In July 2017, Oculus Rift exclusive Echo Arena came out with a bang across the VR industry, pushing forward the idea that eSporting in full 6DOF with zero-G could be perfectly feasible. With no more than a single, sophisticated gameplay mechanic and exactly one map to enjoy it with, Echo Arena rapidly launched itself into the VR Challenger League. Now with the release of its first expansion pack, Echo Combat ($9.99), the appropriately renamed Echo VR experience hosts more than its fair variety of immersive and competitive games to play.
Echo Combat – Overview
Echo Combat isn’t just a new mode; it feels like an entirely new game, despite being built on the same foundation that supported Lone Echo and Echo Arena.
In it, you and three other players dive into one of multiple maps in which you attempt to stop the enemy team from completing an objective. You’re given a handful of weapons and abilities to customize your loadout with, which make for a wide range of possible tactical plays and strategies to be aware of.
What makes the game feel so great to play is its attention to detail and polish. This is a first-party Oculus title, and it feels extremely clean and buttery smooth. Objects react logically; you can pick most everything up and/or climb on every surface. Use cover to occlude yourself from enemy fire, or to propel yourself through space. Everything about Echo Combat feels like it simply fits in a competitive shooting game, and I feel that its level of quality pushes forward the standard that VR FPS games will need to strive to in the future.
But with that said, how does Echo Combat fare as a fitness game?
For this review, I used a simple Polar H10 to track kcal burn and % fat burn. My workout lasted about 35 minutes long, and I prepared myself for excess sweat with a VR Cover. Fortunately, neither Echo Arena or Echo Combat make me sweat very often, but it’s feasible for a competitive player to get really into this, to a point where sweat represents an issue.
I knew that the game would mostly make use of my arms and hands in zero-G, so I came into the play session feeling relaxed and ready for anything.
My results came out like this:
- Duration: 0:35:22
- HR avg: 90bpm
- HR max: 111 bpm
- Calories burnt: 115kcal
- Fat burn % of cals: 60%
Intensity – 5/10
Echo Combat and Echo Arena are extensively low-intensity games. There’s little repetitive motion, and the amount of calories you burn is dependent on how you prefer to play the game.
If you’re highly competitive and you’re constantly moving and executing and getting emotionally invested into the results of your matches, you’ll naturally put far more effort into how you play. The game never compels you to play in such an intense way that you really start sweating. But, at times, other players most certainly will.
Arms – 3/10
Echo Combat will have you climbing objects and throwing other objects (less frequently), but most of the game is pointing and shooting and hoping your timing doesn’t get you and your team killed. It’s an objective-focused game, where the objective is purely inside of the game environment and doesn’t much concern your physical fitness level.
You’ll use your arms here because most of your interactions with the world will require your arms. Don’t expect a discreet arm workout.
Legs – 2/10
There’s no discreet leg workout here to speak of, but you’ll spend plenty of time standing on your feet if you want to be extra effective at maneuvering Echo Combat’s tight corridors and frenetic 360-degree shooting.
Core and Balance – 7/10
Because of the amount of time you’ll be standing up and/or even reaching to grab surfaces that might be far above or below you, I think Echo Combat actually excels at teaching you balance more than it excels anywhere else. This is supported by the experience you get when you turn on pitch and yaw smooth-turning controls, which force you to reacclimate to your position whenever you go completely upside-down.
Time Perception – 8/10
Matches only last about 10 minutes tops, which is perfect for short sequences of play. When a match ends, you’re booted back out to the main lobby where you can socialize until you join another match. It’s during this time that you might sit there and wonder about how long you’ve been playing, but frankly, Echo Combat’s addictive gameplay is culpable to give you “just one more match” syndrome. Take that as you will.
Social Competition – 10/10
This is the place where Echo Combat (and broadly Echo VR) shines. It’s a competitive multiplayer VR FPS set in zero-G, and that’s all it intends to be. While not as interested in sheer athleticism and dexterity as Echo Arena’s goal-sport mayhem, teamwork plays a gargantuan role in your experience here. As does communication and a mechanical understanding of how each weapon works. Echo Combat is, fundamentally, an eSport.
VR Fit Score 7/10
- AAA goodness.
- Great multiplayer fun.
- Has all the makings of both a fantastic casual VR FPS and a competitive eSport.
- Simple shooting gameplay that’s heavily improved by simulated zero-G in VR.
- Besides social competition and long standing sessions, Echo Combat really isn’t meant to be a fitness game.
- Players still love to exploit clipping through walls and floors to occlude themselves or make cheap fake-outs.