E3 2016: RIGS Brings Inventive Sport to VR

RIGS looks to imitate the success of Rocket League with an inventive fictitious sport. This time, though, it's also being used as a proof of concept for VR.

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Virtual reality has caught fire this year across PC and consoles, but developers are still working to develop a common language and structure of games. Many of the releases we've seen are technical demos, as developers work together to learn the community's acceptance of longer experiences. RIGS, a PlayStation VR exclusive, is still built around shorter experiences, but it has a unique blending of game styles and depth that make it feel more like a full-fledged game.

Following the mold of Rocket League, RIGS uses a futuristic setting to make up its own sport. Unlike Rocket League, though, this one has no perfectly clear analog to a real-life sporting event. It bears a passing resemblance to basketball, but only in the vaguest sense.

The game centers around various mech types, emphasizing qualities like speed or agility. The game mode I played revolved around scoring kills to build up a meter, then jumping through a ring in the center to score a point. Having racked up the appropriate kills puts a target on your back, but also boosts all three of your power modes (Repair, Speed, and Damage). That may seem simplistic, but sports are simple at their core. 

I chose a small, peppy mech, and after some calibration steps I was in the thick of it. Playing against AI opponents was messy at first, but it was easy to see the strategic depth. Defeating enemies, or protecting your teammate who has racked up the needed kills, adds a layer of combat to the concept, and switching your power modes on the fly gives you the tools needed to fend for yourself in a tight spot. By the end of the five-minute match, I was racking up kills and powering through to the goal at a regular pace--though not enough to close the score deficit from my earlier ineptitude. 

The PlayStation VR didn't seem like a strictly necessary part of the game. This could easily be released as a standard version, albeit with a smaller depth of field. But midway through the match, a Sony rep changed the control scheme to map the right-stick's movement controls to my head instead. It was genuinely incredible how much of a difference this made, and how natural it felt after only a few moments. RIGS could easily be released widely across the PlayStation 4, and it may have to be to assure a large enough player count given the $400 price point for its VR device, but I think those using the head-tracking movement option will have a distinct tactical advantage. It's just that good.

The visual style is also a good match for VR, with bright colors and rounded angles that give the whole thing a friendly, bubbly look. VR sometimes struggles with more realistic settings, since the screen is strapped right to your face, but this looked just as great in VR as it did viewing others play on the outside monitors.

Matches only last about five minutes apiece, but I would've gone another round if the event wasn't closing down at the time. It's plain to see how RIGS could reach for Rocket League's success, with an intuitive concept and quick matches that demand just one more game. And as one of the banner holders for PlayStation VR, it could serve as proof that developers are starting to understand how to use the device to their advantage in creating long-lasting experiences.


This RIGS preview was based on a pre-release PlayStation VR demo of the game at an event where transportation and food were provided by Sony.

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