Now that PlayStation VR has launched, there’s the question of what its killer apps are. Which games are must haves — replayable and long term experiences that could sell the headset — and which are little more than short term technical showcases that hardly justify the expense. RIGS has been present very prominently whenever Sony showcased VR, being a unique online multiplayer experience, and one of the fastest paced games in virtual reality. Developed by Guerrilla Cambridge, one of Sony’s first-party studios, it’s clear they are hedging their bets on this competitive multiplayer as a core part of not only the PlayStation VR launch lineup, but far into its life cycle.
Remember when Rocket League hit the scene? The surprising hit that fell in our laps as a PlayStation Plus title, combining racing RC cars around with soccer (and later a few other sports via DLC and updates). You could look at RIGS in the same way, a mash up of first-person mech combat and sports like basketball and football. Three versus three matches last five minutes at a time, with a variety of mech classes taking the field to compete across three game types in both single-player and online multiplayer modes.
Each of the four classes of mech — or RIGS, as they are called in the game — controls quite distinctly from the next. Speed, shields, and even momentary flight are just some of the choices going in to each match, and that doesn’t even get to the different abilities that each class can possess, complete with alternate weapons. It’s easy enough to get to the test arena, and honestly this is a necessary step upon purchasing a new RIG. I tried buying a new class of RIG with different abilities and taking it straight into a match, suffice to say that match was a complete failure due to my unfamiliarity with the mech that I had just hopped into. It’s even more apparent how different each RIG controls because of the immersion of being in the VR headset, feeling like you are literally piloting a mech yourself.
Motion Sick Mechs
A primary concern of virtual reality is VR sickness, a kind of reverse motion sickness caused by the brain perceiving motion where there isn’t any. This is why you’ll find most VR experiences to be relatively stationary or slow paced, with unique solutions for motions outside of the simple head tracking. RIGS is one of the quickest moving and fastest paced PlayStation VR games currently available, and while it does start to make my stomach do a couple of turns after a number of matches, Guerrilla Cambridge have provided amenities to assist with VR comfort, understanding that this is something far from a static experience.
When turning, RIGS will narrow your field of vision slightly, as peripheral vision is part of what causes the realistic perception of motion, and subsequently the potential for feeling nausea. This option can be turned off from the menu to provide a more immersive experience, though it definitely did increase the queasy feelings that I got while running, jumping, and spinning around the maps. There’s also an option to turn on and off the eject animation, to lessen the stomach churning impact of appearing to rush straight up into the air. It remains to be seen how long term play impacts getting used to these feelings of nausea, but at the outset, they’ve done a great job of mitigating them as much as possible.
When I was finally able to get into online matches, something felt off about them. Division matches that were supposed to only have human players were plagued with simple player names like Taylor or Diaz. Sure, I guess it’s possible that I was playing with the people who grabbed those PSN IDs, but chances are much higher that the game was filling empty slots with bots. While I don’t mind this, given the currently relatively dead state of the online matchmaking, I would have liked a better indication of who the human players in the match were, and which ones were the terrible AI that contributed heavily to my losses. Luckily there’s a hearty offline mode that offers some pretty balanced and fun gameplay, particularly as you progress through the ranks and gain the ability to buy different mechs and better AI team pilots, so even if you can’t get online, there’s enough to play without other human players.
Mech Meets Sports
Each of the modes feels as idiosyncratic as the arenas, which provide differing pathways of ramps and tunnels. First up is a traditional team deathmatch style game, each kill offering points to the team. This is the mode that’s most heavily populated online, which disappointed me because I find the other two modes infinitely more interesting. Powerslam is a basketball type mode, where kills power up your RIG. When a RIG is fully powered, they can jump through a hoop in the center of the arena to score points. The final mode is Endzone, taking cues from American football, except, you know, with giant robots and guns. This is where you can draw the heavy parallels to Rocket League, taking a typical game type — in this case a first-person mech shooter — and turning it into a sport.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is a feather in the cap of PlayStation VR as a virtual reality experience, proving undoubtedly that fast paced, full motion games can be successfully portrayed in a VR environment. There may be some issues to work out, specifically in the area of online matchmaking, but that may simply be an issue of wary early adopters not wanting to fork over full price for a full priced VR title that might do nothing more than make them sick. Otherwise, RIGS is PlayStation VR’s Rocket League, a surprising mixture of sports into a genre where it feels like it doesn’t belong, yet somehow works perfectly in tandem with the immersion that VR provides. This is a solid base of a game that I hope sees updates and support in the future to help cultivate a rich and diverse online community of players. Until then, I’ll enjoy throwing my mechs through hoops as a giant robotic basketball in the single-player league.
RIGS Mechanized Combat League review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.