|Developer||Guerilla Games Cambridge|
|Publisher||Sony Interactive Entertainment|
|Release Date||October 13, 2016|
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is a first-person combat sports game that utilises Playstation VR to put players right at the forefront of the action. The game is set 50 years in the future, where the Mechanized Combat League is a huge professional sport. Players will take on the role of a Rig pilot who competes in the league with his or her team, competing in different match types that take place across the world.
It’s important to note early and often that RIGS is a sports game. It’s potentially easy to look briefly at gameplay footage or screenshots and conclude that it’s some kind of arena-based shooter. While its gameplay does take place in arenas, and you’ll definitely be shooting, this is a sports game through and through. As such there aren’t too many different maps or modes in RIGS, as there aren’t really many different ways to play football or ice hockey in Fifa or NHL games.
As with other sports games, whether or not you’ll enjoy RIGS will depend on whether or not you enjoy the core sporting activity of the MCL. Of course, there’s no way to know that without strapping into a RIG and seeing for yourself. Or hold off buying the game until 2056 (and hope that RIGS becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy). There’s a painstakingly dull and long tutorial that, unfortunately, is necessary to allow you to get acquainted with a semi-new way of playing a first-person shooter.
But once that’s out of the way and you’re into the game proper, RIGS opens up and becomes a fairly engaging experience. In offline mode, the game has you put together your very own MCL team – including choosing the team’s nickname and your two teammates, both of whom can be swapped out for better teammates later in the season. Aside from actually playing through matches there’s a fair amount to unlock and interact with in RIGS, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
A season of RIGS will see you attempt to win a league competition, with various cup competitions breaking up the “bread and butter” league matches. There are three different match types that you’ll be playing on rotation throughout a season, all of which take place over the course of 5 minutes, divided into two halves. Team Takedown is basically Team Deathmatch and Endzone is basically American Football. But with robots and guns and more explosions.
The third match type, and probably the most interesting, is Power Slam. This is a mixture of both Team Takedown and Endzone – players need to score kills or collect power-ups scattered throughout an arena. Do this enough and you’ll enter Overdrive, an ability-boosting mode that significantly increases your speed, damage and health regeneration in all modes. In Power Slam, however, you need to be in Overdrive to score. Once a Rig is in Overdrive, they need to jump through the top of a circular goal in the middle of the arena to score.
While Team Takedown and Endzone are fun, Power Slam is where RIGS really shows its best qualities. Team Takedown is just like most other first-person shooters and Endzone is a slower-paced game that easily falls into repeating patterns of attack, defence and counterattack. Power Slam, however, is a mode that successfully captures the magic and drama of sports with a perfect mix of robot slaughter and sportsball. It creates those individual moments of exhilaration that you eagerly share with your friends, as you save a tying goal at the last second or convincingly crush a bitter rival.
All of this is merely scratching the surface of what RIGS is and what it does, however. There are a fair few different Rigs that you can choose to pilot, split across four chassis types and a few unique classes. Chassis types dictate how fast and well-armoured your Rig is. Hunters are small and nimble, but can’t take much of a beating. Sentinels are huge and slow but can soak a ton of damage. This is expanded upon by classes. Each class has its own special ability. The Vampire class, for example, will regain all of its health if you score a takedown. Carapace Rigs have a shield on their back to prevent surprise melee attacks.
Loadouts are also determined by which Rig you choose, with different Rigs having access to two independently controlled weapons on each arm. There’s a bit of variety here with weapons including machine guns, pulse weapons, lasers, missiles and more. You can also punch other Rigs, a move that is especially useful in Endzone, which allows you to steal the ball from opposition players. Rigs also come with three settings, speed, power and repair, that you have to constantly manage and switch between, adding an extra layer of strategy to the gameplay.
Not only does this amount of choice give you a good amount of flexibility towards your play style, it also opens up a range of tactical avenues for you. Besides moving faster, smaller Rigs can make use of tunnels found in all of the arenas that larger Rigs can’t access. Or do you go for a bigger Rig to soak up more damage? Or a Tempest, which can hover in the air and give you a height advantage at the cost of being out in the open? Do you go Vampire for the health regeneration or the Engineer to heal your teammates? There are a lot of ways to approach a match in RIGS.
Immersion is a big draw for RIGS, making great use of the Playstation VR headset, as well as being a fully featured virtual reality game. While a lot of the games immersion comes from placing you right in the cockpit of your Rig, the gameplay and general game design also goes a long way towards grounding you in the fictitious world of the Mechanized Combat League. It’s hard not to be a little awestruck looking around at your Rig from the cockpit.
Each match in RIGS also sees you raised into the arena to the sound of a roaring crowd, which does get a little repetitive once you’ve gone through it a dozen times, but it does a decent job of getting you pumped up. Plus it beats looking at a loading screen (although the game still has those too), allowing you to truly appreciate the VR experience. It still has to be said that these sequences do grate after a while, especially as there is zero variation to them. The graphics themselves are a little on the jagged side at mid and long distances, you’ll spend the majority of your time not really noticing, as you’ll be too caught up in the moment to moment gameplay.
It’s RIGS’ control scheme that lets the experience down slightly. It’s not that it controls badly, but rather that it’s quite a departure from what you’re used to that it can take a while to really get the hang of it. Aiming is done with your head rather than the analogue stick, with your Rig shooting where you’re looking. Despite being with the game for many hours I’ll still instinctively try and aim with the right analogue stick and curse the game out for not following my simple commands.
You can also assign movement to the PSVR’s head tracking too – choosing between turning your mech in the direction you look or with the more traditional analogue stick (looking up or down is always done with your head, though). The more familiar option, the analogue stick, will feel easier but also makes turning feel sluggish without some sensitivity tinkering. The trouble with turning the sensitivity up is running the risk of motion sickness. Turning in the direction you’re facing makes for a quicker, smoother experience but also comes with a fairly steep learning curve to master.
It’s almost catch-22. The familiar feels sluggish but the new feels a bit too alien. Once you get used to one or the other the game feels fine but it never feels wholly comfortable to control. Not in the sense of actually playing the game. In terms of physical comfort I had no issues with RIGS, and to its eternal credit the game does come loaded with a great deal of “comfort” settings that allow you to customise your VR experience to your own constitution. While the game itself advises you to start with short sessions before building up to longer ones, I had no issue playing the game for longer stretches of time almost immediately.
Outside of matches there’s a bit to do. You’ll need to gain followers by performing well in matches, which will allow you to recruit better teammates. Cash can be earned from matches, as well as from sponsorships that act as challenges. These sponsorships provide goals for you to complete, getting 3 melee takedowns in a match or winning 2 games for example. Successfully meet these challenges and you’ll net some cash, followers or loot, which comes in the form of a new helmet, visor or jumpsuit to allow you to customise your Rig pilot.
One place RIGS begins to regularly annoy almost immediately is in its voice acting and colour commentary. From the word go you’re introduced to your chief engineer, a condescending Scottish man who will take every opportunity to patronise you. It doesn’t help that he only has a scant few phrases that he repeats at you depending on your performance. Similarly, the colour commentary only seems to have a small handful of phrases that it will repeat ad infinitum during matches.
As well as being a fun solo sports game, RIGS is also a pretty good game to take online. Thanks to being built on solid gameplay foundations, the experience translates pretty well to multiplayer. It essentially pits you in the same scenarios as the single-player but replaces its AI with other Human beings. This serves to enhance the drama and enjoyment of individual matches thanks to other people being far more unpredictable than computer controlled robots.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is a competent sports game that makes great use of Playstation VR to create a fun sporting experience. While longer play sessions can get a bit tiresome due to some issues with repetition, it’s a great game to play in short bursts. All of its match types are fun, with Power Zone being an obvious stand out. Thanks to a decent amount of variety in Rig types and arena designs, you’re able to customise your experience to suit your play style whilst also thinking strategically about the matches you’re taking part in (a foundational pillar of any sports game). If RIGS is the future sport of choice, consider me sold.
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