While the rest of the industry is figuring out virtual reality, I’m going to continue enjoying an HTC Vive game that already knows how to use immersion, motion controls, and vulgar hand gestures to bring its action to life.
Hover Junkers is a $35 launch game for the Vive virtual reality headset from HTC and Valve from developer Stress Level Zero, and it is all about providing players with a variety of movement techniques and communications tools in an online multiplayer shooter. You play a merc who must fly around in your piece-of-crap hovercraft until you find other players and shoot them. It’s simple, but inside of virtual reality, this is an exhilarating experience. I have it set up with Vive’s room-scale technology, and this enabled me to run from one side of my hovercraft to the other to use my boat as cover during firefights with enemies. This had me running around my room while ducking and hiding behind objects. I’ve never interacted with a game in this way before. Analysts at SuperData Research think VR will generate $40 billion in spending by 2020, and Hover Junkers shows that the market can produce compelling content worthy of those kinds of revenues.
Maybe I have a soft spot for Hover Junkers because (after I figured out how to equip my gun), I won every match that I played. I quickly clicked with its hunt-and-kill gameplay. I set up my character with the hovercraft control stick in my left hand and a pistol in my right. You get six shots with the revolver before you need to reload by running your finger around the touchpad in a circle and then whipping it closed so that the chamber snaps back into place. This all makes for excellent use of the Vive’s motion controllers, and it’s easy to start believing the action when everything feels so physically familiar.
I eventually got to a point where I would rush up behind an opponent’s craft and then immediately drop to the ground. By crawling around in my room-scale space, other players had a much tougher time getting a clear shot at me. When they spent their all of their rounds, I would then stick out slight and look to get a head shot. It worked a lot, and I just want to go do that some more now that I’m writing about it.
Hover Junkers is a VR game where you have an advantage if you’re willing to throw your body around, but that’s not the only reason it is so much fun — it’s also just a smart online social experience. Stress Level Zero built voice chat into the game. You can use that during the match or in the prematch lobby, where you’ll see the hands and goggles of the other players represented around you. But even better than voice is using your hands.
A big part of Hover Junkers is using your virtual hands to place garbage around your boat in order to build cover that you can hide behind. But when you select your hand as opposed to the gun, you can also press various buttons on the Vive controllers to make gestures. My favorite, of course, is the middle finger, but you can also give the thumbs up, fist bump, and more. It’s a blast, and you can see the potential when you go back into the lobby.
Having four or five other people with you inside of the lobby, which is a small bar that a miserable robot (which Rick and Morty‘s Justin Roiland voices) run. In this room where everyone is just hands and goggles, it’s amazing to see everyone making hand gestures and grabbing the robot and throwing him across the room all in the same shared space. I don’t see legs or arms or even faces, but I still feel like I’m existing in this simulation alongside other people. This reveals the potential for online social interactions for VR, and I want more of it.