Ubisoft have famously back-peddled on their reluctance to work on virtual reality (VR) products after having once noted that the head-mounted displays would have to sell one million units before receiving AAA support. Thankfully, the publisher is now backing the new medium with not only a full release in the form of Trackmania Turbo, but also with more experimental projects including Rabbids VR Ride, which is being shown to the public for the very first time at Gamescom this week.
Rabbids VR Ride is most definitely sitting on the ‘experimental’ side of VR design as, given the extensive hardware requirements, it’s unlikely that it will eve become a consumer product. Using the second iteration of the Oculus Rift development kit, aka DK2, the player sits upon a specially crafted chair designed by D-Box. This chair not only represents the player’s position in-game – a technique that is used by many to reduce the possibility of invoking simulator sickness – but also moves on hydraulic pistons as a simulation of the action the player witnesses.
Developed by Ubisoft Paris, Rabbids VR Ride is perhaps the most appropriately named VR experience VRFocus has ever seen. It is a ride akin to the likes of Back to the Future: The Ride and The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios theme parks, or Star Tours at Disney World. The player is taken on a journey through a frozen landscape, slipping and sliding along pathways and through ice caverns, all the while surrounded by the crazy antics of the many Rabbids that populate the area. Tight turns at high-speeds are undoubtedly the highlight, but a couple of moments where the player is teetering on the brink of a big drop are cleverly designed to induce vertigo.
Despite the tight cornering being a genuine thrill, Rabbids VR Ride does often suffer from a lacking sense of speed. Perhaps an artificial limitation included in the experience for fear of causing simulator sickness, there are many moments in which you feel that increasing momentum would significantly enhance the enjoyment of the experience. Rabbids VR Ride is a piece of entertainment designed to be a simulation of a theme park ride, yet it seems that it’s been hemmed in with greater restraint then the designers of those real-world experiences would typically be.
The visual design of Rabbids VR Ride is simply wonderful. Though it’s hardly the best graphical quality you would have seen coming from Ubisoft – or in the field of VR, for that matter – the charmingly eccentric character design of the Rabbids shines through. It’s a taste of what is to come using one of Ubisoft’s most popular franchises, and given that the experience ends with ‘to be continued’ displayed in front of the player, it’s likely that Ubisoft Paris are already working on further VR projects featuring the oddball creatures.