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Preview: Epic Games’ Showdown

It’s not even a videogame. Nowhere near, in fact. There’s no interaction, no direct action and no risk/reward of any kind. It’s a movie – a short-movie with no dialogue or context – and you just happen to be in the middle of it. Epic Games’ Showdown is at once the worst technical demo for a videogame ever seen, and yet also one of the best imaginable in the modern era.

You are a heavily armoured marine; one of many involved in a shootout on a densely populated city street. The entire experience runs in slow motion as you advance down the street along a predetermined path. Your interaction is limited to simply moving your head and offering yourself a new viewpoint, but even this promotes a dramatic and encouraging sense of chaos all-around. Showdown is the perfect statement for the future of high-octane tension in virtual reality (VR): it may take some time to get there, but the roadmap is already in place.

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Looking behind you reveals your colleagues under a barrage of enemy fire, swiftly moving from cover-to-cover as they risk taking that bullet that would mean their end. Many simply don’t make it, but some manage to return fire. The bullets rush past your head leaving a transparent trail as they rip through the air. Following their path will reveal the antagonist of the situation: a huge robot armed to the teeth marching upon your position.

As you continue forward towards your own potential death explosions and debris enter and quickly your field of vision. Cars explode and men fall, the rain-slick street offering a wholly convincing vision of a city at war throughout. The muzzle-flare from your allies reflects in a puddle while also lighting-up in your peripheral vision and for a moment you feel that this is happening; you forget that this real world you’re in is just a bunch of polygons and a head-mounted display (HMD).

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The demo ends as you reach your nemesis. It rears-up and prepares a stomp attack for massive collateral damage before crouching down and zooming-in face-to-face with the lone survivor: you. Whether or not anything will ever come of Showdown – be it a playable demo for Oculus Rift purchasers or a full videogame experience – is not yet known, but at this point VRFocus is willing to bet that Epic Games’ next step into VR will be worthy of that bold branding the company has granted itself.

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