Last week, Oculus released its Touch motion controllers. The peripheral uses motion tracking technology to give a player a more immersive form of control. The last time we saw this kind of technology for gaming was with the Nintendo Wii. The Wii came out over a decade ago, with half of the fan base looking forward to the next generation of Nintendo games while the other half had a giggle at the name. Like the Wii before it, the Oculus Touch comes with a free sports-themed launch title with VR Sports Challenge. While far from sophisticated, games like VR Sports Challenge indicate the direction VR and VR fitness are taking.
A Look at VR Sports Challenge
The game features four sports available to play: basketball, American football, hockey, and baseball in the form of a mini-game. In-game, the player manages a franchise that they can win sponsors and trophies for. To do that, there are plenty of objectives to complete and numbers to grind.
The basketball game is seen above played by YouTube user Oakster. Reminiscent of other basketball video games, the player you control will always be the one with the ball. You accomplish passing and shooting motions with the controllers. With the latter, you actually have to arc your shot, otherwise the ball isn’t going in. After you make your shot, there is a mini-game where you block the opposing team’s shot that seems pretty fun.
The game footage seen here is from YouTube channel, UploadVR. In football, the player acts as both the quarterback and the receiver. Using a wrist device that looks suspiciously like a Pip-Boy, the quarterback chooses the play and has to find an open receiver before getting tackled. Once the player throw the pigskin, the game goes into bullet time through the receiver’s eyes. Accompanied by the token audio indications that you did it right—which amounts in this game to the announcer saying things like “Perfect pass!” and “Great catch!”—the main goal here is to score a touchdown.
Road to VR brings us this footage of the hockey portion of VR Sports Challenge. Hockey puts the player in the position of the goalie, which makes sense given the stationary nature of VR sports gaming. When a player is in control of the offense, it’s to time a shot on the opposing side’s goal. Having never actually played hockey before, I can’t accurately say whether or not it would look fun to a fan, but there is one feature that I find hilarious. Part of the hockey game pits the player in a fist fight against a player on the other team. Complete with having to emulate the motion of throwing gloves on the ice.
Home Run Derby
Baseball is also featured in VR Sports Challenge in the Home Run Derby mini-game. Oakster gives the game a shot in the above video. While I’m not sure how organic it feels to simulate holding a bat with the controllers, he sure looks like he’s enjoying the game. I like the small animations that play when the ball hits one of the objects in the background. I also see barrels with fireworks in the infield. What happens when the ball hits those?
What Does This Mean for Games Moving Forward?
Gamers familiar with Wii Sports will see a stark difference in the style of graphics. Where the Wii game was cartoony and bright, VR Sports Challenge is a more realistic take on sports. It’s the difference between Super Mario Strikers and a FIFA game. This move makes sense, since the nature of VR encourages developers to give its users an immersive, realistic experience. As far as VR fitness goes, more realistic graphics would be taken more seriously by potential users, elevating the experience from a mere game to an actual workout routine.
Something that is missing from this game is the presence of multiplayer. It would have been interesting to be able to play against someone other than yourself, especially in a sports game. It’s also a great motivator in fitness. Combined with how there isn’t much movement involved in the games, this could lead to the game being shelved after initial interest wanes. While multiplayer doesn’t make sense in the context of the games seen here, it would be great to see future games implement some sort of competition, on top of more mobility.
Of course, if VR Sports Challenge was supposed to teach us how to use the Touch, then it will be future games to really explore that potential.