Star Wars: Squadrons VR Gameplay Review!

hey everyone it’s norm from tested and welcome back to projections where this week well it’s time to finally talk about star wars squadrons i have been looking so forward to this game ever since it was announced earlier this year that this would be return to classic star wars dogfighting in video gaming x-wing versus tie fighter new republic versus imperial and a game that was made from the ground up to also work and be fully playable beginning to end in headset in virtual reality it’s a cross-platform game so of course it’s launching on playstation 4 xbox as well as the next-gen consoles and also on pc and that’s what i’ve been playing it on on the pc side you can play with keyboard and mouse you can play with a gamepad you can play with a hotas hands-on throttle and stick but you can also play in virtual reality wearing a headset hmg and i’ve been playing it with the valve index as well as with the oculus quests over oculus link with my scitec x52 this is the game i built my vr flight simulator cockpit rig to play and boy it’s been worth it so the game comes out actually tomorrow and i have had a chance to go through the expansive single player campaign as well as spend a couple hours in multiplayer dog fights as well as the big fleet battle mode but this is not going to be an evaluation of how the game plays with the players in the world at large because it is cross platform console pc vr will all be the same pool of players and since the game isn’t out yet i can’t tell how it’s going to play with folks out there but we’re going to talk about how the game works in vr the scope of the game the basics of it and hopefully by the end of this you’ll get a good sense of what the game is about and if you have a vr headset how you can best take advantage of it so like i said the game has both a single player and a multiplayer component the single player surprisingly to me is more than just a tutorial i mean it is that as well gets you accustomed to the controls and the different classes of ships as well as the upgrades but it’s a pretty long single player campaign a two mission prologue as well as a 14 mission campaign that alternates you between new republic and the imperial side two squadrons that are duking it out in the aftermath of the events of return of the jedi so there is no vader there is no emperor there is no death star but you do see some familiar faces from the classic star wars trilogy pop up as well as of course the classic star wars ships and designs even ships like the ewing from rogue one and the game is played in cockpit so it’s not a third-person flight simulator it’s in first person you are in cockpit whether you’re playing on the flat screen or in a headset and you’re going on these missions in the campaign basically to help the new republic build their new super weapon i’m not going to get into spoilers as to what that is but there are definitely some new personalities brought in you get to know your squad mates there are some really interesting character designs and personalities that feel very much like they’re from the star wars universe as well as i said the familiar faces as well and there’s a lot of backstory between these characters as well that become that reveal themselves as you play through the campaign the 14 missions take basically about eight nine hours you can get through them all depending on how fast you get through some um the mission briefings the dialogue how much you want to customize your ships and what difficulty you play it out so you can basically finish it all in one day and then the bulk of the rest of the game is in multiplayer and in multiplayer there are two modes there’s dog fighting 5e5 as well as this fleet battles mode which is kind of like a if you play the game nidhogg kind of a tug of war style game where you have uh your two capital ships at either end uh and then your kind of mid uh range ships uh your your cruisers your corvettes that then gets and then also the dog fighting in the center and then you push and pull depending on how well each side is doing to get to the capital ships on either side to destroy that before time runs out but fundamentally so much of the game is about the dog fighting experience and about for each side four classes of ships so i’m going to use the republic side to give the example so basically you have your all-around fighter your x-wing essentially which is great for assaults has a really good armament

well-balanced shields of course on the republic side and then you have a more nimble fighter here it’s the a-wing it’s more maneuverable faster but maybe less durable you have a bomber the y-wing which is great for attacking your capital ships a little slower but you can be very well armored and very well fortified with heavy weapons and then you have a support ship uh here the ewing that can cast shields that can help your team hide under radar and basically resupply the rest of the squadrons and between those four classes as you build up a squad of five you can then have a ton of customization you can’t think of it as just one ship you think of it as a team based battle and how that squad of five is balanced between each other with the different loadouts for each of the ships and because the game is all played in first person vr support works right out of the box so uh the version i got to play is an origin build so i load up the game in origin i boot up steamvr or have oculus link running and in the menus you go to a vr setting and say toggle vr which then changes the rendering of the game to output and make it work for vr stereo vr y field of view and it just works and in the game you you can navigate the menus entirely whether you’re using keyboard or mouse or a game pad or a hotas you can be in headset and navigate through all the menus there are a bunch of vr specific options for example for comfort you can do snap turning in the hangers and the mission briefings but when you’re in cockpit it’s there’s no snap turning it’s the exact same experience as if you were playing on a flat screen except now you can look around you can actually move you have full six degrees of uh freedom to actually get up close to the instrument panels to peek outside this the you know the side of the windows to look behind you and if you’re an x-wing see that astro mech that’s repairing your ship or if you’re in a tie fighter there’s even a small little back window uh all of that detail is kind of unlocked with vr free look while you’re still using the same controls that you would be using if you’re playing it on a flat screen whether it’s keyboard mouse gamepad or with a flight stick and maybe the best way to illustrate this is to show you and not just tell you about it so let’s put on a vr headset and head in game where i can show you the instrument panels and tell you exactly how space combat works in star wars squadrons all right so here we are we’re in the cockpit of an x-wing and i’ve booted up the practice mode so this will let me switch between ships as well as spawn enemies for practice but i mean first things first you can see it looks so good the geometry detail the textures here the lighting this this is just an incredible amount of detail it feels like it’s really built uh out here and the interesting thing is there is no canonical you know uh design for what it’s supposed to look like inside an x-wing cockpit so the team at ea motive had to really come up with something that would fit the aesthetic of the star wars universe as well as all of the practical um information being given so let’s take a look at the control panels you can see i have my throttle right here on my left that’s my hand there and it’s one-to-one movement with the actual throttle i’m using right now the stick is right between my legs there and it doesn’t actually move but the ship moves of course um but let’s go through the kind of menu options so the first things first there’s throttle and you can see that throttle indicator go up to speed as i slow down or speed up and there’s a sweet spot right in the middle that gives me really good maneuverability right there and the nice thing about of course using a hotas is i can have that muscle memory of where that sweet spot is or speed up uh without having to always glance there that can just be a almost haptic memory of where that sweet spot is uh there’s weapons so you see that red bar right there so i’m gonna fire some of these lasers and that gets drained and then my shield is right over here that’s the green indicator as well as where my health would be and i can adjust the shield to be forward-facing or rear-facing to really balance it out

power distribution is a big part of this game so you see right here you have the same color indicators with blue red and green for uh for throttle for weapons and for shields and then i can easily switch between them prioritize either so i can prioritize speed for example and that starts generating a boost so you can see that yellow of those five yellow bars that’s boost and so if i speed up i can hit a button to additionally boost get real fast but you only get boost if i send power to my thrusters or engines if i send to weapons then for example i start building up a second um bank of weapons and when that max is out my burst weapons i can just use them for longer before they need to recharge and then for shield of course if i balance out the shields then i get a second level of shield as well and i’m controlling this right now with the hat switch here basically the directional pad on the throttle so i can easily go left or throttle right there and then if i press down on that hat it balances out same with the menus so i can activate a menu for example right here so this is now my practice menu and i’m using that same hat actually i’m pressing a different button to then navigate and get through the different menu so let’s uh actually deploy a squadron of enemies and show you what happens there i can deploy a squadron of tie fighters and thai rugers sure why not on the center is my radar so i can press a button to target an enemy and you can see they pop in my hud i have the distance right there and i put them right in the center of my reticule so the reticule is locked to the ship it’s not headed up for where i’m aiming and now i have a missile lock and i can deploy one of my one of my three auxiliary loadouts for me it’s weapons or missile repair and also uh deterrent against enemy missiles let’s take out some of these ships they’re behind me they’re done one of the things i really love about this game is the lighting and you know this is a really beautiful map you see you have a husk of a super star destroyer that you can fly through and the lighting that you see on the cockpit that all comes from the star that’s right there so it’s very star wars like and that all the space battles happen in the proximity of a big light source and you have these wonderful cast shadows from the cockpit which then cast over you in their dynamics so if i turn you can see they shift over the instrument panels it’s a hiding shadow and there’s so much detail when you get messages in the single player a hologram does pop up and in headset that hologram just looks awesome because it’s in 3d of course and then because you do have the free look option you can kind of turn around and you can see there goes my astromech right there give you another example here i am in the cockpit of a y-wing and once again very beautifully designed you can look up and see the hall it’s there kind of look around feels very much like i’m in the cockpit of a fighter jet and you have all the same information that’s displayed so you have shields you have your weapons you have your throttle power distribution your your auxiliary items as well as just your radar and readouts and it’s just it’s really really gorgeous it’s really fun just to look around and admire all this detail switching over now to the imperial side uh this is the hanger so there’s a hanger

that you get to hang out in on both of the sides and there’s just a lot of cool activity uh going on just watch you know like shuttles land you can inspect your vehicles your ships from different perspectives get inside the cockpit which i’ll show you and kind of just again look at that geometry and launch or if you want this is also where you customize your loadout so you can go through your tie fighter bomber or your support your reaper and then you can press a button to go change your components whether it’s your primary weapon back out to your auxiliary active countermeasures or missiles or mines to things like your hull and if your ship has it things like your shields your deflectors so here we are i’ve loaded myself into an imperial reaper this is the support ship and here you get a really good sense of just the different geometry different shape of the cockpits in fact this is a two-seater here and you can just see like they’ve really modeled all that detail all those switches and lights and it’s a different amount of visibility for each ship here you can see you have windows and the side windows right there it’s a little narrower out front but all that hud information is still here in terms of you know your throttle your power distribution your shields in this case and health of the ship as well as all your auxiliary loadout so hopefully that gives you a good sense of how the game looks and plays a little bit in vr and i keep on talking about the control the input methods because this is a game where choosing your input i think will have an effect on how you perform in the game i’m thinking a lot about this because they’re not exactly the same uh the throttle and stick i think adds a ton to the immersion you know i get to actually flip these toggle switches on the stick here as i would imagine an x-wing pilot or a tie fighter pilot would have to do to ping an enemy or you know adjust the shield distribution for their ships but i want to say that the game might perform even better if you’re playing with a keyboard or mouse which i know is difficult if you’re on vera headset but you could kind of memorize the the button mappings and that’s because the mouse i think gives you a little bit more precision and it’s not exactly the same both with the gamepad and the mouse you’re not doing one-to-one movements uh you’re basically dragging these vectors off from the center of your reticule which then pivot the ship in the kind of pitch and yaw orientations um but i i do think that you can get a little bit more precise and it’s a little bit more responsive when you use that mouse to kind of pinpoint and get that ridicule right on target with the slight stick there was always a little bit of a delay as i’m pitching up or doing a little bit of a roll especially the yaw movement always felt like a little bit of a delay where maybe they’re trying to simulate and balance the game out so you don’t have this unfair advantage if you’re using a throttle versus if you’re using a game pad um but it’s one of those things where you have to consider it depending on if you want to choose immersion uh versus performing really well in multiplayer there’s no track controller input so you can’t use like the oculus touch controllers or the valve index controllers and move your hands around and push buttons or even use the sticks here for because first of all there’s no button parity between the uh sticks and the buttons on these controllers and what you get on a gamepad uh but i would have loved to have seen some some track can input i think a mech game a cockpit game like vox mackinay does a great job of letting you see your hands but also grab virtual sticks and push virtual buttons inside those mech cockpits and i get why they did it didn’t do it for this game but it does take away from a little bit of the immersion uh when um you can’t see your hands move your hands are always locked into holding that stick and that throttle the gamepad side the gamepad was honestly my least favorite of the inputs i know so many people will be using gamepads on their consoles and one of the reasons is the default configuration scheme is basically using each of these sticks

as uh one of the the picture role orientation so you have the right stick as yaw and pitch and then the left stick as throttle and roll and i quickly remap that so i have my shoulder buttons as the roll and then the left and right of the left stick here as activating um my power-ups and that’s about a little more comfortable a little more responsive and it’s a little bit twitchy on the right stick dragging that vector around to pitch the the ship around it always felt a little a little difficult to lock right on a target especially when compared to a mouse so i’ll be curious how the balance works out with cross play when pc gamers are playing against console gamers and that cross platform play you can opt out of it so you can say i just want to play with other folks who are using my platform but you can’t opt out of say playing against people who are using a flight stick or using a vr headset it’s only kind of platform based and flight 6 do work on the consoles you can plug in a usb flight stick onto a playstation or into an xbox and that will work and that probably that’s my recommended mode for play um and i’ve been i i’m going to always choose fun and immersion in this type of game over necessarily doing well because this is the fantasy if this is why i built that cockpit rig was to you know have the fantasy of flying an x-wing and being in the star wars universe so my big takeaway at the end of the day is i can’t believe how well star wars squadrons plays and how good it looks in a vr headset i mean it looks fantastic on a flat screen as well you know you can play it at 4k or a wide screen and you’re going to see those amazing textures amazing lighting but in headset all the benefits of that especially the sound is just so awesome it just feels like you’re in a stars universe it feels like you’re in disneyland to be honest at galaxy’s edge going on rise of the resistance that attention to detail is all there and i have to say that i preferred playing this on the valve index over oculus link even uh with oculus rift s just because you get the extra field of view the built-in speakers on the index just help amplify all that great sound design and also playing at a higher frame rate 120 hertz or even 144 hertz i always had no pro performance problems running it off my geforce 2070 super i was even using super sampling at 150 and maxing out all the vr specific graphics options it’s a game that as vr players which were very lucky to have because it doesn’t feel like it was just bootstrapped on it really feels like vr was something that they designed for and knew that a large number at least a significant number of the player base would be playing with and that’s why if you have that option even if you’re playing it on psvr ps4 i’d urge you try it in vr just having the ability to look around and appreciate those details and getting that 3d built in because it’s stereo i think adds to the immersion adds the feeling like you’re in the star wars universe and i think adds to the fun as well so i’ll be continuing to play this of course as jeremy cashore and the rest of the tested team get a chance to and we’re going to build our squad and go have some fun in multiplayer so hope to see you out there as well and you have questions about squadrons on this launch week feel free to post them in the comments below and i’ll do my best to answer them if you’re curious about how the game works or how it plays in vr but thank you so much for watching i hope you see you in those dogfights and see you next time