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I stared around the cockpit of my elite space fighter, listening to the hum of the engine in anticipation of being fired into the vast blackness of an astral battlefield. “Look behind you,” a disembodied voice told me, urging me to crane my neck around and check out the empty seat at the back of my ship. I was perhaps too eager to take in the scenery, excitedly lunging forward to get an even better view and slamming my face (and the Oculus headset strapped to it) into the high-backed chair I had been sitting in. “Don’t worry,” the voice told me. “You’re not the first to do that.” I hadn’t even started playing EVE Valkyrie yet, and already I was astonished.
As you may have read last week, E3 2014 afforded me my first opportunity to step into the world of modern virtual reality, beginning with a jaw-dropping ride through the world of War Thunder. Less than an hour later and I found myself in the CCP Games booth with another Oculus Rift strapped to my head as I settled in for an all-too-brief romp with the multiplayer space combat game, EVE Valkyrie. To be fair, the team could have let me play the game for an hour and I would still be calling the experience “all too brief.” I try to stay away from hyperbole whenever possible, so know that I’m not trying to oversell things when I say that this is the only way I want to play certain games from now on.
The best comparison I can make is that my time with the Oculus was reminiscent of the first time I played a video game and marveled at the characters on the screen doing what I commanded them to via controller. It was a wholly new experience, it worked extremely well, and I’m more than a little afraid of how many hours Future Ryan is going to lose from his life once this technology and these games become available on the market.
Now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way, back Valkyrie! A brief tutorial with the team was all it took to get me ready to play, as the game actually controls like pretty much any other dogfighter out there. Your sticks control the ship, you can fire a machinegun and a barrage of rockets, boost, roll and that’s about it at the moment. Looking around, though, allows you to view the space around you completely untethered, meaning that if I saw fire coming from behind my ship, I could keep flying in the same direction and actually look behind me to see where the enemy was coming from. It was an extremely freeing experience and felt perfectly natural to just look where I wanted to look rather than slam a thumbstick to the right and wait for my view to swing into place.
We only had about 10 minutes to take out our fellow fliers and, honestly, I wasted most of that time just zipping around between the various important-looking structures floating in space and marveling at the planet we were flying over. The day I can guide my ship down toward said planet and actually land my craft is going to be a dream come true. I don’t even want to get out and explore, necessarily, just experience the sensation of being in space, then flying down to a planet and making landfall.
But I digress, because the simple act of flying the ship was more than enough to wow me for the time being. The single coolest feature (other than VR that actually works like I’ve always dreamed it would) is a missile lock-on system that actually uses the player’s field of view. Simply get an enemy in your sights, hold down the missile button, then track them with your head to keep locking on a nest of projectiles. When you’re ready, simply let go and watch as a satisfying swarm of missiles charge toward your target. In a word, it was rad.
Even dying in EVE: Valkyrie was cool, as your ship starts to smoke and spark and your windshield starts to shatter while you take damage. Take too much, though, and your world hits a sort of slow-mo as the glass explodes out and you begin to drift into the coldness. I’m happy to report that, unlike I had been warned by friends before playing the game, you don’t actually die in real life if you die wearing the Rift.
More so than anything else I experienced at E3 this year, I want to play more EVE: Valkyrie right-freaking-now. I was delighted to find out that the game is being developed for Sony’s Morpheus VR headset, too, as my home computer is little more than a word processing machine and my PlayStation 4 is just itching for some new games to play. No telling when the game will actually be ready for prime time, but hopefully it won’t be too much longer before everyone can try this tech out for themselves.