A virtual-reality platform is only as good as the games you can play on it. Fortunately, based on what Oculus is showing off at its Connect developers conference, it looks like the Oculus Rift is in great shape heading into 2019. Using a half a dozen games — and one trailer for a sequel to a well-regarded title — Oculus is looking to show off the robustness of its content, paying particular attention to multiplayer experiences in VR. "You really feel like you're there with other people," Steve Arnold, head of Oculus Studios, said during a preview of the games before the Connect event.
At that preview, we had a chance to go hands-on with some upcoming Oculus Rift games — some arriving later this year while others make their debut in 2019. Here are some first impressions of what we saw.
Credit: Space Bullet Dynamics
If you saw the mechas stomping around the landscape in the Pacific Rim movies and thought, "I could drive one of those," Vox Machinae should scratch that robot-controlling itch. The game from Space Bullet Dynamics puts you in the cockpit of a giant robot — one that's seven times taller than a T. Rex — and you use the Rift's controllers to operate virtual levers and buttons that have you turn, accelerate and propel through the air.
You can battle up to 16 other players in brutal mecha-on-mecha combat, but I found that navigating through different planetary terrains while trying to get the jump on my robotic rivals proved just as challenging. Vox Machinae is set to debut today (Sept. 26), and you can get it for $25.
Credit: Space Bullet Dynamics
Twisted Pixel's action-adventure game gives you a chance to live out your secret-agent fantasies in a virtual space, where the bone-crunching is presumably less permanent. In my hands-on time with Defector, I was able to climb up the side of an airplane as it hurtled through the air, fire high-caliber weapons at attacking jet planes, and race through the back alleys of a city in India to chase down a rogue agent and discover his secrets.
I'm not that good a shot in the game, but with Defector not launching until 2019, I'll have plenty of time to practice. And the game's different spy scenarios require you to master different skills with your Rift's controllers, so Defector figures to offer plenty of replayability.
Credit: Oculus Studios
Echo Combat, the team-based, first-person shooter game that's part of developer Ready At Dawn's Ech Universe, is getting closer to launch. An open beta for the game's new Combustion map featuring a capture-the-flag-style Capture point mode begins today and runs through Sept. 29, before the game launches on Nov. 15.
What can you expect if you give the beta a try (or wait for Echo Combat's forthcoming launch)? You'll play as a robot, part of a three-player team floating around the zero-gravity play area. You've got to capture a specific point on the map and fight off the opposing team before they can take it back, using an array of virtual blasters, grenades and shields to wage combat.
I found the controls easy to pick up, and I appreciated how Echo Combat handles the physics of your zero-g battlefield. (Firing your blasters pushes you backward, for example, if you're not grabbing on to a beam to stay in place.) And blasting away at opposing players just as they're about to seize control of the checkpoint is undeniably satisfying.
Credit: Oculus VR
I'm a sucker for tower defense games, so Final Assault is easily one of my favorite titles coming to the Oculus Rift later this year. Instead of giving you a top-down view of the World War II battlefield, this real-time strategy game lets you use the Rift's controllers to skim along the battlefield as you change your perspective from a bird's-eye view to get down and dirty on the front lines with your troops.
You dispatch armored vehicles, planes and heavy artillery around the map, trying to take out your enemy's base before they overrun yours in landscapes ranging from a wintry European village to forests and mountainous regions. Final Assault offers both single-player and PvP modes, and you'll be able to choose between Axis and Allies when strategizing your plan of attack.
Credit: Phaser Lock Interactive
Speaking of shooters in free-floating space, Ubisoft's Space Junkies has you battling other players in 2v2, free-for-all and king modes. The best thing about this game is the different weapons scattered around the virtual battlefields — everything from standard lasers to pump-action shotguns and explosive-launching slingshots.
Operating each weapon requires you to move your Rift controllers in different ways: the pump shotgun actually requires you to lock and load with one of your hands, for example. And the fact that the weapons have different ranges a strategic element to what otherwise might have been a game filled with mindless blasting. Space Junkies launches later this year.
Insomniac Games first previewed Stormland at E3, creating a buzz about the open-world possibilities of this action-adventure game. And while the finished game won't arrive until 2019, there's a playable demo of Stormland that lets your robot character explore a futuristic landscape, climbing up cliffs and gliding over terrain. As part of your explorations, you'll rescue other reports and do battle with sentries using weapons along the way. I got only a brief glimpse at Stormland, but it's certainly a world worth exploring.
Credit: Oculus Studios
Jack's back in Lone Echo II, the sequel to the original game from Ready At Dawn that took place in a mining facility within Saturn's rings. There's no demo of the new game, which won't arrive until 2019, but Oculus did show off a trailer that picks up the action where the first Lone Echo left off.
Credit: Ready at Dawn