Vox Machinae Hands-On: VR’s Most Immersive Mech Cockpit

by David Jagneaux • September 26th, 2018

I’ve played a lot of Archangel: Hellfire, Rigs was one of my favorite PSVR launch titles, and I still fantasize about a real Gundam VR game. But to date, Vox Machinae may have my favorite VR mech cockpit. It’s just the most perfect interpretation of how to do a cockpit in VR that takes full advantage of tracked motion controllers like Oculus Touch.

What you’ll find is that with most VR mech games, the cockpit is a visual ornament. It looks nice to sit behind some controls, it helps alleviate motion sickness, and for the most part people it really does sell the immersion. But then you end up just miming the robot’s arm movements or using the joysticks on your controllers to move and it defeats the purpose. Vox Machinae is different.

When controlling my mech in Vox Machinae, I had to actually interact with my cockpit. Want to go full speed ahead? I’ll need to reach down to my left and push the throttle forward. Boosting up in the air and spinning around to shoot someone behind me? I’ve got to pull up on the boost control at my left, then reach down to the right to turn the stick around to face behind me.

It sounds cumbersome, but what you lose in speed and finesse is more than made up for in sheer immersion. These are absolutely enormous robots and they certainly feel as massive and powerful as they look in a game like this. It’s a bit awkward, but that feels by design rather than because of control issues.

I only got the chance to play a single match, but it lasted about 15 minutes and had my palms sweating by the end. Because of how deliberate everything is in Vox Machinae, the skill ceiling is very high. Not only will you need to learn the weight and physics and jump speed and so much more of your mech, but the maps are enormous and there appear to be lots of weapons to juggle in customization menus — although I didn’t see any of that first-hand.

In recent years it feels like mech games have evolved to be more about a power fantasy of letting you go bigger without having to sacrifice going faster, but anyone that remembers old-school MechWarrior titles will recall the lumbering controls in those releases. With regard to that, Vox Machinae could almost be seen as a return to form in a way, while still iterating on the genre and pushing it forward with VR.

Vox Machinae’s bright, vivid color pallete are also a great contrast to the otherwise muted steampunk designs and it gives the experience a personality all its own.

All in all Vox Machinae has a lot going for it that really makes it feel special in the VR space. You won’t find another game that lets you interact with so many elements of the combat to have actual, immediately results in terms of gameplay like you do here. While playing I quickly forgot about the controllers in my hands and honestly felt like I was piloting a giant, hulking robot death machine.

Vox Machinae releases today for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. There will also be support for non-VR players on PC. This is reportedly a multiplayer-only focused title. Let us know what you think of the game down in the comments down below!

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