Space and virtual reality is a heady and exciting mix. After all, who hasn't dreamt about flying through space blasting laser-cannons? Which is exactly what EVE Valkyrie brings to (virtual) life - from the comfort of your living room sofa.
EVE Valkyrie is available for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, and created by the developers behind the popular massive multiplayer sci-fi sandbox EVE Online. With great backing like that, Valkyrie kicks off with plenty of promise, making it one of the more impressive VR titles you can buy today.
EVE Valkyrie review: Settling into the VR cockpit
VR gives us the opportunity to go places we'd never get the chance to go to otherwise. But why waste time exploring the depths of vacuous space when EVE Valkyrie allows you to engage a micro-warp drive and blast enemy spacecraft to pieces with rockets and hulking great big cannons?
Before that, however, there are a few hurdles to get over when first getting started. First up, the game doesn't support the VR controllers of the Vive or Rift, so you need an Xbox 360 controller or other PC compatible gamepad. This may be a gripe for many as it's an extra cost to play the game with VR system that no doubt already cost you a pretty penny. Also you also can't see or interact with non-VR controllers as easily in the VR universe as you can with the official controllers.
Secondly, the play area in Valykrie is seated - which is actually pretty refreshing for a VR title, plus it makes you feel more like a pilot ina spacecraft. However, on initial start up we didn't see any tutorial or setup for configuring your seating position and ended up having to half-stand, half-squat in order to fit into the correct position and actually be able to see out of the spacecraft's cockpit. Turns out this isn't an issue, though, as the back button on the Xbox controller resets your seating position.
All set up, sat on the sofa, it's time to get into the game proper. First stop is a short tutorial and a number of single-player missions which are essentially just a warm up - because, at the end of the day, EVE Valkyrie is mainly a multiplayer game. The tutorial makes it a breeze to get used to the controls of your ship and how it handles in terms of accelerating, braking, rolling and shooting your weapons. There are different ships too, with different abilities that you'll need to learn for each, then tactically choose for your style of play and the mission at hand.
The single-player missions ease you into the world of Valkyrie - but don't really offer much in the way of substance. When you initially start the game, it feels like there might be a decent story to follow, but this falls flat after just a few levels. Nonetheless, it's a good starting immersion into the world.
Visually, we're impressed with the EVE experience. From the seated view, look down and you'll see your pilot's body - i.e. you (sort of) - and while it's not possible to control their arms given the controller type, you will see the body shift realistically.
Interiors of your assigned ship contain various readouts for weaponry and mission parameters (such as the remaining health of enemy ships).
Massive hulking cannons sit on either side of your craft and differ according to the ship you're flying. One of the spacecraft includes flak cannons that track your eye movement, so you can shoot where you're looking rather than the direction the ship is pointing. Another ship has static guns that fire in front of the craft and thus require you to line up your targets.
Each ship has different defence capabilities and handle in different ways: one is slow and sluggish, but compensates with more powerful weapons; another is swift and manoeuvrable but lacks in firepower. With this design the spacecraft present a needed dynamic to the gameplay.
EVE Valkyrie review: Game modes and missions
As we've said, the single-player levels are easy to finish - which might give you a false sense that you're awesome at the game, which you'll soon find out isn't the case when you dive into multiplayer. It's here you'll face-off against real players who've been battling it out for a while - no surprise, given the game's launch mid-2016.
Each multiplayer level begins with firing you out of a magnetic launch tube from your base ship and shooting you right into battle. This experience doesn't get old as being fired out into space at high-speed is quite a thrill in VR. So much so that we were disappointed when it ended and we resumed normal speed.
When you can turn your head to look around, but steer the ship with the controller, there's a worry of motion sickness (which is a common problem with VR games). We didn't suffer from such issues, as the game design seems to work smoothly and avoid problems with tracking and movement that might cause you to feel ill. Which is especially surprising when you really get into some fierce space battles. You'll find yourself caught up in swift dogfights that leave you constantly turning and twirling to get the edge on your enemy or just try to shake someone off your tail to avoid being blown up.
Many of EVE Valkyrie's levels are made up of space stations and spacecraft graveyards that you'll need to navigate to reach your objective. We found ourselves flicking between man-made structures one minute and circling around asteroids the next.
Mission objectives include working with your team to deploy drones to capture a control point, or battling your way towards an enemy carrier ship to destroy theirs before they destroy yours. There's a Star Wars-esque feel here too, as blasting weak-points eventually gives you access to the inside of the ship, which you'll need to fly inside and destroy the core to take down the entire vessel.
EVE Valkyrie review: Revel in victory, lament defeat
Victory is both thrilling and satisfying. Defeat is full of crushing disappointment.
While Valkyrie is not hard to get to grips with, surviving the waves of other players with more experience is hard to get to grips with. We found ourselves getting regularly blown to pieces by players who had sunk far more time into the game and had better craft and insane abilities to turn their craft and out-manoeuvre our skills.
The good news is that there are plenty of modes. As well as the few single-player levels, there's also a survival mode which involves fighting off waves of enemy craft, a number of multiplayer modes with different objectives, and options for squad based play and player vs AI battles to ease the misery of playing against real people.
The bad news is it all gets very samey rather quickly. Go here, shoot that, blow that up, die, rinse, repeat.
To counter this there are some features: upgrades, unlocks and ranking systems will help keep your interest. These include things like new ship colours, decals, skins, cockpit interiors, and so forth, so they're briefly entertaining rather than massive additions.
Improving your dogfighting skills results in more in the way of rewards, including seeing yourself on the leaderboard not only at the end of the game, but also on the overall leaderboards which are split into various prestigious categories. We were surprised how many people were playing online and never struggled to find a game versus real people.
Despite getting decimated by other players with regularity, we still find EVE Valykrie great fun to play. There's something fantastic about blasting around in space in a virtual spacecraft, firing cannons, shooting missiles and engaging the warp drive.
The game is a wonderful showcase of the future of virtual reality and its potential. That said, it is let down by the lack of single-player content and the lack of variety of the main missions.
Still, there's a lot of content in EVE Valkyrie. So if you enjoy the potential unlocks that come with ranking up and the prestige that comes with climbing the leaderboard then there's plenty of incentive to keep you coming back for more space-blasting action.
Note - Since we wrote this review, EVE Valkyrie has been updated to "EVE: Valkyrie – Warzone", a new and updated version with more content and spaceships. EVE: Valkyrie – Warzone is compatible with the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and is available to buy on Steam.