tried to buy one in the run up to the game's release, but everywhere had sold out with no indication of when or if they'd ever be getting new stock in. They're just coming back into stock now (at the end of October) and having finally picked one up, the difference it makes to immersive yourself into the game is amazing.

Review imageWhile the learning curve for piloting your vehicles is quite steep, stick with the controls (and experiment with the different set ups available) and it won't take you long to start flying like a pro. There's something really exhilarating as you weave in and out of asteroids and space debris that for a brief moment truly feel like a pilot fighting for your cause.

In VR, the New Republic ships cockpits give you more of an overall view of what is going on in the battlefield, while the majority of the Empire's craft just have a giant circular window at the front. The Empire's cockpit also has a rather cumbersome interior that sees the dashboard elements really getting in the way when you're chasing the enemy. However, as with everything in the game, it really is a case of just getting used to your surroundings.

There are four different ships to chose from on each side. And a big part of how you're stats will fare boils down to knowing which ship to use at what part of the battle as well as changing your load out for your specific style of play.

Game modes include the offline campaign, which sees you switching between the New Republic and Imperial fleets in a new story. The entire campaign, while immersive and fun, is really one giant tutorial to help you get the hang of each of the ships and how the basic mechanics work. It really is advisable that you don't go online until you've completed quite a bit of the campaign mode, and even then you'd be best advised to go to the training menu and get a feel for everything there.

Review imageHere you can chose your side, your craft and then either fly around getting used to the controls with no enemy threat, launch several different configurations of enemy fighters, or go up against the different capital ships that you'll come up against in Fleet Battles.

Before you go online proper you might be wise to play around on Fleet Battle Vs AI. Here you can either play solo (your squad mates and enemy will be AI) or play co-op with either four friends or four random strangers. As the game is cross platform you can play against other friends on Xbox, PS4 or PC (assuming you all sign up to a free EA account). This is also the first mode where you'll actually receive awards and start to gather stats on how well you're doing compared to the rest of the online community.

When you think you've mastered that you can either go straight into Dogfights, which sees you and other team mates go head to head with five enemies; or Fleet Battles where you play as a team of five up against another team of five (plus AI fighters and capital ships).

Just getting to know what your ship is capable of is a learning curve. You can shift focus to speed, weapons or shields (if you have them) and when attacking or defending you can focus shields to the front or rear (depending where you're getting the most attacks from). When targeting enemies you can focus on AI or other players ships (they are a different colour on your radar); different parts of the final capital ship; the main objectives; your own crew (in case you lose them and need to regroup). You can also quickly focus on an enemy that's attacking you, ping a target for your group to engage with, or resupply your team (if you have the right equipment enabled). It's a deep game that works better if you are playing with a squad you know - that way you can all focus on your own strengths. A lot of games I've played online are quiet lobbies with no mics active. Here everyone just does there own thing and, to be honest, while still fun isn't anywhere near as satisfying as playing with friends.

Review imageA lot of people will understandably want to head into online as soon as possible, but to get the best out of the game you really want to ease yourself into it. As you unlock components for your ship it's worth trying out different combinations to see what works best for you. You can also unlock different equipment for your pilot as well as trinkets for the inside of your cockpits and different colour schemes and decals for each ship's exterior.

It's been almost a month now and I'm still finding things to love about this game. If you put the time in and stick with it when you're frustrated with an element like graphics or matchmaking... you'll soon realise that this is about as perfect as it could be.

Some online forums are awash with fans moaning that they wanted more ground based games (like the iconic trench run from Episode IV), but given the limitations of PSVR this was never going to be a reality. The other online multiplayer flight sim I love is War Thunder. The PC version has VR capability, but sadly the PSVR isn't powerful enough to do it justice.

Star Wars: Squadrons is an impressive step back in time to when games were events that pulled friends and the online community together. While it has many faults (some of which have been tackled in early patches) I'm sure the game will only improve as the months roll on. It's also a standalone release with no DLC on the horizon.

Review imageFor me, it's still early days with this title. I'm loving it, though. There hasn't been a game for a long time where I've woken up at 5am wanting to play it, or managed to sit and play for three or four hours at a time. It's also the title I'm waffle onto my friends about all the time. Flat is okay... but VR is just incredible. The 10 year old me from 1980 has been waiting for this for 40 years. This is pretty much as good as it could be considering the old tech it's running on. Sadly, with plans for the PS5 VR on hold for at least two years after launch of the new console, it looks unlikely that we'll be seeing a second game anytime soon.


Darren Rea

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