Our Early RIGS Mechanized Combat League Impressions For PlayStation VR
Update: We've updated our impression to a full on review. You can find it here.
Rigs has been a center point of PlayStation VR’s lineup of games and its marketing for a few reasons: It’s a PlayStation VR exclusive, it comes from the creators of Killzone (and the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn), and it represents an online multiplayer experience that would feel different outside of virtual reality. It has the potential to be the new platform’s premiere multiplayer game, and even though we haven’t had a chance to play the game online (which we feel is necessary to our review), we wanted to share some impressions.
Rigs is a member of the growing sub-genre of sports video games that have an unreal slant. It stands alongside games like Rocket League and Videoball by feeling more like a competitive sport than a shooter, despite the presence of exploding mobile mechs (called rigs, here) with guns. You play as a rookie pilot in the Rigs sports league, which pits an assortment of bipedal rigs with a range of differing abilities against one another through a number of different game types.
In virtual reality, you control your aim by looking around, while the left stick on the controller handles movement. You get the sense that you are controlling a big unwieldy rig, especially when you can move your head to your left and right and take a closer look at your guns, or your view is obscured by the machine’s shoulder as you try and figure out what’s firing at your back.
When you start the game, there is a big disclaimer announcing that Rigs is meant to be played in short bursts, at least initially, and that’s advice you should take. I slowly built up a tolerance to Rigs’ fast-paced action, but my first few matches left me feeling ill. It does its best to help minimize nausea by limiting your field of view when looking around quickly, and cutting to black when you get destroyed and eject from your rig, but it’s not enough. I was only able to play a few rounds before needing to take a break. Follow-up sessions did fare better, as you learn what to avoid and how to play smoother, but it takes time. Once you learn how to avoid the nausea, what you are left with is a fun competitive game.
During the match, you can divert power to one of three modes. One mode heals you, one mode speeds you up, and one mode increases your damage output. Each mode is mapped to a face button so switching between them is frequent, and it does change how you approach each encounter. Activate speed to get to the encounter, turn up your damage output to take out the competition, and then switch to heal mode (if you won). It keeps things interesting moment-to-moment without over-complicating the core mechanics.
The three match types also do a good job keeping things from feeling repetitive. Team Takedown functions like the standard team deathmatch – you and your team need to blow up the opposition as much as possible. Endzone places a ball in the field, which must be passed through your opponent’s goal. Powerslam is my favorite. When you perform well in general combat, overdrive is activated, which means your healing, speed, and damage output are all maxed out temporarily. The only way to score a point in Powerslam is to have overdrive activated while leaping through a goal, usually placed in the middle of the field. Each game type is distinct and offers different tactics, and I never found myself dreading one popping up over another while playing through the offline tournaments.
Your main incentive, outside of simply winning, is unlocking new cosmetic gear and rigs. There are four main rig distinguishers which cover the slow but powerful and well-rounded playing methods, but you can also play as a rig that can float above the arena and one capable of double-jumping. Because of this, each rig feels distinct and I enjoyed trying out each chassis. I also liked how the rewards system is set up, which allows you to choose what rewards to chase before each match – such as trying to score five melee kills or getting MVP.
As I stated in the opening of these impressions, I have not been able to play online yet, and that will play an important factor in our review of the game, but at this pre-release stage, focusing on offline core mechanics, Rigs offers a mechanically simple, easy to grasp, and fun-to-play digital sports game. The nausea factor, however, absolutely has the potential to deter players. I could feel it in my stomach almost every time I dropped into the match after being taken out, and though it did get better the more I played (with frequent breaks) it still made me pause and take a deep breath every time I put the headset on.