The best virtual reality games enable you to do something you’d never expect yourself to be doing.
This week, so far, I’ve done the following:
- flown through the air as an eagle, majestically
- built a fantastical vehicle out of thin air
- floated through a destroyed space station in a space suit that’s leaking oxygen
- piloted a spaceship through a hyperspace jump
Not bad, especially considering it’s only Wednesday.
I’m actually talking about “Eagle Flight,” “Fantastic Contraption,” “Adrift” and “Elite: Dangerous” — just four of the 30 games launching alongside Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset this month. Oculus VR held a big media day this past Sunday where press were given a chance to try out the dozens of games launching this month alongside the long-awaited Oculus Rift headset. And try them we did.
By the end of Sunday, I played just under 20 games. It was quite a day! But one aspect of the day stood out particularly strongly: how much more impactful VR games are when they enable me to do something I’ll never experience in reality.
And that extends to the familiarity of certain game genres. There are plenty of games in that list of 30 launch games that look familiar, like the action-adventure games you’ve played many times before on standard game consoles.
Stuff like “Lucky’s Tale” looks like a Standard Video Game™, and it plays like one too. You control a cute little fox from an overhead view in a three-dimensional world full of cutsey enemies. Sounds familiar, right?
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with “Lucky’s Tale.” On the contrary, it’s a pretty great game from what I’ve played of it. It’s fun to play, very pretty, and comes free with every Oculus Rift. This isn’t a measure of good or bad, but of impactfulness with a new medium.
Frankly, “Lucky’s Tale” almost certainly won’t stack up to the amazing freedom of literally flying through the air like a bird. Above Paris, no less! This is “Eagle Flight”:
And here’s the thing: these images don’t do the game justice at all. This looks like you’re maybe controlling an eagle from behind while wearing a VR headset, right? But that’s not what you actually do in “Eagle Flight.”
In “Eagle Flight,” you are the eagle. I don’t mean you see an eagle from behind that’s supposed to be “you.” I mean you see a beak extending out from your vision, where you’d normally see your human nose. I mean, again, you are the eagle. It’s just about as rad as anything’s ever been.
While instructing me how to play the game before the demo, game director Olivier Palmieri hilariously demonstrated tilting his head to the left and right. That’s how you control flight as an eagle, you see, while wearing a VR headset. Because, again, you are the eagle. You want to fly underneath that bridge? Tuck your head into your breast and go wild. Such is the life of an eagle.
There’s apparently a whole story built around the disappearance of humans from Earth, where they apparently left a beautifully clean Paris waiting for wild animals to reclaim it. Sure, but I just wanna fly through the air like a bird, ok?
Palmieri felt my plea — he confessed that the reason he created the game was his urge to experience flight like a bird. As such, there’s a free fly mode where you can just fly around doing whatever you want.
It’s not all majestic flight and breathtaking views of Paris, though — there’s a story mode with missions to complete (should the majesty of flight not be enough for you), as well as an admittedly rad, ridiculously silly multiplayer mode: six players, three on three (eagles), trying to play capture the dead prey while “shooting” each other with loud “CAW” shouts. Do games get any better than this?
The answer is no. They do not.
“Eagle Flight” arrives at some point this spring on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, with a launch later this year on PlayStation VR.