Studio: CCP Games
Platform: Oculus Rift (reviewed) and PlayStation VR (to be released)
Price: $59.99 (Free for all Rift preorders)
Release Date: March 28th, 2016
There’s something particularly magical about playing EVE: Valkyrie, a spaceship combat game designed exclusively for VR. It’s a special kind of magic that is rare for any platform to find in a single game, especially on launch day. I’ve played plenty of first-person shooters, adventure games, driving games, and more in VR that have a great sense of realism, but nothing has ever reached the point of immersion and presence that I found in EVE: Valkyrie; it feels like the game that VR headsets were designed to play.
Perhaps part of that has to do with the fact that, until today, true VR experiences were regarded as little more than science fiction and obscure technologies you only heard about on the Internet that weren’t expected to ever actually exist. That sense of disbelief – that sci-fi connotation – makes a space combat game like EVE: Valkyrie fit VR just as snugly as the Oculus Rift fits on your face.
EVE: Valkyrie feels like the game that VR headsets were designed to play.
Everything from the basic training modules and scouting missions, to the survival maps and high speed dogfights are expertly paced and satisfying. Each time my ship shot out from the launch tube into the great dark expanse of the final frontier, I was presented with a breathtaking and exhilarating display of star-gazing beauty. EVE: Valkyrie is an absolutely visually stunning sight to behold.
After several hours of game time, I still find myself looking around my cockpit, mouth agape, to admire the intricacies of every detail. Outside of combat my pilot is gripping a tablet in the same position my actual hands are gripping the controller. I can lean forward and look at my control panel and see the joysticks mid-flight moving and shifting as my thumbs tweak the control sticks. While small subtleties like this will be found in most VR games, the fact that EVE: Valkyrie exists in a state of such polish and fidelity is borderline unbelievable.
Which is why the relative lack of structured content eventually felt a bit disheartening. The training modules do a fantastic job of getting you acclimated with the game and its systems, accompanied with some fantastic voice work, and that carries through to the Chronicles section, which lets you relive missions and explore different maps to scavenge resources and find “echoes” that replay audio recordings from previous pilots. A few maps include wave-based survival modes and a handful have actual narratives involved, like a rescue mission with AI companions chatting in your ear. The structured content like this that does exist is fantastic, which makes the relative scarcity all the more baffling and disappointing.
EVE: Valkyrie is a wonderful centerpiece demonstration for what a great and immersive VR experience can feel like.
With that being said, the sheer depth and complexity on display in all other areas of this romp through the galaxy are breaths of fresh air. Every ship can be customized not only visually with paint jobs and decals, but also internally with upgrades and weapon customization. As you continue to play in combat missions and gain experience, you’ll be able to unlock new ships as well that can be assigned to launch tubes, similar to how classes and loadouts work in traditional first-person shooters.
And while EVE: Valkyrie is a wonderful centerpiece demonstration for what a great and immersive VR experience can feel like, it’s also relatively difficult to grasp if you’re brand new to the medium. Piloting your first Wraith, or other ship in the fast world of EVE: Valkyrie is a daunting experience. Gameplay requires high-levels of dexterity and intuitive knowledge of the Xbox One controller to properly maneuver around, evade, and pursue during combat. Not everyone will be able to easily pick up the controller and jump in right away to start performing barrel rolls, stopping and pivoting before boosting off, and tracking targets with lock-on missiles and Gatling guns. You’ll need to not only be comfortable in VR, but you’ll need to be comfortable with fast-paced first-person shooting games as well.
In addition to the ingrained skills you’ll need to have built up over the years of playing non-VR games, EVE: Valkyrie will also force you to train new muscles and instincts as well. For example, one of the weapons in the game, a lock-on missile, requires you to hold down the button while you track the ship with your actual gaze and head movement, not a reticule on the screen. This can lead to some incredibly intense moments when the enemy you’re tailing banks in one direction just before your lock-on finishes, forcing you to whip your neck around to stay on track, releasing the button and firing, just as they think they’ve evaded your sight. It’s an incredibly intuitive system that, quite literally, could have never worked outside of VR.
If this is new to you and you’re just itching to get started, the training modules are obviously a great place to start. After completing those, the Chronicle lets you scout maps and explore areas without worrying about combat situations and the survival waves are an awesome way to get your feet wet without a full 8v8 battle raging before you.
Once you’re ready to jump into Combat, things move very quickly. From the opening countdown to the final moments, the only time you’ll have to take a breath is when you’re waiting to respawn after you suffer an inevitable defeat at some point. When that fateful moment does arrive, you can expect the cockpit to shatter as the dark, lonely cold of space leeches onto your character, freezing you before everything explodes and the screen fades to black. Then, you’ll come back in a clone chamber and start prepping for relaunch.
This is one of the definitive VR experiences.
It’s a clever mechanic that underscores the developer’s design to maintain a sense of internal cohesion and consistency in all areas. There are very few elements that take you out of the moment to remind you it’s just a game with a hunk of fancy technology strapped to your face. For all intents and purposes, you’ll really feel like a pilot when playing EVE: Valkyrie. There are few moments in the vast history of my gaming that can compare to the rush felt when I’m on a roll in a match, stringing together kills, and evading missiles like a pro.
EVE: Valkyrie provides you with such a high level of control and nuance of movement that I can’t imagine playing a slower, more cumbersome flight combat game ever again. This is one of the definitive VR experiences and the fact that it comes with all pre-orders of the Oculus Rift is mind-blowing. If you don’t end up getting this due to not pre-ordering while the offer is available, don’t hesitate to buy this at full price when possible, you won’t regret it.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.