Crytek is widely known for best-selling titles like Crysis and the Far Cry series, but today they’re announcing an exciting new VR-exclusive game called The Climb. When coupled with previously-announced VR games Robinson: The Journey and Dinosaur Island, it shows that Crytek is serious about virtual reality, and is devoting significant resources into developing for this emerging technology.
Road to VR was on hand for an early look at The Climb, coached through the game by David Bowman, Director of Production at Crytek.
David places me in an engineering version of the Oculus and starts the game. Directly in front of me is a sheer rock face, save for a few nearby handholds stained with chalk. Looking left and right, I see beautiful rendered vistas of the mountains and waterways of south-east Asia.
Then I look down.
I’m precariously perched a hundred feet above the ground. A slight wave of vertigo sweeps over me before I remember this is virtual reality. Still, better safe than sorry, my brain says, so my heartbeat quickens a bit. David explains this is a mountain climbing game and talks me through the basic controls.
I’m handed an XBOX One controller which, as those following along will recall, Oculus announced will be the standard shipping controller for the consumer version of the Rift. This immediately prompts the question of whether Oculus Touch will be supported, as the game naturally lends itself to a split controller; I’m told that Touch controllers will be supported when Touch ships.
I see two two hands floating in front of me, which move as my head moves. My first instinct is that the Xbox controller is tracked in space (similar to how PlayStation VR can track the DualShock 4 controller) even though I know that isn’t supported. Instead, I’m coached to look where I want to place my free hand and, if the hand changes to a gripping gesture, I can pull (and hold) the left or right trigger button to grip that spot. It wasn’t an immediately intuitive control scheme, and it’s easier to show than describe, but only took a minute or so to become comfortable.
Two game mechanics are exceptionally anxiety-inducing: having to “jump” using the A button, and having to swap hands. Jumping releases both grips and gives a small boost upward, during which you’re either expected to find a new handhold, or plummet to your death. Swapping hands—which involves positioning your free hand above your gripping hand and doing a simultaneous release and grab—is no less stressful.
Over the next 18 minutes, I carefully make my way up the mountain by grasping and releasing handholds, periodically ‘chalking up’ my virtual hands using left and right bumpers to keep a sticky grip. There isn’t always a clear line up the mountain, and on a few occasions I needed to climb back down one or two positions to take a different approach. Thankfully, checkpoints are scattered through the level, though several times I fell within one or two moves from a checkpoint, prompting audible gasps and laughs from those in the room watching. (They’re rooting for me. It’s a social experience, even if I’m the only one playing.) Mercifully, the game fades to white halfway down your death plummet.
Even though this was an easy level, it still required some interesting maneuvers. Harder levels will be more technically challenging and offer a variety of grip types to choose from.
A VR mountain climbing game may seem like an odd choice for Crytek compared to their traditional gaming portfolio, but makes sense as a VR offering. Crytek has created a fun, engaging game, which is something every studio, regardless of size, strives for. The Climb appeals to a more diverse audience than a first person shooter would, given the familiar mechanics and simple controls. More strategically, it demonstrates CryEngine is a viable engine for VR gaming, and allows Crytek developers to gain valuable in-house experience designing for virtual reality.
The Climb will be exclusive to Oculus and is set to launch around the same time as the consumer version of the Rift, currently slated for Q1 2016. Oculus Touch will be supported once Touch becomes available some time in Q2 2016.