Note: Screenshots are taken directly from the PS4 and they do not represent the image quality of what’s shown inside the PlayStation VR headset. We could use those fancy 4K images that Sony sends out, but they’re just a tad misleading.
It seems like I’m a broken record but I’ll say it again in case you haven’t followed the site recently. RIGS: Mechanized Combat League was my most anticipated PlayStation VR title. The elements of a shooter being thrown directly in your face were all there. I’m happy to say not only was it successful in immersing you, but RIGS is a damn fine mech shooter in its own right. Of course there are things that can be added to make it an even better experience but being a top of the line launch title is enough to warrant a purchase.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League handles like one big, professional career mode. Both story and multiplayer. The campaign has you competing in ten matches per season against other A.I teams in 3v3 style. The matches will vary through each stretch out of the three game modes and four maps available. Along the way you’ll unlock different items for your persona, sponsorships to sign, and money to hire other pilots and mechs. When you’re finished with the season and have a good record, you’ll move onto the next, more difficult league. Hopefully, with the prestigious Top Gun award in tow. From here it’s rinse and repeat but it only gets as stale as other career modes in sports games. So if you like what you’re doing – the leveling up, unlocking customization items, and buying other mechs to try out won’t get old for a while. There are also an assortment of trials to accomplish that act as challenges.
The multiplayer is similar to the campaign but online with other players. There’s still sponsorships to sign and deliver on, items to unlock, and leagues to place in. If you win enough games in a ten match set, you’ll move up to another division. It’s simple but proven effective in titles like Madden and EA’s NHL series. Unfortunately, you’re still regulated to the same three game modes and four maps RIGS offers. I’d like to try and stress that although more variations would be appreciated, each game mode and map is plenty tiered enough to offer much replayability. My only true gripe with the online portion is that you can’t talk to your in-game party while in the lobby or loading screens. We found using a PSN party was the best solution. Although not being able to switch out mechs during matches was annoying.
The gameplay to RIGS is fantastic. At the start of each match you are placed in an underground garage area. A quick look around reveals a bunch of technicians and workers going about their daily lives in their job roles. In the center of it all are you and two others standing in front of your chosen mechs. You all pump each other up before hovering robots put you inside your selected machine. Then you’re lifted up into the arena with epic music playing while the crowd and announcer go crazy. The next five minutes will all depend on your choices regarding type of machine and weapons attached. Plus, your playstyle will effect how each match goes as well. What is consistent though is how tight the controls are (although I do wish the sensitivity for the right analog stick could be higher,) how well the platforming holds up, the lack of hit detection issues, and just the all around feeling of believing you’re actually there fighting with mechs.
Speaking of which, the amount of mechs to choose from is simply delicious. I understand that steel and other similar substances can’t be ingested by the human body but it was my understanding that this was a judgement free zone. Each one stems from four base types. There’s the sentinel (my personal favorite) that’s big and large, the hunter which is small and short, the mirage is tall and lanky, and the tempest is small like the hunter but can hover in the air for extended periods of time. They all serve an equal and fair purpose and can take advantage of things specifically catered to them on each map. In addition, there are special abilities that each RIG can have such as a nuke, which self-destructs the mech when defeated, carapace, that puts a shield on the back of a mech, and a few others that add a nice layer of gameplay.
The different game modes are pretty simple. One is a simple team deathmatch. The second is Slamdown which you’ve probably seen in the trailers. This involves getting your mech into overdrive (which is marked on your HUD) and jumping through a large hoop. You achieve overdrive by collecting pickups on the map and killing opponents. The last one is called Endzone and is a literal football mode. There’s a ball that needs collecting and you and your teammates need to rush it through some goalposts. You can pass the ball to teammates with L3 but if you’re meleed or destroyed, say goodbye to possession.
Another nice layer includes the static weapons each class and ability type has. You cannot choose what weapons go where or on what RIG. I’m sure that will put people off but it’s necessary for balancing issues. However, odds are you’ll find a weapon setup you’ll like with at least one special ability you want equipped as well. My go to choice are the plasma accelerators. They fire relatively fast balls of energy that minutely hone in on a target. Other firing options include automatic beam lasers, rocket launchers, machine guns, energy grenades, pulse cannons, rail guns, and quite a few more. Don’t worry, each match will be plenty diverse for quite a bit until people start settling down with their favorite mech. The last nice layer of gameplay is that each RIG has specific stats and not all of the same classes will be equal. Each one will have different statistics and truly balances everything out with the abilities and weapons.
The maps themselves, few as they may be, are expertly crafted. Let’s start with Rio de Janeiro. The stadium is built into the mountain that houses the giant Jesus statue. One look around though will reveal the city’s infrastructure, landmass, and ocean. Needless to say the atmosphere on this map, and all of them, are superb. The map itself is kind of shaped like a bike helmet. Most of the arena is tilted as if on a hill but has plenty of platforms to jump on or traverse underneath. The part that isn’t tilted is shaped like the end of a water slide where you’ll come barreling down to a stop. Overall, you need to keep your head literally up to avoid a skyward surprise. Dubai is the map you’ve seen in all the trailers and demos. It’s a fairly straightforward arena with four prominent raised areas. The surroundings here too are beautiful. Especially the giant buildings that require you to arch your neck to see fully.
Nevada takes places at the bottom of the Hoover Dam. Just to make sure that you know it’s in ‘Murica, there are jets that fly overhead at the start of each match here. The stadium is covered in sand but it doesn’t impede your movement. There is a platform in the middle of the map and a twisting archway above that but otherwise this is probably the least tinkered with arena. Macau is the only one that takes place during nighttime. Don’t worry about not being able to see though as 75% of the place is inside an impossibly tall tower. Its design is as if Nevada and Dubai had a child with the added element of there basically being a huge underground area. Again, with the tiered and varied designs things won’t get stale anytime soon. Plus, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more levels and let’s hope they’re free.
The user interface to RIGS is also something to be applauded. Both inside the game and out. Your command center is essentially a building that looks eerily similar to the Avengers facility. From the inside anyway. Here you’ll see people walking around and going about their business but you my friend are stationary. Using the L1 and R1 buttons will take you through the different menus such as the campaign area, online play, RIGS HQ (customization,) and the Showroom (selecting and viewing mechs,) all in real-time. In-game however requires a bit more concentration. Your field of view will be obscured by a rotating mini-map and a HUD icon for which ability you have equipped. You can change that at will from a “move faster mode,” “repair mode,” to a “shoot things more powerful mode.” There are also outlines that act as a barrier within the cockpit of the RIG that have match score and time on them. Sometimes these will get in the way of your shot, especially if you have to crane your neck to acquire a target, but it wasn’t hard to distinguish the enemies through them.
Oh, and that’s the really cool part about the gameplay. You aim with your head and the feature actually works. It’s not gimmicky or broken in any way. The tracking works superbly and I can’t believe that such early technology works this well. You can even tinker with the settings so that you turn around and aim with your noggin but I’ve found that makes me suffer from motion sickness. Which is probably a big thing you are worried about with all the fast movements and such. Yes it can be a problem, but Guerrilla Cambridge did a great job to add in effects that will cut down on that feeling. Such as peripheral motion blockers and negating the ejecting and respawning sequence after you’ve been defeated. They certainly help and don’t hinder the experience in any major way. At the moment I disabled the peripheral comfort settings due to having a wider field of view but I would only recommend this after getting acclimated to the experience.
Be advised though that frequent breaks are needed when first beginning. When I was performing the tutorial I needed to go off and lie down for about ten minutes. After that I needed another break but I only stood still for a moment. From then on I’ve been fine but am still taking much-needed breaks. The large amount of motion sickness related problems will surely stem from the transition between dying and respawning. When you are ejected up, you are picked up by the hovering robots from earlier. They’ll hold you there until you choose a respawn point by physically looking around at one. If you don’t have the dampeners on, the camera will fly you over and zoom you to the select point. Your brain will tell you that you must be on something like a roller coaster but when the body doesn’t register that effect, your gray matter gets pissed and makes you feel sick. Stupid brain.
One of the absolute negatives of RIGS, with no middle ground, is that sometimes the screen would shift slightly to the left or right. It would require you to move your chair at a small angle in order to be centered. I don’t know if this was the title’s fault or the PS VR’s but even recalibrating my position didn’t help. My only theory is that after I finish a match, I leaned back as if to relax until the next match starts. Something must not like that and tries to accommodate my VR screen at all times.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a PS4 code bought at the expense of the reviewer. This does not affect the content or the final score. For more information, please read our Review Policy.