When the Wii launched, no one knew what motion controllers were or why we even needed them. So to get people excited about the new input method, Nintendo released Wii Sports as a free game to anyone who bought the Wii.
The game came with Boxing, Bowling, Golf, Tennis and Baseball – all mini games designed to show off the motion controller. It proved to be extremely popular – to date over 82 million copies have been sold, and the game did a great job of convincing people why they needed motion control (remember when nursing homes bought Wii units so people could play Wii Bowling?).
Anyways, that was more than 10 years ago. And to be honest, there hasn’t really been a new motion controller since – until now. With the launch of Oculus Touch (and the already released HTC Vive) motion controls are making a comeback. And one of the free launch titles (for preorders) available today on Oculus is called VR Sports Challenge – and essentially attempts to do for Oculus what Wii Sports did for the Wii ten years ago.
The game has only three sports – Football, Basketball and Hockey. Here’s a quick rundown of what I though of each one, in order of most fun to least fun.
For the football game you’re both the quarterback and the receiver. You pick a play and get to call hike, scan the field, and eventually throw to an open receiver. If you don’t throw in time you’ll be sacked.
Once the ball is thrown your character switches to the receiver, where you can try to catch the ball with two hands. As soon as you catch it you lose control of the player and he gets tackled.
Typically you’re put in a scenario where there are about two minutes left in the game and you need to go score 2 touchdowns to win. Regular football rules apply – like 4 downs and a game-clock – but the timing is a little weird. For example, if you score with 25 seconds left in the game the ball will go to the other team, but they just turn it right back over to you with 25 seconds still on the clock. Nice, but not realistic.
Overall, using the Touch motions to play football felt really natural – you just squeeze and release whenever you want to catch or throw the ball. Plus, having VR put you in the “eyes” of the quarterback is really cool – almost like a more interactive version of Madden.
Basketball was my second favorite game. Typically it was a similar situation where there was a minute or two left in the game and your team was down. You never play defense, so when you turnover the ball it just goes back to you.
You can throw the ball to your teammates as well as shoot, which both happen when you let go of the triggers and make a passing or shooting motion. If you pass to a teammate you automatically take over for them, and need to then catch your own pass. Shooting is pretty hard actually – you really have to make an arc like you are actually shooting, or else it won’t go in.
There was also an ally-oop feature I found really fun – when promoted you throw it up to the net, then you were teleported to the player who was making the dunk in slow motion, so you could catch the ball and dunk it.
Hockey was weird. And Ice Hockey is actually the only one of these sports I’ve actually played. But in the game you’re mainly the goalie, which just isn’t that much fun. It’s also pretty hard – you have to hold an imaginary stick/blocker in one hand and a glove in the other – just like a real ice hockey goalie. These tools don’t exactly translate well to the touch controller, so it got a little hard to play.
Occasionally you can get a breakaway and switch to offense, but all you can do on offense is take one well-timed shot and hope it goes in. Hockey is definitely the least fun of the there. Oh, there’s also apparently a part in the storyline where you start fighting other players, but hockey didn’t keep my attention long enough to get there.
Baseball Mini Game
There actually is a 4th sport snuck into the game by way of the mini-games area.
Called Home Run Derby, you get the chance to grab a bat and step up to the plate. If you like baseball this could be fun, but using the touch controllers to hold a bat also wasn’t that natural – because when you hold a real baseball bat you’re supposed to hold your knuckles close together with a tight grip, and the touch controllers don’t really let you do that.
You’re probably only going to truly like and regularly play VR Sports Challenge if you’re a sports fan. It isn’t like the Wii where it does a great job at providing fun for anyone. But if you are into football, I’d argue it’s just as fun as the latest Madden game.
If you were planning on using VR Sports Challenge to show your friends how cool VR and Touch is – don’t. You’re better off setting them up with First Contact or Toybox or any other Oculus demo where they can really explore the full functionality of the hands, without the distractions of the pseudo-sports games provided by VR Sports Challenge.