Sparc: The virtual sport of the future

16 February of 2018 by

We continue to tell readers of our site about the most curious games for headsets of virtual reality. Despite the current high cost of equipment and the rather slow spread of technology in the gaming industry, with each month there are more and more new projects for VR in a variety of genres . Some of them deserve special attention. Take at least a new game Sparc from the studio CCP Games, embodying in the eyepieces of the PlayStation VR headset sports discipline from the fantastic film “Throne”.

Game: Sparc
Platform: PlayStation VR
Genre: Sports
Release date: August 29, 2017
Developer: CCP Games
Publisher: CCP Games

If you have not seen the films “Tron” (1982) and “Tron: Heritage” (2010), I strongly recommend that you read them. The main characters of these films, being inside the cyberuniverse, were forced to take part in virtual gladiatorial battles, the essence of which consisted in hurling luminous disks into each other. Fighters could dodge enemy discs, and also reflect them with their own, using weapons as a shield. A simple, but incredibly attractive idea suited the developers of video games, so in the subsequent years after the premiere of the original film, years were released several arcade video games based on the “disk wars”.

Attempts to implement something similar for virtual reality, of course, were also undertaken. Of the recent, I can recall the mini-game “Danger Ball” from the PlayStation VR Worlds collection. There, the player had to control the movements of the head with a peculiar racket, beating off the spheres launched by different opponents, and scoring goals in the improvised enemy gates. Each enemy was endowed with unique abilities. For example, someone was able to run two spheres at once instead of one, and someone blocked his racket with almost all the gates completely. It would seem that just a simple mini-game for demonstrating the capabilities of the PlayStation VR helmet, and I stuck in it for three days.

Icelandic studio CCP Games is far from a beginner in the realm of virtual reality. Last year, she released a version of the space shooter Eve: Valkyrie for VR-helmets. Previously, developers released for the headset Samsung Gear VR shooter Gunjack, which later acquired a sequel, but already for Google Daydream. In other words, the authors of the popular MMORPG EVE Online are not afraid to experiment with virtual reality and try themselves in new genres. Its new game Sparc developers position as a real vSport, or “e-sports for virtual reality.” While the project went exclusively for the Sony PlayStation VR headset, but before the end of this year we are also promised a release for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

The game provides only one control scheme – with the help of two controllers PlayStation Move, one for each hand. At the very beginning the player will be offered to calibrate the settings of the virtual reality system. You will be asked to extend your hands with the controllers to the front, to the sides, and also to adjust the height of the virtual floor on which your character stands, so that you feel as comfortable as possible. Acquaintance with the game is the right thing to start with training. The Tutorial mode sequentially and in an accessible manner explains the basic game mechanics. The player will learn to hurl the energy ball in a straight line and ricochet from the walls, bypassing obstacles, dodging enemy attacks, and also to reflect the opponent’s ball with a shield. Actually, out of these uncomplicated actions the game consists.

But not everything is as simple as it might seem at first glance. To fill a hand to accurately send the ball to the target – it’s not an hour or even a day. Experience and skill come with time. Sparc is a game based on movement. It takes a lot of movement: to dodge, jump and deviate to the side, swing your arms, sending the ball into the opponent, try to catch him after the rebound, as quickly as possible put in front of a shield, trying to hit the opponent’s ball. You can toss the ball in different ways, with different speeds and even with twisting, like in baseball. After a couple of hours of the game you begin to understand why the developers call it “sport” – the game makes you get pretty wet.

Futuristic tennis with two energy balls and a narrow closed tunnel instead of a court or an unusual variation of the game “Bouncer” – that’s what Sparc looks like. Matches are fast enough. The one who managed to get his ball into the opponent gets one point. In this case, do not forget that if your ball is currently in one of the hands, it can be turned into a shield. Truth after the reflection of such an enemy ball shield takes some time to recharge it, so it is better to immediately run the ball into the opponent. If the opponent dodged your attack, the ball will reflect from the wall behind him and return to your side of the court. In this case, you will have to catch it in time to re-use the sphere as a shield or a weapon.

Visually Sparc is a very ascetic game. Stars from the sky it is not enough. Everything is extremely minimalistic and stylish, with no frills and all sorts of “ryushechek.” Around the scenery of metal and glass with interspersed animated surfaces. The costumes of the players brightly shine and once again send us to know what film. At the very beginning of the game you, by the way, are offered to create your own game avatar. You can choose the gender, head visor, hair, clothing, the shape of the gloves and other elements of the character that your opponents will see before you. The movements of your body are repeated with a virtual avatar very realistically, despite the fact that it depicts your body only up to the waist. In the character’s editor, you can bend a lot in front of the mirror, so you’ll see for yourself what I mean.

Multiplayer game offers three main modes. In Brawl Basic mode, the match lasts 3 minutes, in addition to the shield you can repel enemy balls with your fists (quite an interesting additional mechanics), and the game tries to actively help you in aiming. The winner is the one who in the allotted time will gain more points. In the case of a tie, an overtime is awarded. In the Brawl Advanced mode, players will have to fight in a series of three rounds, the winner in each of which will be the player who first scored four points. There are no time limits, it’s forbidden to beat balls with your fists, and the game practically does not help you in aiming. The third mode is called Experimental and uses Brawl Basic rules, with the only difference being that arenas have unusual geometry and additional obstacles.

While waiting in the lobby, when the game finds you a worthy opponent, you can watch someone else’s game in Spectator Mode. It looks like it’s like a tiny copy of a game court in front of you, inside of which two players are fighting. The players themselves see your giant avatar through the translucent walls. You can cheer for them, applaud, waving their hands. Quite unusual sensations arise in this case. Do not be surprised if in the future someone decides to open a sports VR-bar, whose visitors in virtual reality headsets will watch someone else’s game in Sparc or similar sports entertainment.

To tighten up your playing skill, I recommend trying out the “Test” mode. Unlike the “Learning Mode”, it is a set of specific tasks that must be performed for a while. Your results after the end of the level are entered in the online high scores table along with the achievements of other players. Assignments vary in complexity. And if in the beginning you will be offered to hit several targets, then in time you will begin to fly in parallel enemy balls, and the obstacles before the targets will become more difficult and catchy, why the game will begin to resemble billiards for speed.

I was very upset that the game is focused exclusively on online. I understand perfectly well that this is eSports. But no one will forbid to dream that to such a wonderful mechanics it would be possible to tie an interesting story. Sad also a small amount of game content. Three game modes, observer mode, a number of hairstyles and costumes for your avatar – and that’s it. I would like a greater variety, because the makings of the game are simply excellent. There is no possibility of training against bots under the control of artificial intelligence. Also a serious minus. Another drawback is that you need to have two PlayStation Move controllers. Unfortunately, they do not have every owner of the PlayStation VR, but there is such a set of about 5000 rubles.

Pros:

  • Simple, but effective and incredibly addictive game mechanics.
  • Multiple multi-user modes, including observer mode.
  • The project may well become a sports cyberdiscipline for VR.
  • Pleases the presence of a simple and understandable process of training players.
  • There is an opportunity to hone your skills in the test mode.
  • There is no motion sickness and other unpleasant side effects of VR.
  • Very interestingly implemented mode of monitoring someone else’s game.

Minuses:

  • In the game there is even a hint of a single campaign.
  • There is no way to practice on AI opponents.
  • The game is impossible without having two Move controllers.
  • At the moment, the game has too little content.

Sparc – an exciting game for those who have always dreamed of a real e-sports for virtual reality. Fans of the movie “Throne” will also be satisfied, because they will be inside the scene of the cult fiction Walt Disney. Unnecessarily at first glance, the mechanic gradually opens up before the player, after which there comes a realization that in this game there is a place for tactics, planning and, of course, skill, which is not easy to work out. To defeat the enemy, pushing just a couple of buttons, you will not get it. For the victory will have to sweat in the real sense of the word. I want to believe that the developers will not abandon their offspring and in the near future will supplement it with new modes and content. In the meantime, I put Sparc 7 points out of 10 .

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