For now, it’s a nice distraction
Thoughts of dogfighting over the surface of the planet Sullust should raise your heartbeat a little bit. It’s an exciting prospect. Really, that goes for piloting any vessel in the Star Wars canon through any franchise locale. If only our childhood selves could see us now.
Recently, we hopped into those spaceships in Star Wars Battlefront at gamescom. We gave the game’s newly-announced Fighter Squadron mode a test run, as we zigged and zagged about the Sullust atmosphere in hot pursuit of anyone and everyone.
Somehow, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. At least not yet.
The build of Fighter Squadron that we saw essentially operates as a team deathmatch. There were X-Wings battling against TIE Fighters — ten humans to a side with another ten AI-controlled vehicles, which brings the total to 40 players in each game. Aside from attempting to shoot down others, occasional large transport ship would spawn. They needed to be either defended or destroyed.
The way your ship functions is the best thing about Fighter Squadron. Everyone has a set of blasters that are prone to overheating, a homing missile that’s effective (yet still challenging to use properly), and a set of evasive maneuvers. The difference between sides is that TIE Fighters have a boost mechanic, while the X-Wings get a shield. The trick is that everything needs to be used in moderation because reusing it all is on a short timer.
Generally, this sort of fast ability freeze-out wouldn’t be too big of a deal, but it is because of the pace that Fighter Squadron moves at. With all the other pilots making quick cuts across the battlefield, you need to perfectly time when you pull your punches. Otherwise, your lasers get lost in the great void.
For a more authentic experience, players can switch to a cockpit view. This first-person seat is where Fighter Squadron looks the greatest but plays the worst. As previously mentioned, this mode is relentlessly fast. Trying to play from the pilot’s seat only decreases the already limited time to get off a good shot.
Despite everyone controlling a standard vehicle, Fighter Squadron has bigger opportunities. Power-up icons put the player in a hero ship — The Millenium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave I are the two we were told about. We didn’t see either, but those situations will likely draw the attention of everyone in the skies.
These hero ships are an example of the potential that Fighter Squadron holds but doesn’t live up to yet. Simple team deathmatch grows old quickly, as it needs more variation. TIE Interceptors, A-Wings, and Y-Wings are all planned and might accomplish that goal if they play differently enough from one another. Better objectives need to be implemented too. Defending and attacking transports felt largely without consequence and tacked-on.
Star Wars isn’t necessarily all about dogfighting, but it’s integral enough to the franchise that it can’t be overlooked either. If Star Wars Battlefront is going to be the seminal title in the series for the foreseeable future, it needs to do dogfighting right. Fighter Squadron just misses that mark because it isn’t quite interesting enough yet. There’s still time for that to change, though.