Why Ubi’s VR de­but is pretty flock­ing great

Games Master - - Contents -

Turn into a ma­jes­tic bird and soar over Paris in VR. That’s one way to avoid buskers.

As we find our­selves look­ing down on a fu­ture Paris re­claimed by na­ture, we feel a con­spic­u­ous ab­sence. No, not the lack of hu­mans, but the fact we can swoop down from above the trees, zip through nar­row al­leys and dart through holes in crum­bling build­ings, and not feel even a lit­tle bit sick. Ubisoft Mon­treal has some­how cap­tured the ex­hil­a­rat­ing sen­sa­tion of flight with­out mak­ing your stom­ach spin like a wash­ing ma­chine – and it’s cen­tral to a VR ex­pe­ri­ence that’s equal parts re­lax­ing and in­tensely chal­leng­ing. A free flight mode is the peace­ful part. Here you can sim­ply en­joy the sights, with noth­ing more than a beak and a fringe of feath­ers to spoil the view. It’s not the most de­tailed ren­der­ing of the French cap­i­tal Ubisoft has ever brought us, but it’s a thrill to soar over the Basil­ica and then plunge at speed to­wards the ground, per­haps snatch­ing a fish as it leaps from the wa­ter. The con­trols could hardly be more in­stinc­tive: you fly in the di­rec­tion in which you’re look­ing, tilt­ing your neck for sharper turns and squeez­ing the right and left trig­gers to ac­cel­er­ate and brake re­spec­tively. Be­fore long, you’ll find you rarely need the lat­ter.

Mid-flight in Paris

You’ll have to mas­ter the art of air­borne ma­noeu­vring to suc­ceed in story mode, which takes the form of a se­ries of chal­lenges spread across five districts. You’ll be asked to ex­plore the vicin­ity by rac­ing through a set of rings, gain­ing a speed boost if you pass through the very cen­tre. Else­where, you’ll find your­self whizzing through over­grown metro tun­nels, us­ing jet streams to pick up the pace as you race against the clock. The three-star par times are ex­tremely ex­act­ing, though you’ll only need one to progress. Un­sur­pris­ingly, there are col­lectibles – this is a Ubisoft game, af­ter all – but at least float­ing feath­ers make more the­matic sense this time around.

For the most part, your big­gest dan­ger is crash­ing head­long into a stone wall. But the threat level rises as you en­gage in a range of ae­rial dog­fights with vul­tures, bats, and fast-mov­ing fal­cons. As luck would have it, you’re blessed with a screech at­tack that can dis­in­te­grate op­po­nents on con­tact, though you’ll need to lead your shots as pro­jec­tiles don’t ex­actly move at bul­let speed.

Th­ese quests are use­ful train­ing for a fun but scrappy mul­ti­player com­po­nent, a three-on-three cap­ture the flag mode where the flag is a dead rab­bit and you can be killed within a few sec­onds of respawn­ing. With no voice chat, ef­fec­tive team­work is dif­fi­cult, and it high­lights a po­ten­tial stick­ing point with all mul­ti­player VR games – when the world com­pletely sur­rounds you and you can’t turn on a six­pence, you es­sen­tially need eyes in the back of your head. An alarm that sounds when you’re about to be hit from who knows where isn’t quite enough to com­pen­sate.

Still, be­tween those lazy glides through Parisian skies and the pulse-quick­en­ing races through dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ments, Ea­gle Flight es­tab­lishes it­self as one of the most ab­sorb­ing VR ex­pe­ri­ences to date. Though it fal­ters the more it re­lies on con­ven­tional ideas, when it em­braces the sim­ple joy of flight, it pos­i­tively soars.

“as luck would have it, you’re blessed with a screech at­tack that dis­in­te­grates op­po­nents”

Com­plete a district and you can build a nest there – the per­fect spot to rest your wings and take in the view.

For­mat PS4 (re­viewed), PC Pub­lisher Ubisoft De­vel­oper Ubisoft Mon­treal ETA Out now Play­ers 1-6

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