EVE: Valkyrie PSVR, Rift

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher CCP For­mat PSVR, Rift (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now (Rift), Oc­to­ber (PSVR)

While other high-pro­file devel­op­ers have backed the first wave of head­sets, CCP’s EVE: Valkyrie has be­come the poster child for VR. That’s partly down to it hav­ing been as­so­ci­ated with Rift for so long now (of the launch hard­ware pack-ins, it’s cer­tainly the most cov­eted), but also be­cause of what it rep­re­sents: a com­par­a­tively big­bud­get, com­pet­i­tive on­line shooter that prom­ises to set the bar for VR’s mul­ti­player po­ten­tial.

If noth­ing else, it looks the part. Among a first wave of pi­o­neer­ing games whose graph­i­cal qual­ity varies wildly, Valkyrie’s vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion feels lux­u­ri­ous: enor­mous ship­yards, space sta­tions and hulks hang im­pos­ingly amid indigo, cobalt and ruby neb­u­las; ex­trater­res­trial worlds loom just be­yond the bat­tle­field; and a tan­gle of glow­ing red and blue fighter craft trails records the fi­nal ma­noeu­vres of des­per­ate pi­lots.

Your cock­pit, too, is a pleas­ant place to in­habit. The UI is seam­lessly in­te­grated into the com­part­ment, with the dwin­dling state of your health and shield avail­able via a head-up dis­play while your radar, speed, mis­sile ca­pac­i­tor charge and bat­tle stand­ings are a quick downward glance away. It’s a pity that this clean de­sign lan­guage isn’t repli­cated in the game’s menus, which are a con­fus­ing, un­in­tu­itive mess – in the ab­sence of a crosshair or pointer, se­lect­ing op­tions by look­ing at them is of­ten fid­dly, and it’s easy to get briefly lost among the un­fo­cused, clut­tered sub-menus.

For­tu­nately, con­trol­ling your ship is far more en­joy­able. There’s a sub­tle but sat­is­fy­ing in­er­tia to ma­noeu­vring, which makes ships feel both re­as­sur­ingly sub­stan­tial and use­fully lithe. You can’t come to a full halt (un­less you get your­self wedged in the scenery), but hold­ing B will slow you a lit­tle while the A but­ton gives you a boost. Both are es­sen­tial dur­ing com­bat, the for­mer tight­en­ing your turn­ing cir­cle and en­abling you to flip over and face a chas­ing en­emy, and the lat­ter (in com­bi­na­tion with some ju­di­cious bar­rel rolls) of­fer­ing a chance to es­cape from par­tic­u­larly tena­cious op­po­nents. It only takes a cou­ple of matches be­fore you’re skil­fully thread­ing in and out of com­plex struc­tures as you chase other pi­lots – or run from them – in a spec­tac­u­larly filmic man­ner, and there’s a sur­pris­ing amount of nu­ance to be mined from the sim­ple con­trol scheme.

Un­like many early VR games, Valkyrie de­mands you use your abil­ity to look around fully. Your first few matches will likely be lost due to a mon­i­tor-honed stiff neck, but look­ing around to as­sess the bat­tle­field – not sim­ply an­gling your head a lit­tle while track­ing a tar­get – is es­sen­tial to sur­vival. Rift’s well-dis­trib­uted weight and con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing straps prove a boon in this re­spect, as once fully im­mersed in Valkyrie’s world, our head move­ments be­came fre­netic, bor­der­ing on vi­o­lent.

Aware­ness of your en­vi­ron­ment is fur­ther en­cour­aged through the bril­liantly con­ceived ‘look-to- lock’ mis­siles, which com­ple­ment your main guns. Tap Y to tar­get an en­emy, and squeeze the left trig­ger to stack up a bat­tery of mis­siles ready for launch (the to­tal num­ber avail­able re­liant on your recharg­ing ca­pac­i­tor unit); then it’s just a case of keep­ing your tar­get in view – ir­re­spec­tive of your ship’s rel­a­tive ori­en­ta­tion – while the pro­jec­tiles close on their tar­get. Your main can­nons re­quire more tra­di­tional aim­ing, but your HUD use­fully dis­plays a red square where you point the guns when lead­ing a tar­get. Should you find your­self on the re­ceiv­ing end of some­one else’s mis­siles, a recharg­ing anti-bal­lis­tics sys­tem can be trig­gered by tap­ping X. Ships come in three flavours: fighter, heavy and sup­port. The first of th­ese is a mid-range all-rounder that’s ideal for tak­ing into the thick of a dog­fight, while the lat­ter two rep­re­sent Valkyrie’s tank and medic classes re­spec­tively. All three ship types can be up­graded as you progress, ar­mour, shields and sys­tems ben­e­fit­ing from in­cre­men­tal boosts, and there’s a mod­er­ate suite of cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions avail­able (it will help if you’re a fan of skulls and an­gel wings). Prior to bat­tle, ships must be as­signed to launch tubes to be avail­able. The first of th­ese is free, but ad­di­tional ones need to be rented us­ing sil­ver earned in-game. What­ever their class, de­stroyed craft leave glow­ing green sal­vage, which can be col­lected by fly­ing through it, the team’s to­tal haul shared equally among play­ers at the end of a match. It comes in three variations (raw, com­po­nent and prime) and can be used to craft new ships from blueprints un­locked as you level up. You can also find sal­vage in the ex­ploratory Scout mis­sions, which al­low you to freely ex­plore the game’s maps and search out re­sources and voice record­ings, here called echoes, of for­mer pi­lots.

All of the kit you cre­ate can be de­ployed in two mul­ti­player modes, team death­match and con­trol. The lat­ter sees pi­lots drop drones at ob­jec­tives to syphon power and de­grade the en­emy’s war ef­fort, and em­ploys a Bat­tle­field- style ticket sys­tem in which bat­tle­ships hold fi­nite clones of fallen pi­lots to send into com­bat. There’s also a wave-based sur­vival mode, with two dif­fi­culty tiers, that can be tack­led on each map.

It’s a great deal of fun for the first 20 min­utes, but once you’ve mas­tered your ships and ap­plied your favourite skull de­cals, there’s lit­tle to keep you hooked. Com­bat is en­joy­able but lacks depth even with the three ship classes on of­fer, and the num­ber of (re­ally rather good) sin­gle­player mis­sions is dis­ap­point­ingly low. For its open­ing min­utes, Valkyrie is a stun­ning ex­am­ple of what’s pos­si­ble in vir­tual re­al­ity. But ul­ti­mately, when the VR-driven awe of find­ing your­self in the mid­dle of a beau­ti­ful, dra­matic space bat­tle be­gins to fade, there’s lit­tle more than an av­er­age, and de­cid­edly shal­low, shooter left in the vac­uum that re­mains.

Once fully im­mersed in Valkyrie’s world, our head move­ments be­came fre­netic, bor­der­ing on vi­o­lent

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