Surely every sci-fi fan has dreamt of being able to sit in the cockpit of a real space ship, getting to swoosh around in the emptiness of space, pulling off cool manoeuvres and shooting down enemy ships at will. Developer CCP Games is familiar with this longing and means to quench our thirst for it with Eve: Valkyrie, which on paper is the perfect game for virtual reality. The game has been out on Oculus Rift for some time, but it gets a second birth by way of Sony's PlayStation VR - which is the version we've played for the purposes of this review (we never had the opportunity to play the PC version, so we can't compare).
Eve: Valkyrie is, fundamentally, a team based multiplayer game in which you command a space ship, and thanks to the VR headset you can look around inside and feel like you're actually there. The feeling of immersion is its biggest and best selling point. There's been plenty of games that let you fly a ship in the first-person before, but it's with VR tech that it actually feels like we're really strapped in and ready for combat. Unfortunately the resolution you get with the PSVR isn't the sharpest, and in particular it's objects in the distance that appear quite blurry. Your eyes have to adjust before the right sense of presence is achieved.
Eve: Valkyrie has proven to be a challenging game to review. Suffering from some motion sickness has meant that we've had to play CCP's space shooter in short sessions, because although going forwards in a straight line is mostly okay, the moment you have to start twisting and turning around, things would get a little choppy.
There's three ship classes to choose from. The standard vessel comes with vanilla machine guns that fire in a straight line in the direction that the ship is facing, and has homing missiles can lock-on to enemy ships by aiming at them with your head. The heavy class has more powerful projectiles that follow head-tracking, and a mini hyperdrive that makes it easier to quickly make your way to control points on the map or to get out of a sticky situation. And then there's the support class, and that one fires a weak but auto-aiming laser, but has the means to heal friendly ships.
Within these classes there's different variations of ships with, for instance, better damage output and weaker armour (or vice versa). Though it's a shame that the process of unlocking these classes feels way too grindy and we felt stuck with the first ship for a bit too long. Because of this the microtransactions sting a little extra. It doesn't feel good at all that a full price premium game lets players pay real cash for beefier ships and it's obvious when you go up against a player that's sitting in a ship that can dish out more damage than you. That microtransactions are making their way into AAA games more and more is inevitable, and in some cases where it's just cosmetic items (and when, as in Halo 5: Guardians, you get maps and other stuff for free) it feels like an acceptable compromise, but it's not like that here.
In terms of modes there's a classic Team Deathmatch, which hardly needs explanation; it's you and your team fighting to drain your opponent's resources (which is achieved by taking down enemy ships). Eve: Valkyrie also comes with Control, a mode where three letter-marked control points need to be captured and held. It's fairly standard stuff. The more intricate mode on offer is Carrier Assault and here the mission is to destroy the enemy's carrier, something that takes several phases to pull off. Power relays needs to be destroyed, shields needs to be brought down, and in the end it's all about focusing fire on the carrier's weak point, all while you make sure that the enemy team doesn't destroy your own carrier. It's a little hard to keep track of everything that's going on to begin with, but it's here that the game's more memorable battles happen.
The user interface in the menus is also a little hard to grasp at the start and overall the game is not the most didactic. To actually control the ship isn't all that complicated, though. You can shoot, change direction, accelerate, brake and rotate. The physics feel more on the arcade side of the spectrum, and the ships lack a little weight. If you bump into debris or an asteroid it almost feels like you just bounce off it, unless you collide with it at high speed and explode as a result of the impact.
Carrier Assault doesn't save the game from feeling a little light on content. The other modes are very basic in their execution, and mechanically there isn't enough depth to support consistently interesting dogfights. Often it just culminates in you and the enemy trying to shoot each other down as you endlessly circle each other because neither wants to give the other an advantage in terms of position. Eve: Valkyrie doesn't have the marvellous sound design that DICE blessed Star Wars Battlefront with (which dramatically elevated the bare bones flying in that game) and instead the audio is kind of measly.
There isn't much of a campaign here. You get to take part of a training simulation or three in which you'll learn the basics of flying, and then there's a handful of short story missions that end as quickly as they begin. The voice acting isn't necessarily bad, but arguably it's a little on the wooden side, and for those not familiar with the lore of the Eve universe you'll have a hard time grasping what's happening, what's at stake, who you are, and who you're at war with.
Eve: Valkyrie hasn't made a lasting impression on us, neither narratively nor mechanically. That said, it's hard to deny that the sense of place, of feeling like you're actually sitting in a space ship looking around at the different instruments and seeing incoming bogeys from the periphery of your vision, is really cool. That is, again, the biggest draw to Eve: Valkyrie, which in the end is a competent action-focused flight sim that unfortunately is held back by performance enhancing microtransactions, a slow progression system and, in our case, a tendency to make the player feel sick.