It's a short elevator ride to work every day, with the voice of your manager telling you what to expect. One day it's cloaked ships. The next it could be a giant cruiser. Life's tough when you're manning one of the defensive guns on an illegal mining ship in deep space.
Gunjack is CCP's first official VR release, and it's launching just in time for the launch of the consumer version of Gear VR. The game runs on Unreal Engine 4, and the visual presentation is a good three steps above what we're used to from the mobile virtual reality platform. This is what a well-financed developer who is used to working on space games can do, and it's one of the best-looking things on the Gear VR.
Which is a good thing for a $9.99 game on the Gear VR, as the actual game is a turret shooter where you look to aim, tap the touchpad on the side of the Gear VR to fire, and try to wipe out geometrically shaped waves of fighters. It feels like a gritty take on Galaga, which is a better idea than it sounds on paper, and CCP layers on different wrinkles to keep things interesting.
Sometimes you'll have to deal with asteroids, other times you have to juggle ships that fire missiles and take a large amount of bullets to destroy while smaller fighters attack you ... and you have to deal with all this while keeping and eye on your turret's health and the number of bullets left before you reload. Reloading is done with a quick swipe back, but it leaves you vulnerable for a second or two before your guns are ready to fire again, and that can be a lifetime in a game this fast paced.
Learning how to use the different powerups and finding the best way to approach each wave is key if you want to earn three stars for each mission, but I found I was able to get at least two on the my first try for most of them. The play itself is basic — there's only so much you can do with a turret game in VR — but CCP knows how to make the game seem much bigger than it actually is by using the lore from Eve Online and some above average voice acting and writing.
This aspect of Gunjack is just as good, if not better, than the shooting itself. You feel like you're part of a larger world, and all the dialog and background details fill in the world and your place in it without over-explaining anything.
You're expected to get behind your guns, blow away the assholes trying to get to the ore the ship is trying to mine and, if that means you die in the attempt well ... it's what you signed up for. Gunjack is a great example of how a well-worn universe and a few hints at a larger world can work wonders on the feel of a game. Gunjack makes it very clear that you're one of many doing this job and, while you're not exactly expendable, you're also not a crucial part of the crew.
There are 20 missions included in Gunjack, and if you're not interested in chasing high scores you can play just about everything in 90 minutes. That being said, the way the game wraps you in lore and assumed history, combined with virtual reality's ability to make you feel locked into these environments in a real way, make this one of the most satisfying experiences on the Gear VR.
I'm looking forward to CCP releasing a mobile game where the core play is as good as the amazing visuals and lore on display here, but this first attempt at mobile VR shows the company knows what it's doing, and is already a few steps ahead of the competition.
Gunjack will be released on Nov. 20 on the Gear VR for $9.99.