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.

Image courtesy Big Box VR

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!”).

Image courtesy Big Box VR

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.

'Smashbox Arena' Studio Announces VR Battle Royale 'Population: ONE'

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:

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  • Get Schwifty!

    Never been a fan of Battle Royale games but I would give this a try….

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    Hm, dude in the thumbmail picture seems to be wearing something akin to Magic Leap ; ) Not a big fan of AR – but AR in VR now that’s a different story ;)

    • Jerald Doerr

      Good eye… Didn’t even see that… Now I’ll get that game just to shoot him in the face.. I mean Magic Leap.. With my VR gun of course. .

  • ummm…

    no more zombies. battle royale time. i will NEVER buy a battle royale game. the industry loves to pick low hanging fruit – the kind that is rotten and lacks nutrients. can we have some brave and innovating games? no…….because quality doesn’t sell. just give me what all my friends are playing.

    p.s. i understand market forces……and others preferences….but is BR really everyone preference?

    • gothicvillas

      Call it team deathmatch if that suits you better.

      • ummm…

        its a gimmick. in a few months nobody will ever see a battle royale again. battle royale may have meant something in the arma engine. right now the mainstream makes it into a mobile game with bright colors and building stairs for no reason. well done. but if you enjoy……im happy for you.

      • ummm…

        also, i still play unreal….or quake…thats deathmatch.

    • hugorune

      My No.1 preference: BR! TPS or FPS!

      • ummm…

        of course it is hugo….of course it is.

    • Master E

      I totally get the BR appeal and this does look pretty cool for VR, but I have to agree… companies go for the same repetitive bets nowadays instead of taking a chance. When it comes to VR I get it more than regular games as the investment doesn’t have the same return. Ubisoft is a great example of that. Great team, solid games, but won’t break away from their mold that makes them money so we end up with basically re skinned games.

      That being said, anything that helps VR at this point is a bonus in my book. Too cool of a technology to sleep on.

      BR definitely not my preference. I deal with actual people all day and prefer to play good SP games and not deal with other living beings when I get home.

      • ummm…

        I hear ya on the SP

    • Darban

      There are more idiots with wallets than genuine consumers. Imagine a utopian world where people don’t buy every yearly FIFA and Skyrim…I blame third world countries and South America. They seem to have the biggest market share for sports game rehashes.

      • jj

        ORRR imagine a world where you can make an easy product and the utopia is that you get rich super easy because people are so dumb theyll buy anything. We made the utopia but not for us we made it for them.
        Im just spitting random thoughts but yeah if u want a utopia theres a money utopia around cheap games :D

      • ummm…

        Yeah the third world is to blame for the first world……

        • Darban

          Just because they live in different world rates doesn’t mean they can’t affect each other. Where do you think the US get’s a big chunk of it’s agriculture and manufacturing from?

          • ummm…

            argriculture? manufactoring? you were talking about the popularity of fifa and skyrim LMFAO

    • KUKWES

      I think the BR Mode is perfect for VR

    • Trenix

      I’m all for new types of games, but what’s wrong with making a game similar to another or better? Honestly, I hate all the battle royale games. They’re too arcadey and casual. Yet maybe one day someone will look at the other battle royales, learn from their mistakes, and then make a better game. You can innovate new features into this genre.

      • ummm…

        It’s a deathmatch. What is the difference? The bounds get smaller. Ok. This is a game format that is decades old.

        • Trenix

          It’s a last man standing deathmatch where you work with what you have and find. It’s not just a deathmatch.

          • ummm…

            survival deathmatch. in the end it isn’t anything new. there is over saturation. quality of gameplay has gone down. capital markets tend to dilute things with value. this is what is happening now. or it over values – and reifies value into something that has no value.

            im sorry, its just not for me. increasingly we are getting games that have no content just a server with guns everwhere and ppl have to find them and shoot each other. doesn’t take a lot of work. easy to develop. no need to create singleplayer experiences. gaming industry is full of a lot of garbage now.

            ironically we plays these games off the back of a dystopian movie like hunger games, and thats literally what we have become. we love living out this emerging reality. what about a narrative title? or a single player experience with content?

            lowest form of gaming.

          • Trenix

            To each their own, singleplayer is garbage to me. Effort and time invested into something that is meaningless and cannot be shown off. People are what change up my experience, yet you want everything predefined. I can agree that the gaming industry is trash. There isn’t much originality anymore, but a genre isn’t to blame for it. It’s the braindead customers who pay to have shooters that are far worse than games that were available decades ago. Society is to blame.

          • ummm…

            A single player experience can be much better, as can a multi do e right. Are you trying g to tell me Skyrim or GTA or red dead is inferior to even the best of multiplayer. ….. No. I’m not saying multiplayer can’t be done right ….. But there is doing it and mailing it in. Most of this stuff is cut and paste.

  • hugorune

    No PSVR??? Are these Sony guys crazy? I will sell my PSVR and buy something else.

    • JJ

      hecck yeah welcome to the dark side, dont worry we have cookies

    • Candy Cab

      Considering the limitations of the base PS4 hardware a game of this scale is probably impossible to pull off and or come anywhere close to offering a smooth enjoyable experience. Would probably come out looking more like Turok on the N64 than a current open world shooter. PSVR is great for what it is but you should definitely make the jump to PCVR if you want games of this scale.

      • kool

        Warzone is coming to psvr and the scale is a bit bigger. If anything is holding this from psvr it’s the move. This game has climbing and shooting you can’t do both well in VR without a thumbstick.

    • kool

      Checkout warzone.

      • hugorune

        You made my day, man!!!

        • kool

          See you in the warzone!

  • Stark Reality

    I like BR game’s well enough, probably going to give this a shot.

    glad it has its own ascetic and apparently every one is spider man with guns in this game lol