E3 2017: Oculus Rift Snags Three Exclusive Titles in ARKTIKA.1, Brass Tactics, Echo Arena

Oculus Rift may have been the first VR headset to hit the market, but sales numbers from other VR headsets suggest it’s not doing so hot. Sony has revealed that PlayStation VR has sold over one million units, and HTC has said that the Vive has been doing well. Oculus Rift, on the other hand, could use a pick-me-up, especially after all the Palmer Luckey controversy. After E3 2017, a trio of exclusive games might just be enough to excite the masses.

At the show, we were able to go hands-on with three exclusive games coming to Oculus Rift. A first-person shooter, ARKTIKA.1; an RTS game, Brass Tactics; and a sports game, Echo Arena. All three titles were quite good, and any Oculus Rift owner should check them out.


ARKTIKA.1

ARKTIKA.1 is a first-person shooter for VR from 4A Games, the studio behind the Metro games. Much like the Metro games, ARKTIKA.1 is a post-apocalyptic game. Taking place 80 years into the future, global warming has caused the entire planet to freeze over with the only habitable area being around the equator. Players play as a mercenary ordered to protect a facility in a colony that provides much-needed resources.

Our demo took place early in the game, allowing us to ease into the gameplay. It begins in a gun range with a wide array of pistols laid out on a table. Using both Touch Controllers, we were able to pick each of them up, fire them, and, if we liked it, holster it for the mission. Each pistol works differently *i.e. some are revolvers, some require a charged shot, some are machine pistols, etc.) Sitting next to the guns are a broad range of attachments that can be assigned to your two pistols.

Going into the game, we were disappointed to find that the experience is mostly on-rails. Players will teleport from place to place to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. While the shooting is fast and furious, and the game encourages you to get physical and duck behind cover, it’s disappointing the sticks on the Touch Controller aren’t put to any use. ARKTIKA.1 feels like the type of shooter that would benefit from full motion movement, though it’s still an enjoyable game as is.

Visually, the game is a technical masterpiece. Demoed on the latest Nvidia hardware, the grungy, dark corridors are brought to life beautifully. 4A Games have always been fantastic at pushing graphical boundaries, and ARKTIKA.1 looks set to be a real showcase piece for VR.

ARKTIKA.1 may not be the most innovative first-person VR shooter, but the gameplay is solid and fun, and the game is a looker. While we feel that the game might have been better served with 3D movement, the shooting galleries in-game were still fun and intense.

ARKTIKA.1 is scheduled for release sometime later in 2017.


Brass Tactics

Mark Terrano is the mind behind Age of Empire 2: The Age of Kings. A master of the RTS genre, he’s facing his greatest challenge yet, bringing the genre to VR. The result is Brass Tactics, a charming title with an art style inspired by tabletop war games and Game of Thrones. But does it retain the RTS experience?

Imagine you are Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone staring at his 3D crafted model of Westeros. Brass Tactics is like that. You stand above a table that contains a 3D rendering of the map. You are the Lord of everything and can move all about the table. Holding down the grips gives you control of height, and holding the shoulder buttons allow you to zoom around the map.

Brass Tactics has been specifically designed for the Touch Controllers making interactions with the interface as simple as possible. Selecting units is as simple as pointing at your forces, drawing a box around all the units you want to select, and then pointing where they should go. Building outposts, barracks, stables, and other buildings is as simple as turning your left-hand palm-up. A palette of options will pop up, and players can use their right hand to grab what they want to build and place it on the map. The touch controls aren’t as accurate or precise as a mouse, but what Brass Tactics has managed to do with its controls is a strong start for the genre on VR.

Visually, the game’s art style is gorgeous. Taking inspiration from Game of Thrones’ intro sequence, the paper-like environments and buildings are very nice to look at. It may not be as technically impressive as more realistic games, but the artistic direction here is superb.

Brass Tactics is set for launch in October. Regarding content, Brass Tactics will have a campaign, instant action against the AI, and head-to-head multiplayer.


Echo Arena

Echo Arena is an upcoming sports game from Ready at Dawn, and a spin-off of their upcoming single-player game, Lone Echo. Presented as a multiplayer game perfect for eSports, Echo Arena pits two teams of five against one another in a game that is a cross between Final Fantasy X’s blitzball and ultimate frisbee.

The objective is simple; players fling themselves across a zero-gravity arena to grab a frisbee and place it the opponent’s goal. To do so, players will need to master the controls. Grabbing is one of the most important things a player can do in this game. You’ll hold down the grips to grab teammates, the environment, the frisbee, and, when holding down both grips, punch the enemy. The second most important thing to remember is to flick the wrist, which allows you to throw the frisbee and propel yourself forward when holding onto objects.

What really takes time getting used to is the movement. Occurring in a 3D environment, Echo Arena is all about players creating momentum and moving quickly through the arena. It’s easy to get lost when going at top speed, and new players will likely fly right past the frisbee multiple times. Thankfully, Ready at Dawn included a button that will automatically stop all forward movement, giving players some time to readjust. Echo Arena has a high learning curve, but those that take the time to master it will find that the game is an entertaining sports title.

Echo Arena does give players an area to practice and customize their avatars. Before entering a match, all ten players are placed in a room with a circle of consoles at the center. It’s here that players can practice moving about, tossing the frisbee, and punching each other in the face. It’s a smart addition that will, hopefully, get players more comfortable with the movement mechanics.

Despite the fast movement, Echo Arena is a very comfortable experience. Not once did we or any of our teammates experience nausea. While we don’t doubt there will be some people affected by this game, we came away feeling quite good. It’s a fun game with mechanically engaging gameplay. It’s difficult at first, but those that stick with it are sure to find a fun sports games underneath the learning curve.

Echo Arena is out July 20 and will be free to download for every Oculus Rift owner.