“A visceral Jetpack-fuelled VR Arcade Shooter where you fly through deadly Orbital Arenas in HOSTILE SPACE facing off in extreme battles.” This is what developer Ubisoft Montpellier promises for its new VR Shooter Space Junkies. Let’s see if it holds up.
Let’s start with the gameplay.
Space Junkies is at its core an Arcade shooter. It lets you know that right off the bat. The player won’t notice this but anyone sitting on the sofa (having a laugh while watching their friend move about with a VR headset) will notice on the right of the screen there is a section with a player card and a scoreboard containing the 4 players In the match. This is a cool little feature as it allows a group of friends who are taking it in turns to play the chance to watch the match as if it were a live event (which it is!)
Anyway moving on.
Space junkies is strictly an online Co-op shooter. The game allows up to 4 players with 6 different maps and 5 different game modes to choose from. The maps are varyingly different. Some close quarters, other outside in space. Ranging from Chase canyon, Absolute Zero, Dark ice, The factory, Skull and guns and Organic belt. The game modes include 1 Vs 1, 2 Vs 2, King mode, free for all and boot camp.
So for the moment, there are enough maps and game types to keep you going. A recent update of season 1 episode 3 has added a new map called ‘The Jail’ which is the largest interior map in the game, 2 new game modes 3 Vs 3 and Chivalry mode. A new weapon and character. Finally, a new feature which allows you to go head to head with up to 2 Bots. This feature is handy as it allows you to train yourself and get to grips fully with the controls before battling other players online. At the end of each match, you have a chance to win a prize box. You can open this in the lobby and unlock weapon skins, Suit skins and helmet add-ons. The only downside is that these unlocks are purely cosmetic and add no new abilities. These cosmetic upgrades can then be applied while in the matchmaking lobby via the armoury. Here you can view your progress and choose between different character classes that vary the stats of your health and speed.
When first released on the PS VR Space Junkies was only compatible with the DualShock 4 controller. However, at the time of reviewing the game myself, an update was released allowing the use of the PlayStation move controllers. Here is where I started to encounter problems that impeded my enjoyment of the game. The controls, simply put, are like a beginner learning to switch between notes on a guitar. They are fiddly. Your left move controller moves you backwards and forwards and your right move controller side to side. The confusing part is that when you look around it snaps you left and right which is rather jarring. To do this you press square to snap left and triangle to snap right. When playing in the heat of a match having so many buttons to press to turn and move sent me going either the wrong way or jetpacking into walls. It was annoying. Many times I was navigating corridors trying to find or creep up on an opponent only to miss-press a button and come out of cover to be killed. Now, this is a personal gripe, in time it becomes natural. Muscle memory kicks in. However, when you’re unable to see what buttons your pressing it becomes an annoyance.
Now for graphics and sound.
Space junkies is a beautiful looking game. You actually feel there in the moment. Ubisoft has done a great job in immersing you in the world they have created. When playing I felt as if I was the character I was playing. During the tutorial, I started waving my arms around in a dance and saw my shadow cast against the wall opposite me mirroring my actions. I looked around to see my legs floating in zero G. My arms waving around. I wasn’t just a floating head like most shooters opt for. Even down to the interior of the space helmet. It felt like as soon as I put on the VR Headset the headset was the helmet. I could see the interior of the helmet. Hear my characters varied breathing. Ubisoft, Well done in immersing me in your game.
Finally, each gun has its unique sound offering its own statement of destructive force. The voice acting of the commentator made me laugh. It’s eccentric and over the top with some truly cheesy dialogue. Yet it was deliberate. Adding to that arcade feel. I felt like I was back at my old bowling alley in 2002 playing a shooting game in the arcade section.
Now with a VR game I always do my final verdict on whether the game gives me motion sickness. This adds to my final score either adding a point or losing a point. In terms of Space Junkies I experienced no motion sickness at all. Which surprised me. I honestly thought going in I’d only be able to spend about 30 minutes playing before I had to sit down. Games like Blood and Truth and Star Trek Bridge crew I’ve been able to play in 30 minute intervals. Gran Turismo in VR gave me major motion sickness. My fault as I chose to drive the same car I drive for a living. Going back on topic, Space Junkies kept me hooked and engaged without me wanting to sit down.
Space junkies was released on March 26th and is cross platform between the PS VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.