EVR Hands-On: Best Reason To Buy An Oculus Rift
Whenever we talk about games, it’s easy to think about just the present. Games like Titanfall or Watch_Dogs are exciting, but they are games with lineages stretching back decades. They are both brand new and intimately familiar, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes there’s a desire to see something truly unique. Something that shows that new technology can be put to a better purpose than rendering more polygons, storing higher resolution textures, and having marginally more complex AI.
Out of every game I saw at E3, only one game truly captured that desire: EVR (otherwise known as EVE-VR), by CCP Games. It is both a massively entertaining multiplayer game and a clear signal that VR technology – specifically the Oculus Rift – has some major legs in gaming.
EVR put six players – three per team – into the cockpit of a small fighter from the EVE universe. Each fighter is equipped with two weapons, dumbfire lasers and homing missiles, and the goal is to deal as much damage to the enemy team as quickly as possible. Mechanically, it’s very simplistic: You attack players until either they or you die, and then you repeat until the match ends. There are no loadouts, no alternate weapons, no ship types. Rather, EVR puts all of its faith into the VR being the core of the experience.
When you first slip on the Oculus Rift and accompanying noise-canceling headphones to play EVR, you are greeted with the inside of your fighter’s cockpit, complete with various ambient noises. You can look completely around the cockpit; not a single detail is missed, from your character’s limbs to the seat behind you. Thanks to the combination of no outside noise and virtual reality goggles, it feels immersive like no other game, especially since it was designed specifically to be that way.
Once all the players are ready, your fighter is shot into a debris field between two ships. It is here that the two teams fight amidst asteroids and ship parts. Controlling and firing is done with a 360 controller, and while there’s not much in the way of finer control of your ship – you move around with the left thumbstick and occasionally perform a boost – chances are you won’t care too much. You’ll be too busy hurtling around space, flailing your head around to keep track of targets.
While the lasers are straightforward – they are basically machine-guns, and are almost completely useless – the homing missiles use the Oculus Rift in an inspired way. In order to maintain missile lock, and thus hit your enemy, you have to hold the center of your vision on their ship for a short period of time while holding down the lock-on button. Once you hear the protracted beep of the targeting computer, you let the missiles fly and look for another target. It’s so simple, but the engagement of actually keeping the enemy in your sights the entire time is thrilling. You feel powerful and relentless as you maintain your lock until the missiles fly away to slam into the enemy ship.
The kicker to this system – and the real reason it’s brilliant, instead of merely novel – is that you don’t have to actually see the enemy in your cockpit window. If the enemy is within lock-on range, you can trigger missile lock no matter where they are in relation to you. You’ll swing your head around wildly, acquiring target locks on every target you can find while spinning your ship around like a wind-tossed scrap of paper. Oftentimes you won’t even see the ship you are targeting; they’ll be red blip behind the details of the cockpit interior, nothing more.
Amazingly enough, at no point did I feel motion sick. Looking around rapidly while spinning through space should no doubt be excruciatingly sickening, but CCP has managed to avoid such problems. The devs explicitly said that extensive work went in to making EVR as friendly to those prone to feeling sick in the backseat of a car or strapped into a rollercoaster. While there will no doubt be people who can’t play EVR – you can’t please everybody – it’s the first true 3D piece of media I have ever used that didn’t cause eyestrain or motion sickness.
After the demonstration ends, they pull off the helmet and headphones and your senses reacclimate to the room around you. People congratulate each other on jobs well done, and look at the scoreboards in the LCDs set above each station. The next round of players comes in and tries the game, and you realize that you must have looked absolutely ridiculous playing EVR. The new players certain do, as they swing their heads around while fiddling with 360 controllers. It’s okay to feel silly, though; it’s a game intended to be a fun, silly exploration of VR.
There’s something to be said about a game that keeps your mouth permanently stuck between grinning and agape. EVR may not be the prettiest VR game, or the most complex, or the most serious. What it does do, however, is use VR in a way that complements the gaming experience, rather than simply tacking it on. It’s the best argument for a VR game so far, and that’s a direction the gaming industry should be headed in.
Despite stiff competition (Titanfall, I still love you), EVR easily took home my heart when I left E3, and it still has it. I eagerly await the day CCP decides to give it a proper release.