Ubisoft’s u-turn on virtual reality (VR) development has already yielded dividends in the form of Rabbids VR Ride, though it’s unlikely this will ever see a consumer release due to the extensive hardware requirements. Offered with more potential however, is Eagle Flight Prototype, a VR experience set in the Assassin’s Creed universe.
Eagle Flight Prototype is so called as the player takes on the form of an eagle flying through a city which is an amalgamation of landmarks and street layouts from real-world cities. Both the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty appear in this fictional playground, as well as other recognisable landmarks. The ‘prototype’ tag comes from the fact that it is indeed very early in development, yet already offers an enjoyable experience on 2 front.
The technical demonstration begins with a single-player component. Training the player in the nuances of flight control, no control pad input is required. The player simply looks in the direction they wish to travel and tilts their head to make sharp turns. The accuracy of the control is simply phenomenal; after a few moments of learning the turnings arc of your eagle and the degree of head movement required to maintain speed, the control system never gets a second thought. It’s there and it works: now go fly.
In order to allow the player to become accustomed to these controls the single-player is a simple ‘fly through the rings’ challenge. Swooping up and down through the skies above the city before plummeting to the streets below, banking hard to the right to fly through the Eiffel Tower and cautiously navigating under bridges, this simple challenge is perfectly attuned to instilling the skills required for something more demanding.
That more difficult challenge comes in the form of the multiplayer aspect of Eagle Flight Prototype. First seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles, back in June, this second component has four players divided into two teams playing head-to-head in a Capture the Flag mode. The players must first fly through a yellow beam of light to collect the flag and then deliver it to a red beam of light. Here, the Xbox 360 control pad is used to offer additional control options such as speed boost and shooting. Players have a reticule on their screen which they must align with the location of their opponent not based on where they are, but instead on where they will be when the sonic blast emitted travels the distance required to make impact. It’s a compelling challenge, especially as one single hit results in a kill.
The player’s screen will briefly flash red when another player is targeting them, and avoiding being taken out calls for some dexterous use of your ability to swoop in and out of the city below. It’s a wonderful example of how VR can be used to bring familiar gameplay styles to completely new experiences; nothing has quite felt like Eagle Flight Prototype before.
Visually, there are problems. The framerate has no noticeable issues and the eagle models – including the beak that permanently resides within the player’s view – are of a high standard. However, there are no textures on buildings within the city aside from the important landmarks. They are simply grey polygon models at present. Whether or not this was a conscious decision in order to keep framerate high or if it’s simply a case of time – lending further to that ‘prototype’ tag – is not currently known, though VRFocus is certain that next time we see Eagle Flight Prototype it will much more closely resemble a videogame vying for an official release.