Last year Waves Nx completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce a device that made any set of headphones produce 3D audio. To promote the product the company partnered with developer One Hamsa to create a virtual reality (VR) experience, this became Racket: Nx for HTC Vive. Since the summer Vive owners have been able to play a free single-player demo – imagine playing squash by yourself – now that’s been expanded into multiplayer and Racket: Nx benefits greatly.
Racket: Nx is an out and out sports title, compare it to any game which involves a racket of some sort (badminton, tennis, table tennis, etc), just with a bit of sci-fi flare. Players are located in the centre of a dome, on a slightly raised platform. This dome is made up of hexagonal panels which illuminate with different options depending on the game mode or difficulty.
With a single racket – quickly switchable if you’ve got both controllers – you then have a single floating orb to smack around the arena hitting said panels, scoring points in turn. While these increase the game time in single-player, it’s in multiplayer that Racket: Nx becomes far more tactical and frantic.
This is pure one-on-one competition, with you facing your opponent in the sci-fi arena. You each have 50 points allocated, and the match ends when either player has 100 points or the most points at the end of the final set. Scored points are added to one player by removing them from the other, so matches can be a fraught fight to the finish.
One Hamsa’s included a variety of panels, some of which provide points, some remove points, while others simply change the whole direction and pace of the video game. Its this mixture, alongside actually hitting the ball with accuracy that provides a compelling sports experience. Single panels can be destroyed for minimum points, while groups of panels require several successive hits before allocating points, so care must be taking not to let your opponent get that final strike.
But controlling the match and the panels comes down to good old racket skills. If you’ve played tennis or those other sports previously mentioned you should find Racket: Nx fairly easy to pick up. The orb can be hit around the arena, ricoceting off the walls and floors, scoring a few points, experts will learn how to spin and bend the balls flight. While it does look cool, adding the right amount of spin and power to your shots will see it curve around the arena, adding sizable combo points which can turn a match on its head.
As a Steam Early Access title, Racket: Nx is still in the early stages with the core gameplay in place. Presently multiplayer could provide hours and hours worth of gaming by itself – so long as the audience is there – but its does have the solo play to fall back on. But that’s not the point, at it’s heart Racket: Nx is a competitive sports title, and depending on where the studio takes development could become an eSport of the future.