BigBox VR, the developers behind VR multiplayer shooter Smashbox Arena (2017), are making their way into new territory soon with their upcoming battle royale shooter Population: ONE. The studio showed off at this year’s Gamescom what promises to be a full-featured shooter with some of the Fornite and PUBG trimmings that you’d hope for in this distinctly VR native game.
Starting at a high vantage point, you board a one-man escape pod destined for the map below where you loot, shoot, and duke it out with other players until there’s a single person standing. Of course, it wouldn’t be a battle royale game if there weren’t an ever-closing wall of death too, which gradually limits the size of the map.
In the case of the demo, we were only given a small fraction of the game’s one square kilometer map to play in, and were only allowed to participate in two vs two team deathmatch—a necessity to keeping things quick in the demo area. The studio is however targeting a total player number of 24 players, which will be chunked into either 12v12 team deathmatch or 24-player free for all.
Thankfully, before launching out to the abandoned town below, I got a chance to run through the basics of the games movement scheme, something that promises to make Pop: ONE unique (and not simply “Fortnite in VR!!1!”).
Firstly, you can’t jump. I would actually consider this a good thing, as jumping can be pretty uncomfortable in VR. Instead, you have the ability to climb anything by simply depressing the grip button on your system’s controller and grabbing onto any given vertical surface. High buildings beckon you to climb them, where hopefully you’ll find that sniper rifle you’re pining for.
You can fly. Well, not really, but you can gracefully glide down and shoot while doing it too. To activate the flight mode, you simply have to put your hands into a ‘T’ pose, and you glide at a fairly flat decline. There’s a super high building that I couldn’t get to, but my first objective is to climb that sucker and fly all the way down.
You can build. Unlike Fortnite though, there’s only one type of brick resource which can’t be mined or otherwise obtained without finding it directly in a loot pile. Once you’ve looted enough bricks though, a single button press brings up a highlighted blueprint of your wall/floor/ceiling’s position and you can deploy it. Besides the ability to build one very specific structure type (a flat square, that’s where the comparisons to Fortnite stop. As a VR native, I expect this to become less about frenetic construction wars (which are absolutely insane in Fortnite), and more about climbing and flying—two things that feel absolutely cool in Pop: ONE.
Despite this, the ability to both climb and build in practice act as nice counterpoints to each other. You can build wherever you want, and as high as you want, but it won’t stop the hordes from scaling your walls and ganking you in your improvised sniper’s nest.
The game also appears to have some pretty tight gun mechanics too. A manual reload function means you can’t just spray and pray, as you have to physically insert mags and charge the bolt. It isn’t fiddly either, as a mag floats just below the gun’s mag well, and is highlighted yellow until you ram it in. Your bolt is then highlighted yellow for visibility, and you charge the first round into the chamber. From what I’ve seen, there are no gun customizations though, only default weapons such as a 9mm UMP, P90, M4, sniper rifle with scope, and various pistols. Aiming and shooting is also a great experience, as it makes heavy use of iron sights, red dot reticles, and standard scopes.
Both the map and inventory are very basic at this point, both of which function as pop-up menus keyed to a button press. A quick tap on the inventory button lets you hot-swap between a your chosen gun and an empty hand, which is required for climbing.
Once you die, you’re then given a number of ways to spectate. Starting out as the size of Godzilla, you can either ‘grab’ the world to move around, move via stick, shrink or grow by doing a ‘pinch and zoom’ movement with both controllers, or go to human-size and clip through the world’s architecture as you watch the final bits play out.
Population: ONE is headed to Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows VR sometime in early 2019. Closed beta signups are now available.
For a look at a quick match and spectator mode, take a look at our gameplay video below: