The best selling video game of all time is Wii Sports. This title came bundled with the Nintendo Wii console from which it derives its name, and to date has sold over 82 million copies, by virtue of its bundled nature. Wii Sports served as an instantly playable demonstration of what the Wii’s motion controls were capable of from the get-go. Since everyone knows how to play tennis, swinging a small white remote to move a digital racket helped newcomers connect with this never-before seen platform.
Today, gaming once again has a new platform to contend with: Virtual reality. And once again, traditional sports are being used to teach us how to play all over again.
VR Sports Challenge is the first virtual reality title from Sanzaru Games, an organization best known so far for Sonic Boom on the 3DS and its remastered ports of both God of War and Sly Cooper. VR Sports Challenge will be bundled for free with the highly anticipated Oculus Touch controllers when they release on December 6th, 2016. The game lets you try your new virtual hands at four sports: baseball, basketball, hockey, and American football. However, rather than relegating itself to a simple collection of mini-games, VR Sports manages to create a surprising amount of depth and cohesion which should serve as an example for how to do games of this ilk going forward.
Everything in VR Sports is tied together by the idea of Franchises. No matter what sport you’re playing it all connects back to an overall franchise that can be managed from a virtual office space. In your new mahogany throne room you have the chance to examine your trophies, pick your sponsors, and switch up your team name as you go. Franchise mode helps the disparate athletic experiences in VR Sports feel as if they belong to something bigger. This is a welcome shift from the play-it-and-move-on routine that other gaming collections typically stick to and feels reminiscent of the sporting theme of RIGS.
The sports themselves are also surprisingly deep. While you do have the chance to simply play 3-point shootout, hockey fighting, home run derby, or other vertical slices of each game, the core experiences each do their best to create a more fulfilling experience.
In football you play as both the quarterback coordinating the perfect drive, and the all-star receiver he is passing to. In basketball you switch from player to player as the ball is passed and you jockey for the perfect scoring position. In hockey you play as the goalie until you make enough saves and then, suddenly you find yourself in the skates of a forward making a fast break towards the opposite net, etc. etc.
Each position you move to offers a new way to use the Touch controllers and this really is the core of what VR Sports is all about. It’s a showcase for these new devices, a sort of hyper-extended tutorial that keeps the process of discovery feeling fresh and fun. Each blocked shot, swished basket and perfect pass teaches you something new about Touch and helps bond you to the product.
This isn’t to say that the experience is perfect, however. VR Sports tries to do a lot. There’s at least a dozen different game mechanics across all the different sports. Most of these work well and many of them are truly brilliant utilizations of the controllers, but some of them have their problems. If you’re not careful you’ll miss the occasional shot in hockey, fumble a dribble in basketball or strike out in home run derby. Most, if not all of these can be avoided by adjusting your sensors, body position or adding a little extra concentration, but they are notable none the less.
Multiplayer is also sorely missed in VR Sports Challenge. It’s a blast to pass the headset around your living room and watch your friends try to score touchdowns and hit home runs, but it would have been amazing to have some sort of competitive mode both locally and over the internet, especially in 2016 where online multiplayer is essentially a requirement for competent sports titles.
VR Sports Challenge is a fantastic entry point for Oculus Touch users and a truly enjoyable experience in its own right. It has hours of content, nearly infinite replayability, and enough creatively designed game modes to keep you coming back again and again. This is much more than a simple launch-day mini-game collection and if this is the type of game Oculus is giving away for free, we can’t wait to see what it comes up with next.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.