With less than a fortnight to go before the worldwide release of Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, I have been anxious to get some hands-on time with a number of titles to help give you guys a heads up on how the experiences hold up before taking that leap of faith and forking out the purchase price. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a preview event by Sony at the EB Expo the night before it was open to the public in Sydney. While most of the attendees were only allowed to play a couple of VR demoes due to limited availability, I was stealthy and patient enough to get a decent amount of playtime with seven VR titles. With only 14 days to go before the device launches, I thought I would give my impressions on one title every second day leading up to the big day.
Call of Duty: Jackal Assault was the first demo I tried was Activision’s Call of Duty: Jackal Assault mission. Attendees who decide to make their way to the EB Expo this weekend will need to participate and win a multiplayer match of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in order to get a chance to play the demo. As someone who hasn’t played Call of Duty multiplayer religiously since Black Ops 2, there was no way I was going to get an opportunity through the normal method. However, I ran to the Activision rep and asked if there was a line-up. Funnily, I was the second person there so I was immediately seated and the headset was promptly strapped to my face.
Call of Duty: Jackal Assault, is reminiscent of the E3 demo we saw at Sony’s press conference this year. You pilot a space fighter, where your objective is to scan locations and fight off a wave of enemies.
I’m of two minds about this demo. There were moments where I wasn’t sure if this was worthwhile but other times where it felt truly epic. First things first, the visuals weren’t great at the beginning. I say the beginning because the pacing of the demo at the start was very slow. It basically involved me following my NPC partner through a highlighted path. I assume this was so players can take in their surroundings and learn the controls (I’ll get to those in a second). It was in this slower-paced section where the fairly underwhelming visual fidelity reared its low resolution head. Even the large reticule on your screen had a case of the jaggies. However, once the action kicked in, all that was forgotten; who has time to notice jagged edges when you’re doing barrel rolls, dodging rockets and laying waste to enemy ships?
It was this action sequence that made Jackal Assault stand out; it’s fast, it’s frantic and most importantly it’s easy to control. R2 activates your machine gun and holding L2 locks onto enemy ships to prepare you rockets. You can lock on to a maximum of three enemy ships at a time before releasing L2 to unleash a barrage of rockets. Pitching your ship up and down and controlling left and right yaw is very easy. L3 activates a speed boost, which works well in combat sequences. You aim at these enemies by looking at them with your head using the PSVR’s head-tracking technology. It’s smart and intuitive and I’ve seen it work well in other titles like EVE: Valkyrie. However, in this demo it wasn’t responsive. I had to keep looking at an enemy for a while to get a lock-on, but this was difficult in such a hectic battle scenario. All in all though, viewing the battle from a distance looked amazing, locking onto enemies was fun and flying through the explosion of my enemy’s debris was exhilarating.
I also noticed some user-friendly design elements Infinity Ward has implemented for the demo. Firstly, I am sure I went through two walls during the demo as I was still getting used to the fast nature of the game. I can imagine actually crashing into these would not be a pleasant experience for my brain, so it was nice that the design of the demo is friendly to all players. Finally, the end of the demo provided me with a kill count. I thought it was a nice touch to what ultimately felt like an awesome arcade experience.
Call of Duty: Jackal Assault certainly has fun moments. It’s easy to pick up and play (like Call of Duty) and the combat sequence was fun. I do feel the pacing and the visuals (especially in the slower parts) could water down the experience a bit. This is not a fleshed-out game in the same league as EVE: Valkyrie, which does have the better visuals and more content. Needless to say Call of Duty is a massive brand and having it on PSVR is a welcome addition. If you are picking up Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare on PlayStation 4 in November 4 you will receive this mission for free. The Activision rep told me that there are currently no plans to release this mission outside of that deal, so if you are interested make sure you pick it up.