Population: One VR battle royale hands-on preview: Winner! Winner!

Population: One is a VR battle royale game that was demoed at HTC Vive's CES 2019 booth. Check out our preview.

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Shacknews caught up with the BigBox VR developers at CES 2019 to play their new game, Population: One.

The company was formed a few years ago and is lead by industry veteran CEO Chia Chin Lee. Lee’s credits include his time as studio head of Playdom all the way back to his days at Raven Software and Valve. BigBox VR was highlighted at HTC Vive’s CES 2019 experience and Population: One is most definitely a game for virtual reality players to add to their wishlists.

The demo began with a guided tutorial where the developers from BigBox VR walked players through the gameplay mechanics in the game. The game has a building mechanic that allows players to create cover out of materials they can scrap together. This may sound like Fortnite, but the structures I built were mainly to provide cover instead of massive ramps. Population: One also features FreeMotion, a VR locomotion solution designed to lessen motion and simulator sickness.

FreeMotion powers the locomotion in Population: One VR.
FreeMotion powers the locomotion in Population: One VR.

The game applies FreeMotion to enable players to climb anything on the playable map. There was a giant tower in the center of the level I was playing that I kept trying to climb while waiting for the other demo participants to get set up. The devs said it takes 20 to 40 minutes to scale the building, but people have done it before. FreeMotion is incredibly intuitive. Players point their arm whichever direction they want to go and hold down the trigger on the left Vive controller to move. This allows players to run one direction while looking back at their opponents chasing them and being free to fire with the other hand.

FreeMotion may be at its best when players take to the air. During the tutorial, I was instructed to climb a two story brick building, which I quickly did by using the grip buttons on both Vive controllers. Once on top of the building, I was able to pick up some loot in the form of guns and ammo. Looting buildings can be a chore in other common battle royale games, but BigBox VR has done a great job of simplifying the process with minimal menus designed for VR. After gearing up, I was instructed to run off of the building and hold my arms in a T formation to activate my glider. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of Population: One as flying and climbing add a great verticality gameplay element that can end in very exciting ways.

The CES 2019 demo of multiplayer was a two-on-two battle, but the game will support up to 24 players in a server when it launches later this year. Having played some duos in PUBG, I was no stranger to the battle royale rules.

The game began by deploying players throughout the map, and the looting ensued. I was able to pick up a sniper rifle and machine gun rather quickly. As the playable area began to close in, I engaged the first of my two enemies. My teammate and I survived the first firefight, taking down one of our opponents. We ran for cover as our remaining opponent took to the high ground. I found a shotgun in a building and the playable square-shaped area began to close in more. As I ran outside, the opposing player jumped off a building. I was able to land a few shots to his body while in midair and ultimately dispatched him as he landed. The thrill of winning in Population: One was similar to the feeling of winning a Quake deathmatch or a chicken dinner in PUBG.

A winner is you!
A winner is you!

Population: One clearly takes inspiration from other popular shooters. The game definitely has replay value as most matches last 5-10 minutes, which is much shorter than the long, drawn out matches of other battle royale games. FreeMotion provides players with a truly immersive, fun and comfortable VR experience. This is hugely important for virtual reality shooters, especially a battle royale game that is designed to have people sticking around for one more game.

I ended my preview wanting to play more of the game. Population: One is a VR game to keep an eye on this year as they plan to launch on PSVR, Oculus, and HTC Vive VR HMDs. The game made its way onto our Shacknews Best products and innovation of CES 2019 list and you can find out more on the official Population: One VR website.

CEO

Asif Khan is the CEO and majority shareholder of Shacknews. He began his career in video game journalism as a freelancer in 2001 for Tendobox.com. Asif is a CPA and was formerly an investment adviser representative. After much success in his own personal investments, he retired from his day job in financial services and is currently focused on new private investments. His favorite PC game of all time is Duke Nukem 3D, and he is an unapologetic fan of most things Nintendo. Asif first frequented the Shack when it was sCary's Shugashack to find all things Quake. When he is not immersed in investments or gaming he is a purveyor of fine electronic music. Asif also has an irrational love of Cleveland sports.

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