Racket: Nx, a virtual reality fusion of tennis and Breakout, is soon to get a major update with new features like co-op, avatar customization, and in-game tournaments. The studio has also teased that the game is heading to “another VR platform,” very likely PSVR.
Having launched initially in Early Access back in 2017 and then in its full version in 2018, Racket: Nx is by now a VR classic. Playing out like an immersive, 360 degree version of a ‘brick breaker’ game, the sharply designed title has maintained consistently excellent review scores, though it has remained something of a hidden gem.
After its release years ago on Steam, Oculus, and Viveport, the game’s moderate traction seemed sure to keep it from growing beyond its initial scope. But after the game launched on Quest in 2019—and in one year generated 10x the number of reviews as the Rift version—developer One Hamsa is now preparing some major updates.
Major Updates Coming to Racket: Nx
In an email yesterday (the one-year anniversary of the game’s Quest launch) the studio outlined big changes in store for all versions of Racket: Nx, which are due “in the coming year:”
Coop Mode – we’ve wanted to do this one forever, and finally have the chance. Coop will allow friends (or strangers) to play together, as a team!
Avatar Customization – customize your racket, your avatar, and a bunch more elements we’re still keeping secret ;)
Custom Mode – we’re going to give you all the knobs and checkboxes to play with – game speed, gravity, powerup type and frequency, rules, and much more.
Monthly Challenge – a special monthly Solo set that will keep changing, allowing us to regularly introduce new content.
Tournaments – an easy way to setup and spectate tournaments in-game.
The studio also shared a new trailer for the game:
And there’s more in the plans, including deeper integration with Oculus’ latest social features to make it easier for players to connect and compete, new options for leaderboard filtering, and improved matchmaking to match players of equal skill.
PSVR Release for Racket: Nx Likely
Included in the studio’s announcements is a tease about the game coming to a new platform:
“Developed a [a Racket: Nx] port for another VR platform, including an extensive language localization system (not out just yet).”
PSVR is the only major VR platform that the game isn’t currently available on, so that’s our best guess for now. This would be a similar trajectory to other indie VR studios with well-rated but lesser-known games which have prioritized getting their titles onto Quest and PSVR, like we see with Until You Fall which will launch on both platforms this Fall.
Quest Success Spurs More Development
Developer One Hamsa says that as a small six-person studio, Racket: Nx’s success on Quest gave them the nudge needed to expand the game beyond its original scope.
“[…] with RNX on Quest selling reasonably well, we’ve gained the resources (and confidence) to expand the game further. We’ve actually already started several months ago, with lots of invisible infrastructural work that is a prerequisite to developing the features we’ve mentioned above,” the email read. “But recently the work on these features has started in earnest, and we felt it was time to share the news with you all.”
Racket: Nx on Quest stands as the 9th best rated game on Quest at our last check, holding a user rating of 4.75 out of 5. As a game designed around 360 degree gameplay, Quest’s lack of tether makes it especially well suited to the game.
Tequila Works today announced that their VR murder mystery game The Invisible Hours (2017) is making its way to Oculus Quest “soon,” the studio says.
The Invisible Hours offers up a unique time-bending gameplay mechanic, which lets the user freely explore the complex Clue-style ‘whodunit’ as an apparition—sort of like an immersive theater piece that you can control, rewind, and experience at your own pace. You follow suspects around and slowly unravel the multi-thread murder mystery.
The Invisible Hours is also a triumph in character animation and overall graphical fidelity. In a Gamasutra post, the creators speak a little about the game’s traditional facial and motion capture of live actors.
“On the shoot, we had to track data very, very carefully: the project amounts to an unprecedented 2,240,000 frames of character data in Motion Builder. As such, it proved to be one of the most complex motion capture shoots in videogame history. But once processed, it was a relatively conventional pipeline to assemble the data inside the engine.”
There’s no timeframe on the Quest port yet, only “soon.”
Downpour Interactive and Coatsink today announced that Onward, the VR tactical shooter, is coming to Oculus Quest on July 30th.
Downpour Interactive founder Dante Buckley first announced the studio was making a Quest port of Onwardback at last year’s ESL VR League Season three championship, stating that the game would would feature cross-play with both Oculus Rift and SteamVR headsets.
The studio has made good on its word, and in the meantime also included Coatsink, the studio behind the Esper VR series and Shadow Point (2019), as publisher.
“I’m incredibly excited for Onward to come to the Oculus Quest: to have players be inspired by the freedom of the platform while at the same time experiencing the realism and immersion that Onward brings to the table. And I think I speak for my whole team when I say we’re excited to see our players get their hands on the game after almost a year of development,” said Buckley.
The Quest version is said to include all of the game’s standard features, including solo and co-op game modes, and multiplayer battles with up to ten players. Bringing a greater focus on realism, Onward doesn’t include mini-maps, or crosshairs, as players rely on real-world communication, shooting, and navigation skills to accomplish objectives.
The release on Quest will, like its PC VR versions, be available in Early Access when it first launches on the Oculus Store on July 30th, priced at $25.
There’s no time frame on when the game is said to leave EA, as the studio says it still needs to add “finishing touches, improving stability, optimisations to the game’s source code, and general polish.”
Phantom: Covert Ops is a rather unique take on a stealth action game, and one that’s clearly been designed with virtual reality in mind. With paddle in hand, you’ll find yourself sleuthing through sluices in a tactical kayak. But are the waterways a welcoming venue for fun stealth action? Read on to find out.
Phantom: Covert Ops Details:
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Developer: nDreams Available On: Oculus Store (Rift, Quest) Reviewed On: Rift S, Quest Release Date: June 25th, 2020 Price: $30 (supports cross-buy)
Phantom: Covert Ops is built entirely around being in a tactical kayak—which is just like a normal kayak, except that it’s camouflaged and has some deadly guns and gadgets attached. Throughout the game’s campaign you’ll find yourself paddling through shadowy spillways, distracting guards, and destroying key objectives. The story is nothing you haven’t heard before: a bad guy (who’s just evil because… why not) wants to hurt some good guys, and it’s your job to stop him.
The core gameplay involves following objective markers along a quite linear path which will sometimes be blocked by guards at the water’s edge. Stealth tends to be the best option because when the bullets start flying you’re mostly a sitting duck in the kayak. Luckily you can slip under docks and into reeds to stay concealed, and occasionally you’ll need to dodge a flashlight or security camera as you slide from one hiding spot to the next.
As you paddle around, you can pull out your night vision goggles; with the click of a trigger they’ll ‘mark’ any guards and interactive objects in the area. Unfortunately there isn’t a particularly large variety of objects. There’s things that distract guards (like an air canister or … a box-shaped air canister), generators which can be disabled to turn off lights, and explosive barrels.
These are your tools for dealing with guards, boats, and security cameras that watch the water’s edge. If you do get spotted, you have a brief moment to take down the guard that spotted you, otherwise they’ll alert the other guards too.
As for tackling objectives, you’ll be regularly asked to slip underneath structures like satellite dishes to disable them, and occasionally you’ll use explosive charges to blow up other objectives.
While Phantom: Covert Ops starts out strong with solid mechanics and interactions, the mechanics and the ensuing scenarios plateau pretty quickly.
It didn’t take long before the gameplay felt formulaic; I would enter a new area, mark everything in the vicinity with my night vision goggles, and then either slip past the guards undetected or create some small distraction and then go along my way. If I was feeling lazy I’d just drop a lone guard with my silenced pistol or sniper rifle. There was little sense of planning & executing, resource management, or overall strategy.
I was happy to see when the game finally introduced mines and security cameras—the sort of things that pushed the challenge and intrigue up a notch by requiring me to make more deliberate moves—but unfortunately that’s pretty much where the gameplay arc plateaued. About half way through the game I bumped up the difficulty from its medium setting to its highest setting which made things a little bit more interesting.
While Phantom: Covert Ops has some strong gameplay ideas, it doesn’t manage to get them to synergize particularly well; the gameplay sandbox isn’t quite dynamic enough to support the kind of thrilling scenarios that you’d expected from a great stealth action game.
Beyond the campaign mode, which took me around four hours to complete, there’s also Free Play mode and Challenges.
Free Play allows you to replay any level to try to improve your score (which is determined by factors like how many times you’ve been spotted) and you get to select your own loadout from equipment that you unlock throughout the campaign. You can also enable any of a few dozen cheats (like big head mode, super difficulty, unlimited ammo, low gravity, etc) in Free Play. Earning a high score on levels in Free Play (or the campaign mode) will unlock one of 14 challenges.
Challenges are mini-games that grade you based on time or score, and they’re actually worth a spin. Though they only take a minute or two each, they’re fun little extras like racing through a series of gates to score the best time, a range of pop-up targets to test your marksmanship, or a challenge to kill all guards along a path. Each challenge has leaderboards, so you can see just how well you match up against everyone else.
The challenges typically push the game’s mechanics to more interesting extremes, but unfortunately they smack of gameplay beats which couldn’t be effectively integrated with the main campaign.
The core interaction and locomotion design of Phantom: Covert Ops is inherently quite immersive. Being in the kayak and paddling your way along the water feels really good. The way that weapons and gadgets are attached to your kayak around you and right within arms reach makes for a perfectly intuitive inventory system that’s always right where you expect it to be.
If there’s a lever or latch to pull, it almost always feels satisfying, and nDreams thoughtfully placed extra hand-holds near key switches and levers which makes it easy to grab hold of and pull yourself in closer for the interaction.
Weapon handling also feels quite good. The weapon models are reasonably high quality and the game applies a smoothing effect to the movement of your hands depending upon how heavy the weapon is. That prevents weapons from wiggling unrealistically, and provides a sense of virtual weight. You can also two-hand pistols right along with the explicitly two-handed weapons like the SMG and sniper rifle.
But there’s a few misses too. While the weapons look good, their actual use and mechanics are quite arcade-y. If you release any object like a gun or your paddle, it instantly snaps back into its holster. While this is of course convenient, it means you don’t need to focus too much attention on managing the items around you. You can, for instance, aim your sniper rifle and then simply release it to then reach for the SMG on your back (knowing that the sniper rifle will just pop back into its holster).
Reloading weapons also feels awkward (and even unnecessary). Throughout the whole campaign I think I might have reloaded each weapon a single time (there’s just not much need to shoot). You do so by grabbing a magazine from the pouch in front of you, and then moving it toward the magazine on the gun. Then you’ll watch as the old mag magically ejects and the new one pops into its place.
This is made more awkward by the poor hand-posing on the magazines; the way the hand clasps most magazines means that you’ll probably bump your controllers together when you try to put the new mag in—it’s as if the developers were exclusively building the game on the original Rift CV1 (which had controllers with rings facing down instead of up like on Rift S and Quest controllers).
A greater emphasis on those near-field interactions with weapons and gadgets could have been a great way to diversify the gameplay and move the player’s attention between more than just looking out for guards and the next hiding spot.
Unfortunately the game’s trite story doesn’t help on the immersion front. After playing the game’s four hours of campaign, I recall the names of two characters—neither of which were interesting in the slightest due to a complete lack of character development. In fact, I found some of the throw-away guard dialogue more interesting than whatever the main characters (AKA voices on the radio) were up to.
The game’s sound and visual design are passable, but left me wanting. I found the game’s lighting to be often confusing, both visually and mechanically. In many cases, light seems to emanate from no source in particular, leaving the environment often looking light a patchwork of oddly lit and unlit spaces. And then there were places that seemed perfectly bright but I could easily go undetected right in front of a guard while waving at them in jest. P.S. Do yourself a favor and disable anti-aliasing; the reduction in aliasing isn’t worth how much sharpness the game sacrifices.
On Quest specifically, the headset’s OLED black-smear issues are truly exacerbated by the game. Dark areas of the scenes get smeared around a good bit during head movement, largely defeating the benefit of having the OLED display in the first place. The game is still playable, but I’m hoping this could get patched in the future to prevent the game from using true-black so often (thereby hopefully reducing smearing).
Sound in Covert Ops is a mixed bag too. At the start of the game you’ll see a big pop-up that says “Headphones recommended.” And you should absolutely follow that advice for an instant boost to immersion (though that’s more on the sub-par speakers of Rift S and Quest than anything else). Even with headphones, sounds in the game don’t seem particularly well polished—like the very uneventful sound effects for when you’ve been detected or the sound of incoming gunfire when you’re being shot at.
I was quite worried about the comfort of Phantom: Covert Ops in my most recent preview because the game’s smoothly turning ‘sharp turn’ mechanic clearly grated on my brain. Too much of that smooth turning and it would be a trip to nausea town.
I’m very happy that the studio has added an ‘incremental turn’ option which causes the kayak to snap-turn when you employ the ‘sharp turn’ button. Although the motion doesn’t feel as natural as smooth turn, I found that it was a hell of a lot more comfortable and that it had almost no impact on gameplay. Thanks to the incremental turn option, I could play Covert Ops indefinitely without the risk of nausea slowly building.
Thanks to the addition of incremental turn, I found the game very comfortable throughout.
Those who are highly sensitive to motion might take issue with ‘strafe’ paddling (which can slide the kayak sideways) or when using the paddle to push against the shore to move the kayak, though both can be avoided easily with almost no impact to gameplay.
I also didn’t notice a single instance where tracking was an issue—either when reaching for objects in my inventory or using the two-handed sniper rifle—which means that nDreams designed around the inside-out tracking limitations of Rift S and Quest very well.
As a seated game, Phantom: Covert Ops can be played easily in a fairly compact playspace. While I started out sitting on the floor, eventually my back got a bit sore due to no support. I stuck an arm-less chair in the middle of my playspace for the second half of the game and much preferred the back support.
Vacation Simulator (2019), Owlchemy Labs’ laid back sequel to the madcap VR hit Job Simulator (2016), is getting its first big DLC drop today on SteamVR headsets and Oculus Quest.
Update (September 10th, 2020): Vacation Simulator: Back to Job is now live on SteamVR headsets and Oculus Quest, a free update that brings a load of new gig-style jobs to the game’s holiday hotspots. Owlchemy Labs says the update will arrive on PSVR in October.
The original article follows below:
Original Article (June 19th, 2020): Called ‘Back to JOB’, the free DLC update is slated to satire the gig economy where it seems like you’ll take on all manner of entitled customer.
Everyone (or every-bot) on Vacation Island has decided to join in the fun and quit their steady jobs in favor of fun in the virtual sun, leaving you to pick up the slack.
This is how Owlchemy describes it:
As a gig associate, players will man the Vacation Simulator poolside Cantina with their trusty partner GigBot at their side to assist them through their journey. In this new position players will meet an exciting cast of Bots, all who expect 5-star service. Get ready to cook, entertain, advise, and do whatever it takes for Bots to experience [MAXIMUM RELAXATION].
Vacation Simulator’s Back to JOB update will arrive for free on all supported headsets this fall, which includes SteamVR headsets, Oculus Quest, and PSVR (see update).
Although E3 was cancelled this year due to the ongoing pandemic, many studios went forward with their traditional mid-June game announcements just the same. That just so happens to mean that Oculus Quest owners are getting a rash of PC VR ports soon.
Coming soon to Quest:
Trover Saves the Universe
Arriving on June 18th on Quest is the beautifully weird 3D platformer from Ricky and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland—and his merry band of developers at Squanch Games, of course.
Originally launched on PSVR and later rolled out onto PC VR headsets, Trover Saves the Universe brings Roilands uniquely unhinged stream-of-thought comedy to virtual reality in a big way.
You’ll control Trover on his quest to retrieve his kidnapped dogs from the evil eye sockets of Glorkon. Why explain what that even means when you can just play it?
First launched on PC VR headsets in 2016, Gravity Lab is a Rube Goldberg-style puzzler set in a microgravity environment. You’ll have plenty of pieces and contraptions on-hand to stretch your imagination as you shuffle balls from point A to point B.
Gravity Lab is marked as “coming soon,” so no official street date yet.
Gravity Lab was created by independent developer Mark Schramm, who is also known for Nighttime Terror VR: Desert Defender and his work on Sideload VR, the now-defunct unofficial game library for the Gear VR platform.
In Death: Unchained
Launching on Quest is one of the best bow-shooters to grace the heavenly realms of virtual reality—or rather the ghoulish upper strata of Hell.
Available on PSVR and PC VR headsets, this single-player rogue-lite has you battling through an ever-changing map, and through an increasingly difficult wave of enemies that will have you questioning your ability to keep cool in the most dire of circumstances.
Created by Sólfar Studios and adapted to Quest by Superbright VR, In Death: Unchained is set to arrive on Quest sometime in July.
What Quest game are you most excited to play? Let us know in the comments below!
Hit VR rhythm shooter Pistol Whip got a brand new DLC level today on PC VR and Quest. Developer Cloudhead games also shared its long-term roadmap, including DLC planned for Q4 which will mark “a whole new era” for the game with a “cinematic campaign built from linked scenes.” The studio also announced a July 27th release date for Pistol Whip on PSVR.
Pistol Whip got a brand new level today called ‘Religion’, available now on both PC VR and Quest. Cloudhead Games describes the new track as its “most intense yet—fans will think ‘Death’ meets ‘High Priestess’—boasting a five-and-a-half-minute gauntlet of pure physicality that is sure to push even veteran players to their limits.” The new track includes three difficulties and a new John Wick-inspired collection of pistol skins.
The new track is the latest in a string of regular updates since the late 2019 release of Pistol Whip which now boasts 15 tracks. But Cloudhead Games is far from done.
The studio announced today that it has plans for a brand new, free DLC pack called ‘Heartbreaker’ which is due to launch in August. This upcoming update will add three new levels, two new modifiers, new customization options, and it will bring achievements to the game for the first time.
Heartbreaker will also see Pistol Whip reaching into new musical territory. The studio says the levels will be accompanied by a “poppy and summery vibe, with abstract, colorful, and highly musical scenes.” Sounds like a chill time compared to the heavy EDM of the game’s existing levels.
Cloudhead also announced today the next DLC after Heartbreaker. Slated for release in Q4 this year, ‘The Concierge’ is the first of what the studio is calling an ‘Action Pack,’ which will “mark a whole new era for the game,” the studio says.
While prior updates have added new levels and songs, The Concierge sounds like it will be more ambitious and significantly shake up the gameplay. Cloudhead says the update will bring new weapon types, enemy types, and a “cinematic campaign built from linked scenes.”
And last but not least, the Pistol Whip PSVR release date is set for July 27th. The game will include all of the DLC available on existing platforms (though the Heartbreak update isn’t expect to be added until after launch). Pistol Whip on PlayStation VR will include 26 trophies.
First Contact Entertainment, the studio behind the PSVR exclusive multiplayer shooter Firewall: Zero Hour (2018), has delayed the release of its upcoming VR arena shooter, Solaris Offworld Combat.
Update (August 14th, 2020): Solaris Offworld Combat has been delayed from its original August 27th release date to September 24th, launching on Oculus Rift and Quest.
The studio says a PSVR version is still planned for release sometime in 2020.
Original Article (June 17th, 2020): First Contact Entertainment cut its teeth in the VR multiplayer shooter space with Firewall: Zero Hour [our review], which is held as perhaps the best game in the genre on PSVR. So there’s reason to be excited for the studio’s upcoming title, Solaris Offworld Combat, which is a VR arena shooter designed for four vs. four multiplayer combat.
The game was announced a year ago this week, and today the studio has revealed the first gameplay footage and release date.
From the gameplay trailer, the thing that stands out the most is the game’s surprising pace. Most VR shooters are tactical and slow paced, partly because moving quickly in VR can be clunky and even dizzying. Solaris Offworld Combat is clearly aiming to up the ante on the speed of gameplay. Despite mechanics like sprinting and sliding, there’s indications that the studio is smartly designing for comfort.
For one, the player’s HUD appears to be designed to give players a ‘cockpit-like’ static frame of reference, which is a known technique for keeping players comfortable even while moving quickly. We can also see ‘speed lines’ in the player’s peripheral vision when moving especially fast, which has similar benefits for comfort during fast motion. Speed lines were used extensively in Sprint Vector (2018) [our review], which managed to remain quite comfortable despite its breakneck pace.
While the studio’s prior title, Firewall: Zero Hour, was a contemporary tactical shooter, Solaris is shaping up to be much more of a run-and-gun arena shooter, including weapon pickups, respawns, and territory-style objectives. The studio says the game will feature dedicated multiplayer servers.
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The Solaris Offworld Combat release date is set for August 27th on Oculus Quest and Rift. Later this year the game will be released on PSVR as well. First Contact Entertainment hasn’t yet announced if Solaris will feature cross-play multiplayer or cross-buy between Oculus headsets, but we’ve reached out for more information.
BigBox VR announced that its upcoming VR battle royale shooter Population: One is heading back into invite-only playtesting soon, this time focusing on Oculus Quest.
“We’re going to start with Quest playtests in the month of June and then we’ll add in PC crossplay shortly after,” an email invite reads. “We’ve never done Quest playtests before, so we want to focus on one platform before we add multiple headsets into the mix.”
Playtesting appears to be pretty limited; the invite specifies that closed matches may take place on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays, likely to make better use of a smaller group of testers.
Population: One may be a bit behind the wave of trendy battle royale games—even when it was initially unveiled at Gamescom 2018—but we were impressed with the scrappy little multiplayer shooter in our first hands-on for its distinctly VR-native approach to things.
You can climb, fly, build structures, and (of course) shoot and scrounge for weapons & ammo—all under the threat of a constantly closing circle of death.
It was already a comfortable and ostensibly well-polished game from the starting gate, and although we’re hoping for more past our initial impressions from nearly two years ago, being able to have just that with SteamVR-Quest cross-play will be a treat any way you slice it.
That said, there’s no launch date in sight yet, however the game’s website says it’s coming in 2020.