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Preview: EVE: Valkyrie on Unreal Engine 4

A brand new build for EVE: Valkyrie was unveiled at EVE Fanfest 2014 this week. Played on the second iteration of the Oculus Rift development kit (aka DK2), this new edition of the videogame featured all of the enhancements that were announced in the opening keynote talk for the multiplayer title, including using the Unreal Engine 4 and the vocal talents of Kadee Sachoff as pilot commander Ran.

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The renovations brought about with the move to Unreal Engine 4 are evident from the very start. The cockpit features a huge amount of detail not seen in previous builds and the shape of the ships have been altered dramatically for both better and worse. The style of the craft is without question more aesthetically pleasing, however the external arms are now far greater an obstruction to your view, hindering your attempts to lock-on to enemy craft. Furthermore, joists that hold your screen together block your upward view, demanding that the player make far greater use of the manoeuvrability of their ship as opposed to simply look-panning for a target. EVE Valkyrie has been made a tougher videogame by visual design, but also inherently in its weapon set.

There remains just two weapons available in the title: an automatic rapid-fire weapon and a missile lock. The former acts just as it has in previous builds: straight shooting, aim a little ahead of the enemy so they pass into the path of your expended ammo. The missiles have changed dramatically however. No longer is it a simple case of look-and-shoot.

The missile system builds upon the multiple-shot of the earlier builds by placing each shot as an individual. Five missiles are available per shot, however the lock-on must be held for longer to enable each one to be loaded in turn. The first three are racked-up pretty quickly, but the fourth and fifth take substantially longer. The player can fire the missiles at any point, however the more that are locked-on in any single blast higher the chance of making an impact or the value of the damage therein.

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To counter this new system comes expendable flares. The player now has a clearly visible indicator when the enemy locks onto them and pressing the X button (when using an Xbox 360 pad, presumably the Square button for the eventual Project Morpheus build on PlayStation 4) will deploy your ‘missile countermeasures’; space flares that will provide a decoy should you be quick enough to put distance between them and your craft after deployment.

The remodelling of your craft and the renovation of very specific, central gameplay mechanics are a natural evolution of the design that had perhaps been accelerated thanks to the decision to move to Unreal Engine 4. However the other most notably addition, the comrade in the guise of Sachoff’s Ran, is most certainly a natural progression of a title moving from tech demo to retail product. Ran adds a human element to what was once a very cold, score-based experience. It’s no longer a matter of what number you receive at the end of the fight, but rather how you play your part in the mission given. In this first instance, Ran tasked a small squad to hold-off the enemy while an allied unit made its escape. The fact that this information is relayed in a small amount of dialogue prior to the mission adds more urgency to it; the narration during and commentary post is merely confirmation of your glorious success or crushing defeat.

Played on a DK2, EVE: Valkyrie was still limited by the flaws of the hardware. However the constant progression of the title as a high profile virtual reality (VR) experience leaves VRFocus in no doubt that CCP Games will create something worthy of its position as a headline act. EVE: Valkyrie has become more impressive with every iteration, and as a frontline project for both Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, that’s never been more important for the future of VR.