Since taking the lead with the Star Wars license, EA has taken a careful and reserved approach in releasing a AAA-caliber game late each year. After stumbling with the ill-conceived "Star Wars Battlefront II" -- which was plagued with microsransactions at launch before it was stripped of the money-grubbing and reinvented -- the past two years have seen an impressive turnaround.
Building off the success of last year's exquisite single-player effort "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order," the multiplayer-focused "Star Wars Squadrons" is a throwback to the likes of "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron."
Developer Motive Studios could have dumbed down the gameplay to make it accessible to as wide an audience as possible, but instead goes full geek, aiming for realism, customization and micromanagement that make the game admirably complex and obtuse. The more you study the nuances of the game, the more you'll thrive, making the club feel like an insular home of the elite rather than a casual rec league.
Five-on-five team battles make sit you in the cockpit of a New Republic or Imperial craft, pitting you in tense dogfights that become a game of cat-and-mouse with missile locks, enviornmental hazards and twisting objectives. The nagging need to rebalance your firepower, speed and shields depending on flexible needs of combat is a thrilling burden.
Impressive visuals and sounds help deepen the immersion, with the cockpit view making you feel as though you are truly inside your craft rather than controlling it as a drone. The unbriled thrill of success juxtaposes with the crushing devastation of defeat -- all part of a continues adrenaline rush that makes you feel skilled and powerful.
While more modes and fighter selections would have been welcome, what we have here is a compelling start that thrives on its economy of scale, plugging you to intense battles that reward invention and resolve. You feel as though you are in full control of a powerful starcraft, living out your cinematic fantasies.
"Star Wars Squadrons" capitalizes on the series previous aerial combat highs and soars to even greater altitude. The sky is no limit when it comes to this brave, bold excursion into deep space.
Publisher provided review code.