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Preview: VR Sports Challenge

Sanzaru Games brought a brand new build of VR Sports Challenge to the Game Developers Conference (GDC), San Francisco, revealing a further 2 of the 4 sports that will be included at the launch of the title. While ice hockey made it’s debut at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last year, American football and basketball now join the line-up, leaving baseball as the last sport to be revealed.

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Both of these new additions play very differently, yet follow the ethos of picking key moments of matches and placing the player specifically in those. American football, for example, never has the player on defence. Basketball only sees you entertaining the idea of making points; dribbling, blocking and tackling are ruled out for the sake of the adrenaline rush moments of the sport.

These consist entirely of making shots, but in a number of different set ups. The first challenge VRFocus faced was a 3-point shot system wherein 5 balls were given at locations moving around the 3 point arc. The fifth ball at each location is the ‘money shot’, giving the player significantly more points for successfully landing the shot and adding special effects to the throw. additionally, sinking 3 shots in quick succesion will put the player ‘on fire’, while missing 3 will add a chilly effect to the subsequent shot.

The control is simple, using Oculus Touch a hand lowered to the side (left or right, depending on your stronger hand) and pulling the trigger to grab the ball. Aiming your shot, the player releases said trigger to throw the ball. The gameplay is limited by time with the top 3 scorers going through to a final challenge. Exactly how this will be incorporated into the final videogame is yet to be seen.

American football is easier to see how the final experience will develop, as the challenge is delivered in a persistent fashion. Players will take charge of their fictional team, climbing through the ranks of a league and building their audience. This is done by selecting and executing successful plays leading to winning a match. However, as stated above, only the offensive part of this is actually engaged in.

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Broken into two parts, the player must first select the play before commanding the hike. Upon successfully catching the ball the player has to watch the field, waiting forΒ  a player who is open enough to catch a pass. This is denoted by a green indicator, or a red for those who are likely to be blocked.

A successful pass (scored according to accuracy) then casts the player as the receiver, with a two-handed catch being guaranteed and a one-handed resulting in a ‘tip’, giving the player a second chance to make it two-handed. The player receives a score for the accuracy of their throws and catches, the cleaner shot resulting in more points, and these add up to a final score. However, it’s making the touchdowns that are all-important of course; losing the match will undoubtedly harm your team more than a few sloppy catches.

Back to basketball, the final gameplay mode offered to VRFocus was a dunk challenge. The player is thrown onto the court at the point of making a lay-up, and has to be as stylish as possible when making their dunk in order to impress a panel of judges. Tossing the ball between your hands, spinning it behind your back, passing it through your legs; these will all likely result in higher score. However, no matter how fancy your moves are you’ve got to make that shot at the end of it, or it’s all for nothing.

VR Sports Challenge will no longer be coming to market alongside the Oculus Rift, with Sanzaru Games having now decided to ‘go all in’ on Oculus Touch support. This means there’s plenty of time for VRFocus to learn exactly how each individual sport will be incorporated into the final videogame and what the progression system will be for each. Plus, there’s still that baseball mode yet to be revealed, which will undoubtedly be interesting given the slow nature of the sport compared to the three we’ve seen thus far.