They say you never forget the first time you shoot a gun. There’s something about the sheer force and velocity of the bullet exiting the chamber and sinking into your target, delivering the visceral haptic feedback that sends shockwaves through your arm, that just sticks with you. So much power in such a small device, at least in the case of a handgun.
Literally kneeling to the ground as I duck behind cover and return fire through the window of a broken fence is exhilarating.
While it may be too soon to tell, I think the same will probably be said for shooting a gun for the first time in VR as well. I didn’t the gun shake my arm in Hover Junkers, threatening injury to myself with each pull of the trigger like in real life, but I felt enough feedback in the palm of my head to trick my brain into believing I was actually holding a weapon.
Then, once I was out of bullets, I had to actually click the touchpad of my Vive controller, rub my thumb around in a circle, then flick my wrist back to close the revolver and complete the reloading process. It doesn’t get a whole lot more engaging than that.
Moments like these are when Hover Junkers is at its absolute best. When I find myself completely lost in the mechanics and immersed in my actions that I essentially forget that I’m playing a game, that’s when Hover Junkers really shines the brightest. I spent well over an hour just poking around at Target Practice when I first started playing, for example. From the targets before me, to the giant milk bottles on my left and the small glass bottles on my right, it felt like a real shooting range.
A button on my left even launched a large bomb attached to a parachute for what simulated a more dangerous and explosive version of skeet shooting. I spent most of my time with the aforementioned revolver, either in just my right hand or one in each hand, because it offered my preferred balance between power and accuracy. I also just loved how interactive the reloading procedure was.
My biggest reservation with Hover Junkers is how sustainable its design will be over the long term.
After you get past these elements though and move into the meat of the game – a handful of game modes like free-for-all and team deathmatch – things start to really pick up the pace. You’ll take control of a hovering pile of junk, just as the title would suggest. Throughout each match, you’ll have to construct walls and other barriers on the exterior of your hover junker to provide cover from your assailants.
It’s a fun system, since the Vive’s room scale VR technology actually requires you to move around and not just stand in one spot. In fact, you’re often better served playing the majority of multiplayer matches from a crouched down perspective. Popping up from behind cover to take shots while remaining obstructed is a much better tactic than just standing still in the middle of your hovercraft, after all.
Voice chat integration is a nice touch, which allows for some playful trash talk, and I also noticed Twitch integration in one of the menus, but i didn’t get a chance to try that out for myself as we were under embargo. It was a bit buggy still of course and it will likely be a long time before motion tracking and room scale technology is completely bug-free.
My biggest reservation with the game is how sustainable its design will be over the long term. There aren’t any AI bots at the moment for matches so the only way to enjoy anything other than Target Practice is to round up a few friends that also have Vives and enough room to play in their own homes. Either that or hope that someone else is online playing in a public room. Not including AI-controlled bots seems like such an obvious and fundamental oversight, especially as VR faces an uphill battle for a more widespread adoption rate. But even if thousands of people are playing Hover Junkers over the next few months, there are zero progression systems in place to keep people coming back to it over an extended period of time.
And while Hover Junkers may be lacking in ways to shoot and kill characters in game modes, thankfully, there is a great deal of diversity in where and what you’re driving. There were several different ships of varying shapes and sizes. Some were re-appropriated boats, others used to be aircraft, while more are creations of dumpster amalgamations. Combined with the ability to customize and adjust the exterior fortifications of your ship, it leads to quite a high level of personalization.
The core of what exists in Hover Junkers is fun and compelling, it just feels like a there is still a good bit of room for improvement.
Platform: HTC Vive
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Hover Junkers is the type of game that will be defined both by your first impression and your feelings a few weeks or months down the road. The target practice mode and sheer visceral nature of handling a gun in the world of Hover Junkers sets an excellent tone. Literally kneeling to the ground as I duck behind cover and return fire through the window of a broken fence is exhilarating. However, unless you have friends to play with or are able to regularly find games with other players to join in the weeks and months after launch, you’ll have very little to do.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.