It had to happen, of course. Just as Wii Sports made the sports mini-game a viable system seller every format since has offered it’s own package in the early days of it’s motion-control hardware launch. For the consumer version of the Oculus Rift (aka CV1) that honour goes to Sanzaru Games in the form of VR Sports Challenge, playable at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles.
Presented on CV1 as part of a 9 videogame line-up, VR Sports Challenge offered just one of it’s many sport compilation package: ice hockey. The experience started with the player being spoken to by a teammate who simply looked amazing. A remarkably high quality character model with visible wounds and stubble, this teammate introduces the simple gameplay mechanics to the player: you are the goalie, and you must prevent the puck from hitting the back of your net.
A shot coming to the left or right can be blocked by pressing the corresponding bumper on the Xbox One controller. The player must follow the puck with their eyeline (a red or green cursor surrounding the puck tells the player when they are correctly focussed), and respond to shots at their goal with accurate timing. It’s a simple yet enjoyable representation of ice hockey, and goes a bit further when your team get on the break.
It’s not yet clear whether counterattacks are scripted or are based on your defensive technique, but either way they certainly are fun. Once one of your players manages to push past the opposing team they will inevitably find themselves with only the goalie to beat. At that point the player presses the A button to initiate a shot, aims a small cursor at an open spot in the goal, and presses the A button again to send the puck on its desired trajectory.
During VRFocus‘ time with VR Sports Challenge not a single shot was missed when the opportunity arose, however a number of opposing shots did make it into the goal. The player receives a score not only for making successful saves, but also the quality (timing) of them. It’s an interesting mechanic which often leads to unsuccessful saves as you await the perfect window to press the corresponding bumper, only to miss it and fail altogether.
The whole of VR Sports Challenge‘ ice hockey goalie experience is played in first-person, however when a counter attack is initiated you immediately zoom out of your body and far up the ice rink. As with Chronos, this sudden camera movement could well make you feel uncomfortable on lesser hardware, but this was never the case with the Oculus Rift CV1. Expectation now is that further outings of VR Sports Challenge must feature additional sports settings and showcase a wider variety of action, but while Sanzaru Games’ work may never be considered the ‘must have’ of the Oculus Rift launch line-up at E3 they presented a promising opening act.