EVR: Oculus Rift’s Space Dogfighting Game
CCP is not a developer renowned for its speediness; they are stern proponents of the “when it’s done, it’s done” philosophy. So for them to debut a working version of (potential) new game at their annual fan gathering, FanFest, was a huge surprise. EVR is just a demo for now, made in seven weeks by a small gang of CCP’s developers in their spare time, but it deserves to be more. This is a game that anyone who ever played Wing Commander, Rogue Squadron or Crimson Skies has dreamed of: a virtual-reality space dog-fighting game that puts you in the cockpit of a fighter craft.
EVR is just a demo for now, but it deserves to be more.
It’s set in the EVE universe, using the same beautiful spacey backdrops and iconic ship designs. Pre-launch, there’s plenty of time to stare around at the inside of the cockpit – occupying a 360 degree world in this way was a new experience for me, as this was my first time using an Oculus Rift. It felt like the future. (I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked in real life, though, staring open-mouthed at nothing with a screen strapped to my face.)
Once you’re launched, the pleasant surprise is that unlike many demos, this one’s pretty much fully functional. With an Xbox 360 pad in hand, the left stick steers the craft, one trigger fires lasers from the front, and holding down the other trigger targets missiles. How you target other fighters is a stroke of design genius: you just have to look at them. So as an opponent goes zipping overhead, you can look over your shoulder, wait for the targeting computer to beep and send a volley of missiles after them as you zoom away. It’s intoxicating.
Miraculously, it’s also not motion-sickness-inducing, or at least it wasn’t for me. Pro tip, though: don’t play with Oculus Rift whilst standing up. I tried, briefly, and upon looking down and seeing my virtual legs stretched out in front of me my brain freaked out and buckled my actual legs from under me. It’s similarly surreal looking at your arms at the fighter craft’s controls, but being unable to move them. The future of this technology is definitely the combination of the headset and some kind of body-tracking (like Kinect, I guess, except hopefully it would work properly) – but at that point I guess we start getting a little bit too close to dystopian Matrix-style reality-replacement to be entirely comfortable.
Right now EVR works as a three-minute dogfight between two teams of fighters. Lasers do devastating damage but it’s tough to score a direct hit on a fast-moving craft; missiles prove more reliable, though you can dodge them with swift turns and a burst of speed. I find it difficult to believe that this demo was made in seven weeks. It already feels well on the way to being a full product.
It really should be a full product, too. CCP has made its name with two extraordinarily complex and ambitious games that integrate into one universe, but EVR could easily be a smaller project – one they could get out quickly and be ready to sell when the Oculus Rift headset becomes available, whenever that may be. This feels like the game that it was made for; it’d be a very smart move.
Keza MacDonald is in charge of IGN’s games coverage in the UK. You can follow her on IGN and Twitter.