Hands-on: ‘VR Sports Challenge’ Hockey Brings Thrilling Fights

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VR Sports Challenge, an upcoming Oculus Touch title, has yet again proven to be one of the most compelling launch titles we’ve seen so far for Oculus’ controllers. In the new Hockey segment shown off at E3 2016 I had a blast saving pucks and throwing down my gloves for a rumble on the ice.

Execution is what will make or break a game that wants to lure in sports fans; after seeing the Football and Basketball segments of VR Sports Challenge a few months back, it’s clear that developer Sanzaru knows all about execution. The game is comprised of several different sports, each with very different VR controller-based gameplay. For the first time last week we got a peek at the Hockey segment.

While the goalie, faceoff, and slapshot portions of the game’s Hockey segment were fun, the fighting part alone felt like it laid clear groundwork for an entire VR boxing game.

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If you end up getting into a fight (and the game will ensure you do), the first thing you do is toss your gloves down to accept the challenge by jerking the Oculus Touch controllers toward the ground. Then you’ll be facing a menacing opponent who will throw punches at you from different directions. You can dodge by quickly ducking and weaving, block by raising your arms at the right time, and counter attack with your own punches (if you’re quick enough you can get in a nice one-two-three before the opponent’s guard comes up). Not shown in the video above is an especially fun moment where if you counter at the right time you can grab the opponent by the jersey and leave their face at the mercy of your fist until they can recover.

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Sanzaru has tuned the mechanics to make your dodges and punches feel very responsive, and require that you seriously move your body in order to successfully dodge anything. Importantly, your opponent doesn’t telegraph his punches too obviously and also throws them quite quickly. The result was really feeling like I needed to stay on my toes and be ready for punches coming from any angle.

The gameplay of the fighting portion of the Hockey segment of VR Sports Challenge felt so good that I would be surprised if the developers didn’t end up adding an entire Boxing segment to the game’s roster of sports.

In addition to the fighting, there’s also goaltending, where you have to track the puck with your stick and glove as the offense shoots against you, a face-off where you have to sweep the puck off to your team within a designated area, and a slow-motion slap-shot moment where you need to time your swing just right to land a shot in the opposing team’s net.

While I’m not personally a fan of VR Sports Challenge’s art and animation style, the mechanics have been undeniably crafted with loving attention to make sure the game feels and plays great. The developers tell us that they’re continuing to tweak things to ensure that the player finds themselves at the center of the most exciting moments of the sports on offer.

As before, there’s still no word on pricing or specific release date for VR Sports Challenge, but it will launch alongside the Oculus Touch, which itself is slated for the second half of the year.

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  • Baffled

    Why would you pick a fight with hockeys unicorn?

  • James Friedman

    Oh god this reminds me of those terrible Playstation Move games where you fight with the motion controllers. They are never very accurate so your just swing wildly

    • Courior

      I was playing a free boxing demo called thrill of the fight the other day on my vive. If the touch controllers are as good as they say, this game should be nothing like the move games.

      I was genuinely afraid of getting punched in the face, such a weird feeling.
      https://fyian.itch.io/the-thrill-of-the-fight

    • victor

      yes but the touch is suppose to be WAY more accurate and seamless than the move (or wii controllers).