E3 2015 | Electronic Entertainment Expo Preview

RIGS Mechanized Combat League – Project Morpheus PS4 VR Heads-On Preview

Have you ever dreamed of piloting a giant robot from sci-fi or anime? Then RIGS, a mech-themed competitive multiplayer shooter, is the killer VR app for you. It captured the attention of E3 goers more than any other Project Morpheus demo, garnering its own dedicated line on the show floor that warranted a 1 to 2 hour wait. Guerrilla Cambridge, the developer behind Vita’s Killzone: Mercenary and the PSP version of LittleBigPlanet, is the creative mind behind RIGS and has crafted it into the most polished and entertaining Morpheus experience I’ve had to date.

This demo began with me embodying a pilot inside the RIG mech where I selected from the classes of Hunter, Mirage and Tempest, each with a different size, design, and unique weapon. Looking down I could see my virtual hands, lower body, and feet in full first-person perspective. Panning my head around, I gazed at the massive hangar bay surrounding the mechs of me and my teammates. "This is too cool," I whispered to myself. Soon our virtual pit crew gave us the go-ahead and our bots rose out of the ground of a massive arena to the cheers of hundreds of in-game spectators.

My hands gripped onto the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller, a RIG pilot’s main input device, as the countdown to the match began. The left analog stick moves the mech forward, backward, and strafing left or right, while the L2 and R2 triggers fire their respective firearms on your dual-wielding mech robot. Face buttons square, triangle, and circle each activate one of three ability modes: faster movement speed, greater damage attacks, and repairing. Pressing the X button once causes your mech to jump while double tapping activates a higher boosted double jump in the Mirage RIG class. Hitting down on the right analog stick launches your melee attack.
Most interesting of RIGS control scheme is how one points his or her targeting reticule: using your Morpheus-wearing head instead of the traditional right analog stick. moving your head sounds like a bizarre and uncomfortable way of aiming in a video game. I found myself quickly adapting to aiming with the Morpheus without much of a hitch. In fact, the added physical involvement of panning your head and even slightly leaning your body to lock onto opponents made RIGS feel that much more immersive.

The name of the game mode available to play was called Power Slam. Your objective is to kill three enemies and collect the holographic power orbs each one leaves behind in order to go into overdrive. In overdrive, your mech moves nimbler, regenerates health faster, and deal more damage. But most crucial of all is that once in overdrive, you are able to score by hopping your mech into a large hoop in the arena. Dunking into the hoop can come with challenge as opposing mechs can push your mech out of the way or of course destroy it before you get your chance to score. Power Slam’s offensive and defensive tactics keep the competitive drama in RIGS high like in real-world sports. It makes for enthralling instances, those "Holy cow, did I just make that?" moments that make your heart race in multiplayer gaming.

Being in a RIG feels powerful and satisfying.I fluidly made my way through the battlefield, gunning down enemy after enemy. Even dying was a thrill since your seat ejects out of the mech before it explodes, giving a bird’s eye view of the arena when tilting your head down. The map I played was designed at just the right size for great battle encounters and avoids awarding campers places to take cheap shots. Additionally, there’s a lot of verticality to the playing field, featuring second level platforms and various ramps leading up to them, and thus making it just critical to look up and down with the Morpheus headset. All of these elements combined gave RIGS an arena shooter feel that harkens to the days of Quake and Unreal.

RIGS also looks great for a Morpheus title and one of the most far along in the visuals department compared to other projects. A lot of VR demos I’ve experienced have looked flat, jaggy, or noticeably polygonal but not so much in RIGS. A decent amount of details and textures cover the surfaces in the game, making it appear more like a AAA title that’s well into production. Guerilla Cambridge has utilized a large color palette and ample lighting and shadows to help players quickly and clearly recognize objects. It’s an effective solution to a problem with VR headsets–they fall short in having the sharpness of modern day gaming because their display is the resolution of our TVs and are placed mere centimeters from our eyes.

After scoring the final goal to achieve victory for my team, I could not walk away from RIGS without a smile on my face and thinking about the potential waiting to be found in the shooter. If the developers can design more unique game modes outside of the standard inclusions like team deathmatch, especially ones made better with VR, RIGS can truly stand out even more. Already Power Slam is a creative sporty game type where your mech is the ball. Imagine a combat racing mode inspired by what’s shown in the underrated Toonami co-produced anime IGPX.

And then I picture the video streams of players moving their heads and bodies around. If anything, RIGS will make for an amusing, potentially silly, esports game to watch. But go ahead and laugh. I’m in a giant robot and loving it.