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Preview: Virtual Battleground

If you haven’t heard, the latest battle royale game in VR, Virtual Battleground just released on Steam. I’m not a big Battle Royale player, but I love VR shooters so I was looking forward to suiting up and dropping in. I was disappointed when developer CyberDream delayed the release by a week, but considering we’re dealing with a global pandemic, it was certainly understood. Besides, some games never recover if they’re released before they’re ready. Keep in mind, this is an early access release, so a few issues are inevitable. I’ve played a couple of hours of Virtual Battlefield, and I have to say, it’s ready. Mostly.

The game loads with you in an elevator that opens up to a large lobby that looks like the deck of a space ship. One room features the typical shooting range. All of the weapons hang on the wall here along with many different attachments. I spent some time here playing with the guns and the settings menu. As with any good VR shooter, there are a ton of options here. I removed snap turning and then breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that they a gun calibration option.

Gun calibration is a handy tool, especially if you use a real gunstock. The downside here is that the calibration is the same for all of the guns. That’s not ideal, but I was able to adjust the guns to my Magni Stock with a fair amount of success. However, I was never able to successfully use a laser sight on the SMGs. Whenever I tried to grab the barrel to grip it, it always grabbed the side-mounted laser sight instead. Very frustrating. I guess I’ll just use these on the pistols, like a normal person. Oh well. Otherwise, the guns and all of their attachments felt and sounded pretty good. I’ve played some VR games where the guns pack more of a punch in both sound and feel, but this is all good enough. Looking down the long-range scopes on the sniper rifles looked great and they were fun to reload and to shoot.

As I was walking around this hub area, I found my first major glitch in the game. Several times after exiting the menu, my character would walk in the wrong direction. I would tell him to walk forward, but he’d go backwards or sideways. This is obviously unacceptable, but thankfully, simply going back into the menu and out again would fix it. I’m not sure if it was the game or my rig, but it wasn’t good. In another room, I found a large TV screen that allowed me to play a video of a couple of guys playing a match and trying to explain what Virtual Battlefield has to offer. They were trying to be funny, and maybe they were, but I had seen enough. I wanted to play!

Back at the elevator that doubles as the main menu, I decided to do the tutorial. Here they showed me all of the stuff most of us already know how to do, but I did learn some interesting things. First of all, you can jump. Not the first time I’ve jumped in VR, but it’s rare for me. It works with a flick of the right analog stick and is really easy to do. I thought initially that this might happen a lot on accident during battle, but I don’t remember it happening to me at all. It actually works quite well, and I like it. The running is a little different as well. Instead of pushing the left analog stick in while moving, you’ll need to swing your arms in a normal running motion to reach top speed. In theory, this a cool way to up the immersion, but it did make using my gunstock a tad awkward. I’m not giving up on it, though. As I sit here, I’m thinking I could have removed the front controller from the grip and left the back one attached and ran that way. It might work, and I plan on trying it out as soon as I’m done writing. (Update: this did work!) You’ll spend a lot of time climbing ladders and this works as you’d expect. What I didn’t expect is that you can climb everything like spiderman. It’s strange but cool, I guess. You can also swim, which will require you to swing your arms in a rough facsimile of the normal swimming motion.

The game doesn’t support vehicles at this time, but they have these towers placed all over the massive island with multiple zip lines. You have this tool that is supposed to automatically connect when you raise your hand to the line overhead. It worked fine in the tutorial, but the only time I tried to use it in the game it didn’t work. The tool came out, but it would disappear as soon as I started to move. I saw other players using it, however. This tutorial is short and sweet, which is great because, at this point, I was itching to shoot at something that would shoot me back.

Back at the elevator, I chose a regular game, without squads. The room was full of a bunch of other players and we had to wait several minutes before the plane took off. There is a basketball court to keep you busy while you wait, which would be nice if my basement ceiling wasn’t so damn low. When they cram all 30 or so of us in the plane, you can pull up a map of the area with a click of the button to help you get a better idea of when you should jump off. In my first game, I jumped out towards the end of the map and landed next to an old barn. I sprinted inside swinging my arms like a lunatic. Inside the barn, I climbed a ladder and promptly found an M16 on a bench and laser site on top of a hay bail. There was also an apple, that you can eat to restore health. Pretty cool. I was at the end of the edge of the map so from here I had to run a long way. Arms still swinging like my life depended on it. After several minutes of running, I began to wonder if I was the only person on the map. Finally, I spotted another soul, but he was too far away. In a different house, I found some goodies, including an ACOG site under the bed. I did have a few problems picking some things up sometimes. That’s when I heard the footsteps downstairs. I hid in the corner with my M16 trained on the door, assuming someone would come in through the door behind me and stab me in the neck. As luck would have it, the guy came in through my doorway and I sprayed him from top to bottom. First Kill!

Feeling good about myself, I ran downstairs and carefully poked my head out of the front door and ran off when I felt the coast was clear. It wasn’t, and somebody killed me straight away. My next match I dropped into the middle and instantly realized this was a mistake. I was taking fire before my feet hit the ground. I somehow survived long enough to get inside a house. There wasn’t a gun, but I did manage to find a knife. You can use it to stab of course, but with a press of the trigger button, the knife spins around in a throwing motion. With footsteps and gunfire just outside the house I was in, I decided to try the throwing option. I would soon find out this was the wrong decision. I ran to the window just as a guy was running by, shooting at someone else. I tossed the knife but as is usually the case, I missed him. I don’t think he appreciated this, because after he killed the person he was shooting at, he came after me. I picked up the dead man’s gun, but it was too late. He sent me back to the big plane in the sky.

I played several other matches and they went much the same as the first two. I have to mention, there is also a bot mode only mode. This mode only takes 90 seconds to load, but honestly, the bots were harder to kill than the real players. An easy mode for us Battle Royale noobs would have been nice. Another cool thing is I believe the regular game will fill with bots as well if you select the option to not wait for players to fill a match. That’s not a problem now considering it just released and there were over a hundred people playing it. But if the player base doesn’t maintain, it’s nice to know there is a way to still play the game.

Virtual Battleground doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and there are definitely some bugs that need attention but early returns suggest it’s going to be a damn good battle royale game and maybe THEE battle royale game in VR. It’s regularly priced at $19.99 but is currently 15% off.

Preview Disclaimer: This preview was carried out using a copy of the game bought at the expense of the writer.

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