EVE: Valkyrie PSVR, Rift
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