Eve: Valkyrie might be the first killer app for virtual reality. It's an incredibly immersive space dogfighting game -- one that puts you in the cockpit of a futuristic starfighter and does a great job making you feel like you're actually there.
Update, April 21, 2016: Eve: Valkyrie is now coming to the HTC Vive as well, and will have cross-platform multiplayer across all VR platforms.
What is Eve: Valkyrie, what's the release date, and...wait, did you say virtual reality?
Yes, yes I did. Eve: Valkyrie is a multiplayer team-based space dogfighting game that you can only play with a virtual-reality headset. It's now confirmed for all three major VR systems, including the HTC Vive, each of which requires a beefy gaming PC. The third is , which requires a game console and should be out this fall.and
Eve: Valkyrie is a launch title for PlayStation VR, so it should be out on the very same day. If you preordered the Oculus Rift, it came with a free copy of the game.
Space dogfighting sounds cool, but why would I want it in virtual reality?
Because it's so much more immersive and engaging that way. You don't have to look the same direction that your ship is pointing: when an enemy zips past, you can turn your head to follow them. You can even lock on and fire some head-tracking missiles if you keep your gaze trained on their position -- at the same time you're wheeling your ship around and bringing the main guns to bear.
Plus, the cockpit makes you feel like you're there. Holographic displays float right in front of your face to show your speed and position. You can see that your cockpit is made of glass, particularly once it threatens to crack. You get a real sense of three-dimensional combat that's hard to replicate when you're looking through a rectangular flatscreen TV. Plus, even though you're using a gamepad to fly, you can look down and see your body. It's eerie, but in a fun way.
What kind of ships can I fly?
So far, I've tried three different classes of ship: fighters, heavy cruisers and support types. The fighters have light cannon or machine guns, plus those head-tracking missiles, and they fly at a relatively high speed. The heavies are slow and only have a set of head-tracking cannons, but they boast plenty of armor and a short-range warp drive. They're really hard to kill.
Then there's the support ships, which are pretty cool: their guns don't do a lot of damage, but they have a tractor beam weapon that can heal friendly ships and zap the armor off enemy ships. Plus they dance about at high speed to get their kills.
So this game has a ship that's basically the Medic from Team Fortress 2?
Yeah, kinda...but generally, the game's played a little bit more like a Battlefield or Titanfall. Each team in a five vs. five match is given the same number of points at the beginning of the game, and your team loses a point each time someone dies. Depending on the game mode, you can capture locations to make those points drain more quickly.
Since the game developers want to keep you dogfighting, though, you don't have to camp out at those locations. Just fly by and drop a drone to capture it for you, then go back to blasting foes (and enemy drones) out of the sky. After each mission, your team shares all the salvage you collected, which you can use to upgrade your collection of ships.
Does dogfighting in virtual reality make you sick?
Funny you should ask: When I tried spinning in circles in the game, it actually did make me a little nauseous. But what would you expect from piloting a starfighter? Generally, it felt just fine. To put it another way: I really, really didn't want to stop playing, even after a solid hour inside the headset.
Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR?
I can't say yet. The Oculus Rift version is already out, and definitely looked a lot more graphically compelling than PlayStation, but the PlayStation version was early in development at the time I saw it. A PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR headset is a lot cheaper than an Oculus Rift and a good gaming PC, though.
Can I play with my friends?
Yep! In fact, Sony, Oculus and game developer CCP are counting on it to help sell these headsets. There isn't even a campaign mode, just a series of multiplayer modes and a few single-player "flashback" missions that show you the backstory of the game, plus a "Scout" mode where you can freely fly around in VR with no enemies to worry about.
CCP plans to use online matchmaking, but will also let you form a party with your friends. And CCP has announced you can play with and against friends who have any of the three different headsets -- Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR -- no matter which one you own.
Wait, isn't Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff in this game?
Yep. Watch this: