In just over a week one of the biggest and most anticipated VR games to date will finally be unveiled at Oculus Connect 6 when Respawn Entertainment pulls back the curtains on its upcoming AAA VR shooter.
Oculus announced the game was in development nearly two years ago at Oculus Connect 4, but ever since then details have been all but nonexistent. Just about all we’ve learned so far is that it is, in fact, a AAA-quality VR shooter in development by Titanfall and Apex Legends developer Respawn Entertainment, it will be published by Oculus Studios as an exclusive to Oculus, and it will be playable this month at OC6 in San Jose, CA.
But what else? If we do a little bit of digging and extra-detailed analysis of things like the announcement video, job postings, and the company’s track record, we can glean a tiny bit more information that we will be able to confirm or deny very soon.
Who Is Respawn Entertainment?
Respawn Entertainment is a game development studio based in Beverly Hills, CA that was founded in 2010 and has been owned by Electronic Arts since 2017. The studio was co-founded by Jason West (who departed in 2010 and is now at Epic Games) and Vince Zampella (current CEO), the original co-founders of Infinity Ward and co-creators of Call of Duty.
The studio is collaborating with Facebook on an Oculus platform-exclusive AAA VR shooter that was announced back at OC4.
What Is The Respawn VR Shooter?
This is undoubtedly the biggest question out there right now. What exactly is their AAA VR shooter? Since the studio was co-founded by Jason West and Vince Zampella, the original co-founders of Infinity Ward and co-creators of Call of Duty, we can at least safely assume it will be a first-person shooter. The setting, however, is a bigger mystery.
The Call of Duty franchise began as a WWII-focused series that explored various theaters and locations during the world’s deadliest war. Since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, however, the series has drifted in various different directions including the future, Soviet-era black ops spy missions, and more. All three of Respawn’s shipped titles since the studio was founded have been decidedly in the sci-fi camp featuring mechs, time travel, and plenty of futuristic meets modern settings across both main Titanfall games, the mobile spin-off, their latest, a battle royale shooter called Apex Legends, and the upcoming Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
The original Titanfall and Apex Legends are both multiplayer-only shooters, whereas Titanfall 2 also featured a criminally-underrated single player story campaign with some of the best level design and clever plot tricks I’ve seen in the military shooter genre. Jedi Fallen Order will be single-player only.
Personally, I’m hoping this shooter will at least prominently feature a narrative-driven campaign of some kind. If Ready at Dawn’s formula for AAA-quality VR games in Lone Echo is anything to learn from, it’s that using a single player story to set the foundation for other modes is a solid approach.
Respawn VR Shooter Announcement Trailer:
To go a step further though, we can analyze a few of the teases from the announcement video, embedded above.
“War and combat have been a part of human civilization since the beginning. People have a fascination for what it must be like,” states one developer.
“Putting your life on the line for something bigger is a universal appeal,” says Respawn Engineer, Jon Shiring.
“At Respawn, it’s about creating an authentic experience,” says Zempella.
“We really want to depict being a soldier in combat in a more fully-fleshed out and realistic way,” says Shiring.
The entire video is full of this sort of language about realism, making you feel like you’re in combat, and making it as close to real life combat as possible. How they plan to achieve this remains a mystery, but the video is padded with footage of Titanfall gameplay, clips of actors throwing themselves on the ground while wearing motion capture suits, presumably to show how authentic the animations will be in their upcoming VR game.
Then the developers go on to talk about fear, adrenaline, and anger as key emotions they’re aiming to emulate, which is a revealing tease of the sort of game we should expect.
To summarize, I think this shooter will be focused on gritty realism and may end up being the most M-rated game Oculus has on their platform officially. That’s just my gut feeling.
So Then What’s The Setting?
Based on the above analysis, the old “history of war” clips in the video, the fact that they’ve confirmed it definitely isn’t Titanfall VR, and the three blurred out photos embedded above (click to enlarge) I think there are two possibilities for a setting: classic World War II shooter or modern Middle East.
Possible Setting: World War II
My theory that this is a World War II game stems from the fact that all of the opening footage in the announcement video is of old wars and the studio is rooted in a past of making World War II shooters. Going back to those roots and using VR as a medium to finally explore World War II from a fresh perspective for the first time in decades would be something that arguably only Respawn has the talent to do well.
It seems like a natural fit.
Possible Setting: Middle East
Alternatively, Infinity Ward changed the FPS genre as a whole dramatically with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Shooters just haven’t been the same since and re-exploring what modern conflict looks like, but using VR as the lens this time, would be a fitting setting for Respawn’s entrance into the market. This is also bolstered by the blurred out photos above because the two with dual monitors both look like a sandy Middle Eastern setting to me on the right monitors in each. The third photo could easily be a broken down/destroyed car on a street.
I could be entirely wrong, but I really think it’s one of these two possibilities.
When Does It Release?
According to that original teaser video from 2017 it’s coming out this year. With only about three and a half months left in the year, plus Stormland and Asgard’s Wrath both still coming as Oculus exclusives this year, slating this shooter for that same window seems unlikely / like a bad idea. I think Spring 2020 is much more likely and reasonable, or Summer 2020 after Lone Echo 2.
However, that being said, Respawn released Apex Legends seemingly out of nowhere and that worked out great, but it was a free-to-play battle royale non-VR game so that market is very different.
Which VR Headsets Will It Be On?
When Oculus unveiled Respawn was working on a VR game back at OC4 in 2017 the Quest didn’t have a name, date, or official announcement yet. But since then, Oculus has a made a point that they’ll be making an effort to have future titles on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift. Since it’s been in development for a while, presumably, a Quest release wouldn’t be surprising. However, if it’s truly as big of a “AAA VR shooter” as many hope, it could end up as a Rift-only game like Stormland and Asgard’s Wrath.
As of now it’s definitely coming to the Rift platform, obviously, with no news one way or another about Quest.
What do you think about our analysis and predictions here? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know down in the comments below!