Available on Oculus Rift (version tested), PSVR and HTC Vive
I’ll admit that I wasn’t overly enamoured with Eagle Flight during Ubisoft’s press conference. Sitting in the Orpheum Theatre, watching six people do incredibly bad Stevie Wonder impressions on-stage as they tried to drop a rabbit into a nest in post-apocalyptic, near-future Paris, didn't leave me overjoyed.
However, getting the opportunity to play the game for myself at E3, I realise I was too quick to judge. It’s actually great fun and, bizarrely, had me thinking about Star Wars.
The premise of the game is simple: you’re an eagle, and using the VR headset – we played on Rift, but it’s also coming to PSVR – you fly in the direction you’re looking. To turn you simply look left or right; for tighter turns you're better leaning your ear to your shoulder. Right trigger increases speed, while left trigger slows you down. Press X to let out a screech to take down enemy eagles, and B to defend their own exclamations – and that’s it.
However, the real beauty of Eagle Flight lies in where the game is set – Paris.
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The beautiful cel-shaded French capital creates the perfect battleground for Eagle Flight's multi-player combat. Set 50 years in the future, where all humanity has disappeared, the city is overrun with lush greenery and trees, meaning there’s plenty of nooks and crannies for you to fly through.
This is why the game is so fun to play: as soon as the rabbit it picked up in Catch the Prey mode, it’s into the woods we go. Here, the game controls truly shine. Heading down into the urban jungle I’m ducking, diving and weaving my way through the trees, rabbit in my eagle’s mouth, trying desperately to avoid enemy fire and deliver the prey to the nest. It’s thrilling in a way I never truly expected.
And it is here, in this minute, that my thoughts turned to Star Wars: this is the Death Star run in a different skin. I’ve picked up the rabbit from a rooftop, diving into the depths to avoid enemy fire and remain elusive, before finally making it to the target. It’s a bomb-run, and it’s exhilarating.
We’re playing two-versus-two, and my teammate and I grab a 2-0 advantage against the developers. They quickly claw back the game to 2-2, however, as I stupidly fly headfirst into a wall when attempting to catch up with the prey carrier.
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The one major issue with the game is that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on behind you. There were numerous occasions throughout the game where my screen would fade to black; I’d then be informed who shot me in the killscreen.
I have a defensive weapon but no way of knowing when to use it – unless I can see the projectile coming, that is. I don’t expect eagles of the future to have wing mirrors, but it would be helpful if the UI could give you a heads-up.
Another issue is the inherent lack of communication in VR. I was unable to coordinate my movements with my teammate; I coudn't inform him of enemy location while he carried the rabbit, and vice versa. It’s something that VR needs to address if multi-player experiences are to take off.
After winning the first game 3-2, I thought our hands-on was over – but the devs wanted a rematch. Barely two minutes into the game I’ve been killed five times; we’re getting battered. But we’re only 1-0 down – I think they wanted to make the point that we can be crushed at their choosing. The game culminates in a last-second equaliser from myself to secure a 2-2 draw.
It was a great match and thoroughly entertaining, despite the issues.
I wasn't expecting to be impressed with Eagle Flight. What appeared to be a simple tech demo for VR multi-player turned out to be an excellent flight sim, capable of creating some great highlights.
It isn't a thrilling game to watch, but it’s brilliant to play – and, as noted before, if it were turned into a Star Wars Death Star bomb-run in VR, people would lose there minds... in a good way.
I hope further modes and a variety of maps are added – if there was a decent amount of content, Eagle Flight is definitely a game into which I'd happily sink more time.