CCP Games has made a name for itself in the virtual reality (VR) industry with its popular sci-fi shooters, EVE: Valkyrie and Gunjack. Both have seen launches across a variety of head-mounted display (HMD) platforms, building a reputation for high quality experiences. For its next project, CCP has stuck with its tried and tested futuristic theme, but gone for a completely different genre of videogame, sports. Its currently building Sparc, a mixture of dodgeball, tennis and various other sports that has the potential to become a new eSport.
As you can see from the screenshots, Sparc puts players into a fairly confined arena to battle it out against one other opponent. As with most sports it’s all about gaining points, and to do this you need to hit the other player. At your disposal is a floating neon ball, a shield, and depending on the mode you’re playing some hefty knuckles.
For the demo CCP used Oculus Rift and Touch but the title will also come to PlayStation VR and HTC Vive for cross platform matches. Gameplay is simple enough, both players have a ball which they can smash at their opponent – either directly or off walls – hopefully striking them. They can be returned using the shield/racket by any direction you want. There’s just one small cravat, you can’t activate the shield if your ball isn’t in your hand, essentially making you defenceless until you get it back.
That’s not one hundred percent true as this will depend on the game mode chosen. If you play on the professional level you have your shield and that’s it. Play on the beginner mode and this is where you get those knuckles, allowing you to punch a ball away if needs be. Certainly while learning and picking up the gameplay mechanics this option becomes a lifesaver, at points you may have just thrown your ball at the same time your opponent throws their’s and suddenly you either need to get out the way or punch it back, very handy.
As Sparc’s been designed for all three headset’s actual foot movement is minimal, it’s all about the upper body. While the arena acts just like a squash court, points can only be scored with front on hits. If the ball sails past you hitting the rear wall, it can’t ricochet into the back of your head. This allows all your focus to be aimed squarely at your opponent, making for taught complex matches that test players mental and physical agility, as they duck, dip, dodge and dive.
There are no fancy power-ups or options in Sparc. You won’t get multi-balls, or balls that become massive, or faster, or any other such tomfoolery. This is about serious sporting prowess in VR, where you can not only control the speed but also the spin of the ball to keep opponents on their toes.
Looking at it from the outside Sparc can look somewhat austere in its design and function, but inside this serves to benefit rather than detract from the experience. Matches become a heated frenzy as you look for the perfect opportunities to make your attack, whilst defending yourself. The quality and execution of Sparc is a testament to CCP Games’ knowledge of VR. Whether or not it’ll gain a following – which all multiplayer focused titles need to – is an entirely different matter.