PSVR has landed and with it a game linked to the EVE universe that puts you in the pilot seat of arguably the most immersive space combat game to date. It’s a no brainer that VR and cockpits go together, long have gamers dreamed of actually being able to look around to spot enemy fighters and friendly craft whilst not having to worry about the pesky change of direction it would have entailed in the past. Here we have a launch title that’s already proved itself on the Oculus Rift, so comes to Sony’s platform with quite a bit of expectation riding on its shoulders. Does EVE Valkyrie make you want to ride into battle singing at the top of your lungs, or will you be staying back polishing your ship in the hanger?
There’s pretty much only one word that sums up the beginning moments of EVE Valkyrie… woah! In true Keanu style I uttered the immortal line as I was catapulted from the interior of my noisy, dark carrier and into the void of space. With teammates at my side and the sole objective of blowing the enemy into the next quadrant, I realised this was the space action game missing from my life. Looking around at the stunning stellar vista, I spotted incoming cannon fodder, at which point my HUD locked on and cued up five rockets to launch at the unsuspecting foe – finally, head tracking with purpose! A tap of boost, a flick of the sticks to roll and pitch onto his tail, and fire… only to have countermeasures knock every one of the missiles out. Not that it mattered when he was in gun range. Goodbye AI opponent, you left a great first impression.
EVE Valkyrie offers up moments like this pretty much every time you jump into the cockpit, and for once I feel vindicated using that description. VR seats you in the ship, and looking down you see your body and arms that react as you duck and lean. Scanning around the interior there’s lovely detailing on the surfaces and instruments, and truly there’s no need for surplus information, everything is shown right in front of you as part of the ship, with the viewport doubling as a display device. You feel so at home and comfortable that when you end up piloting a fighter, scout or heavy class ship, you instinctively know what to do and when. There’s also nothing like the countdown and Battlestar Galactica reminiscent launch from the shuttle bay in any other game, it makes me grin every time reminding me of why I wanted to be Starbuck as a kid (gotta remember it’s the original series I’m fondly remembering here, not the recent reboot even if Katee Sackhoff features in the game) – it’s almost worth getting killed in battle just to experience it again on respawning.
Basics of flying and combat come in the first couple of missions run with voiceover from the entity that describes what’s happened and happening to you. You’re a clone of an ace pilot, and as such can’t really die, just relive past glories and failures and be regrown if the current body buys it in combat. Being under the control of Fatal, the leader of a pirate crew, wasn’t for one of the poor souls brought back from the dead and Rán broke free and now leads the Valkyrie (and you) against the immortal army she once served with. This sets up the Pirates vs Valkyrie battles that make up the core gameplay. Whilst there are single player levels that act as tutorials or “story” missions, the meat and gravy is the PvP multiplayer where two teams take on each other to either dominate sections of space, destroy each others carrier, or plain just shoot each other down. Taking place in sizeable, but not too big, maps with a decent variation of rocks and asteroids to fly around, the dogfighting is slick and easy to get into, and ship health is plentiful so you’re not being exposed to the cold vacuum of space every minute or so.
Armed with primary, secondary and counter weapons, which vary depending on the ship being flown, there’s a fair tactical element available to the standard PvP encounters (or PvAI if there’s not enough humans available, the game doesn’t leave you sat in lobbies for very long). Coordination and cooperation comes to the fore when tackling the bigger carrier takedowns where systematic shield dismantling, defence negating and Star Wars-like trench running comes into play. It’s a thrilling and rewarding experience taking part in the 8-on-8 matches, and whether you win or lose, at the moment it all feels fair and balanced which could so easily have been a problem with the Oculus/PSVR cross-play where console players might not have a graphical advantage. The game is pretty on PS4 even though the headset doesn’t have quite the same fidelity as the PC, and because the motion is so smooth and fast paced you don’t notice the blurry or jagged edges as much. Focus is always on the enemy rather than on what the scenery looks like.
Whilst there aren’t too many maps, having six at the moment, they’ve all got unique characteristics, and it’s tough not to love flying between moving asteroids, or winding your way through hulking derelict ships trying to avoid missile lock. However, this is where EVE Valkyrie feels a bit light. With a smallish single player offering and limited maps and game modes for a game that really wants you to focus on the multiplayer, the asking price feels a bit too high, coming in at £50 if you’re buying digitally. The devs are working on new content and it’s looking at the moment like it will be free – new maps, ships, game modes and classes – but it’s not clear exactly when that will hit. There’s a chance that only the hardcore will still be playing by the time the additions arrive. For every nice touch like glancing to the left seeing the kill information printed on the window, there’s a bad one like adding in microtransactions for currency (though I’m not sure £79.99 for a currency pack can be classed as “micro”). At least the real world cash is only used for cosmetics.
So here’s the dilemma: EVE Valkyrie is exactly the space combat game I’ve wanted since the Colony Wars series ended, and it ticks all the boxes as a launch title; though it’s expensive for the content in there (and PSVR players get more initially than the PC players had on original release). There’s also a chance that extended periods of play might make you queasy. I don’t recommend playing on a full stomach if you’re in for the long haul, or if you’re prone to motion sickness. But, and it’s a huge but, it’s such a satisfying VR experience that you can get lost in the atmosphere and action. I’ve a number of VR titles lined up to play since the hardware arrived, yet this is the one I keep returning to, especially with double XP weekends going on through the launch period. Like with all VR I say try it before you buy it, it’s on the demo disc that comes with the unit. If that small taste makes you grin and want more, then you’re already sold.
A PSVR review copy of EVE Valkyrie was provided by the CCP PR team, and the game is available now on Oculus Rift and PSVR.
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