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When I first got into VR over a year ago my plan was to play some titles I already liked that had added VR support. What I found however was very underwhelming, the results often weren’t pretty and quite poor in comparison to those built from the ground up for VR. It kept me away from a lot of these “crossover” titles till recently. With the release of Space Pirates and Zombies 2 (SPAZ 2) I decided to give it a shot again. While you can also play SPAZ 2 like any other game, I will only be taking a look at the VR aspects of the game.
Before I get too far along, yes this is the second SPAZ game but as far as I can tell, playing the original is not required at all to follow along with the story. I’m not going to say that I even have a total grip on the story, but it’s not due to having only played the original sparingly. What I can say though is that the characters are immensely entertaining. The voice acting and dialog are fun and the story is enjoyable even if you have as much trouble paying attention as I do at times.
So how does SPAZ 2 incorporate VR during the game? The player is positioned in a 3rd person point of view, almost like being in a command post. The map and ship building give a top down view. This works very well as there is no need to have a full 3d view of the map and it makes ship construction as easy as possible. While it may not be the most exciting use of VR it does the job and also helps the eyes and arms relax between more intense sections. What are those more intense sections? Why ship combat of course!
The combat is also 3rd person but set off above and slightly to the side of your ship. This gives a pretty good 3d view of all the action. Since SPAZ 2 is played in a seated position this can cause some issues though. First and foremost, make sure your seat swivels. That seems like a no-brainer, but it’s hard to scan for enemies behind without fully pivoting. For most positions the enemy can be in it is relatively easy to follow along, although because of your where you are in relation to your ship, enemies behind you, not the ship, are hard to deal with. Spotting them is easy, but maneuvering is tough as you don’t have eye’s on your ship. It’s certainly the biggest drawback to the “off to the side” view. Although the problem is lessened the more comfortable you are with the controls.
There are two different control schemes for players to use in VR, either with motion controls or with a gamepad. I didn’t try out the gamepad option as even on a regular screen this seems like a less than optimal way to play. The reason for this is very apparent with aiming. With a motion controller this is just a simple task of, well pointing the controller at the object you want to attack. While there are most like aides for the gamepad in aiming a motion controller just does it so naturally it’s hard to see another option in VR being better.
The controls aren’t all about aiming however. There are a lot of different things to contend with and they make ample use of the buttons on the Vive Controller. In top down sections things are straight forward, it also helps that there is no “heat of the moment” actions that need to be performed so there is no hurry select something there. During battles it is a bit of a different story. Again, position in relation to the ship might make movement something that takes a little more time to get down, but once you do it’s easy provided you can keep an eye on your enemy and ship at the same time. Most games seem to keep button usage to a minimum in VR and for that reason alone it may take some time to become acclimated to the controls, but once you do you’ll appreciate the more robust system in place here.
We’re down to 2 real big questions with the VR in SPAZ 2, performance and whether or not it will make you sick. On the question of performance; I encountered zero issues here. Everything ran smoothly with zero hiccups or frame rate issues to be found. Now for those susceptible to motion sickness like myself, the second question is of the utmost importance. Before the game starts SPAZ 2 warns of the very real possibility of some VR sickness due to movement, intensity and longer play times than most VR games. While the warning had me worried about what I had gotten myself into, it seems that it was just overly cautious. I get sick rather easily in VR, but I wasn’t even remotely bothered by any one thing in SPAZ 2.
The VR in SPAZ 2 for the most part really enhances the gameplay. This is truly the first game that has offered up both a standard and VR experience that after playing left me with no desire to even play the standard way. The game just works amazingly well in VR and seems to be a natural fit. The best part of is that it provides a much different experience than most do in VR. If you have grown tired of seeing the same 4 genre of games over and over then you really need to check out SPAZ 2, you will not be disappointed. If you’ve had prior reservations like I did about about titles that weren’t exclusively VR then this may very well be the title that makes you revisit that stance.