Hands-on, eyes-on with EVE: Valkyrie
EVE: Valkyrie has been one of the best full-game showings for virtual reality (versus novel tech demos, which are still my favorite use of VR) for a while now and as we edge towards the early 2016 wave of VR release (Rift, Vive, PlayStation VR), EVE: Valkyrie will be at the forefront, coming packed into Rift pre-orders to make sure the hardware has software to really sell it.
I sat with a near-final Oculus Rift on my head for over an hour with no signs of illness, just a sweaty face and pinched nose bridge (my nose is very big). And while the in-cockpit view EVE: Valkyrie remains an incredibly cool experience, one of my favorite things in the demo session was, oddly enough, the UI.
This is the first time I’ve felt closer to the Minority Report style control that the Kinect promised. Looking at a menu option from the space hub highlights it and, controller in hand, a button press selects it. This allows for cool looking HUD style menus that actually work as well as the typical menu format — the only one that really works — where your options are vertical or horizontal.
You can start a game, look behind you at the space bar, head to the hangar to look at your ships and “pimp your rides.” I went with gaudy army camo all day, even though there are no trees in space, unless you consider trees on planets to be in space, technically. The hangar is where you peruse your ships and pick your four options in the Launch Tube (basically loadouts chosen when you respawn). There are Fighter, Heavy, and newly shown off Support ships.
The latter can shoot spherical webs into space. If your enemies fly through them, they get debuffed and vision obscured by nanobot spiders on the cockpit; if your friendlies fly through, they help them out. The supports ended up being the higher-scoring ships in most of the games we played, which went from team deathmatch to an objective capturing mode wherein you deploy drones to capture one of three points, rather than needing to hover in place, freeing you up to continue on. Or you destroy enemy drones and deploy your own. But the drones have a cool down upon destruction, so loosing one and leaving it unprotected might not be the best idea.
EVE: Valkyrie has no single-player, but it does have PvE introductory segments that focus on the backstory as well. There are short objective modes, a free-fly just for zooming around learning maps and maneuvers, and a survival mode with increasing AI waves. Given its eSports ambitions, the team is pulling the old, easy to learn, whereas, “over a period of months you can be a master.”
There are also ships to unlock and ways to mix the three classes. Progression milestones unlock blueprints, and there are overall Pilot Reputations as well as class breakdown. Once you land a blueprint, new ships are paid for in salvage, which is collected from dead opponents during matches and split evenly between all players and differentiated into three rarity types. Aside from gaudy army camo, you can also customize the UI colors, cockpit controls, and other aspects from the first-person view you’ll spend most of your time in.
The flying is smooth and simple, with a boost and barrel roles mapped to the triggers. Looking around the cockpit rather than straight down the sights will help you keep track of enemies zipping around in vast 3D space, and the lock-on missiles are actually mapped to where you’re looking to encourage you to keep your head on a swivel and allow you to lock on to opponents just by line of sight. Plus, it’s pretty neat to look down at my surrogate mannequin VR body and suddenly have boobs.
While sensitivities will vary, I was happy that could spend over an hour ensconced in VR without issue. And the partnership with Oculus to launch with all Rift pre-orders is a smart one on both accounts: Oculus gets software to sell the very idea of VR while Valkyrie ensures a more robust early player-base.