Shooting gallery videogames are likely to be a genre that’s explored more and more as virtual reality (VR) technology develops. Fixed in a stationary position means that studios don’t have to deal with the issues of locomotion, instead focusing on fine tuning the mechanics of an all out shooting experience. The genre formulae sits well with any head-mounted display (HMD), from mobile to the top-of-the line PC tethered devices. Just move your head and fire, simple and intuitive; a method that harks back to coin-op videogames of old that players would spend hours honing their skills to achieve those illustrious highscores. Now CCP Games is bringing that gameplay style to Oculus Rift with Gunjack.
Gunjack became CCP Games’ first title on Samsung’s Gear VR when the device launched last year, soon becoming one of the HMDs must have videogames. Set aboard a giant mining spaceship, players are tasked with fending off wave after wave of increasingly hostile pirates that want the resource rich asteroids your ship is there to mine. The intro to Gunjack gives a short flyby of the massive vessel you’re stationed on, showcasing the impressive sense of scale and detail that the PC-based Oculus Rift can achieve. It’s essentially the same as the Gear VR version just with a greater wow factor.
Gunjack is split over twenty levels with a tutorial to get players attuned to the controls. Looking out from the gun pod there are two big machine guns located either side of your position, these serve as your standard weaponry. As you progress through the videogame upgrades will appear from certain enemies, which will give you the option to change to laser beams or add area effect cannons that up the damage count. The downside being they only have limited ammo capacity, so use them wisely. Only one gun upgrade can be used at a time and none can be saved for later; use them there and then or don’t pick them up. This helps to deepen Gunjack’s tactical gameplay, forcing you decide on what course of action will be most beneficial. On the flip side health replenishment, bombs, homing missiles and more can be picked up separately, but again only one at a time.
While the upgrades and how you use them can have a big influence on the progress through each level, its the reloading mechanic of your main guns that can truly affect how well you do. The ammo counter sits at the bottom of the turrets window, quickly depleting as you destroy each in-coming wave; not paying attention to it will be your undoing. The problem is that reloading isn’t a quick process, it may only take a few seconds but those precious moments can make all the difference. Time it wrong and you’ll be bombarded with suicide fighters and homing missiles, with each hit dropping your combo meter. Gunjack does give certain opportunities to reload in between waves, but depending on how conservative with ammo you’ve been, those moments aren’t always available when needed.
And gaining those points through combos is an important part of Gunjack. At the end of each level those points will be tallied up along with the remaining of three continues you have available, giving a highscore that will give you either one, two or three stars. It’s these stars that are needed to unlock subsequent levels: don’t acquire enough and you’ll need to replay until you do. The highscores also go towards a global and friends leaderboard to see how well you’ve done in comparison to everyone else.
Through the combination of classic highscore challenges and impressive visuals Gunjack is positioned to be one of the ‘go to’ launch titles for Oculus Rift. Coming in at an entry level price point players will find this quick fun title if they want a break from its bigger brother EVE: Valkyrie, however it would be hard to suggest Gunjack has the same staying power of CCP Games’ blockbuster release.