Review: RIGS: Mechanized Combat League (PSVR)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • PlayStation Move None
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Title: RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (18.66 GB)
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 496 of the podcast.
496

I’m a sucker for games with Mechs in them, and Guerilla is no stranger to smaller versions of these mechanical beasts since they were made available in Killzone 3.

RIGS has been a showpiece for PS VR since a few months after it was first revealed as Project Morpheus, and every time that we played it, the action just kept getting better. Now VR has finally come to the PS4, and RIGS doesn’t even feel like a launch title.

Gameplay:
This game is all about playing in a futuristic sport where the combatants pilot mechs instead of putting themselves in harm’s way. There are four different RIG chassis types, with variants of each available as you progress.

The different types will give you different abilities such as a double-jump, quicker running speed, or hovering for a limited amount of time, among others. On top of that, your RIG can also possess one of six available Special Abilities, beside the training RIGS that you start with.

These abilities are:

  • Vampire: Restores its armour to full strength each time an opponent RIG is taken down.
  • Carapace: Adds a damage-absorbing shield to the back of any chassis. The shield is extremely effective, but it doesn’t cover the full height of the RIG.
  • Nuke: Upon destruction of a Nuke-enabled RIG, its power core will overload and detonate spectacularly. You really don’t want to be nearby when a Nuke goes off – the blast affects opponents and teammates alike!
  • Engineer: Enables the repair of any damaged friendly RIGS simply by looking at them. It will also jam the radar of opponent RIGS in the vicinity.
  • Thief: allows you to shoot power spheres or the Endzone ball to collect them at a distance. RIGS equipped with Thief will also be invisible to enemy radar while in Turbo mode.
  • Knockout: Adds bonus effects to the RIG’s melee system. A successful melee hit disables the target’s power distribution system for a short time. A successful hit on a target in Overdrive will cancel its Overdrive.

In Offline mode, you’ll be able to play in the bottom of three available leagues using AI-based teammates, all of which you recruit. You can either find pilots that don’t take a cut of the winnings, but are usually limited in their skills, or those that will but they’re usually better competitors.

Each season lasts ten games, pitting you against each team in your league twice per season. You’ll be able to swap essentially everything in and out between matches, including teammates, RIG chassis and/or special abilities, and customization of your character.

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This is a great way to get ready for online play. As you acclimate yourself to the gameplay mechanics you’ll also be able to earn credits and work on some challenges, cleverly disguised as sponsorships. There’s a lot of gameplay available offline, and I highly suggest that you spend a good deal of time here before heading online.

It’s nice to have a few different RIGS in your stable before you head online, especially since some work better than others depending on the match type and arena that you’re playing in.

… well-paced but pretty crazy at the same time …
When you first jump into the game, you’ll need to play through a pretty thorough tutorial. Have patience and pay attention! It’s a lot to digest, and there are some play mechanics that can feel pretty new.

There are two ways to control how you turn your head and Rig, but the second option isn’t available until you get through the section of the tutorial in which you turn by moving your head right and left, so keep that in mind.

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At its heart, RIGS is an FPS, but being a VR title definitely throws a curveball at you in a few ways. There’s definitely a learning curve, but it’s all worth it.

Each RIG has three different Power Modes that can selected at any time, and when you absorb enough Power Orbs, which drop from Takedowns, all three of these modes are active simultaneously. Each mode is tied to a face button on your DualShock 4, with Cross being tied to your Jump ability.

The modes are:

  • Turbo Mode: Increases the movement speed of your RIG. To switch to Turbo Mode, press the Square button. This is the mode your RIG starts out in when you enter the arena. TIP: Your RIG will appear on the radar of your opponents when Turbo Mode is active.
  • Repair Mode Decreases the time your RIG requires to self-repair damage. To switch to Repair Mode, press the Triangle button. TIP: Repair will be interrupted if your RIG takes additional damage.
  • Impact Mode: Increases the damage your attacks inflict on opposing RIGS. To switch to Impact Mode, press the Circle button.

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Mastering these different modes is pretty key to being successful, and with everything going on around you, it’s easy to forget to switch between them. What works best depends on the RIG chassis that you’re using too, so if you haven’t realized it by now, this game has a lot more than I think many expected.

The action is well-paced but pretty crazy at the same time. Matches take place over two five-minute halves, with overtime happening when needed. It’s really easy to lose track of the time left in the half, at least for me.

… a whole new world in terms of gameplay …
I find myself concentrating so much on what’s actually going on around me, so much so that I’m surprised when the countdown appears on screen showing the final few seconds of the half.

The control scheme that I use is a bit more like “traditional” FPS controls, so my head movements only control my head instead of also making the RIG turn as well. That’s the biggest difference that demands getting used to, and early on I would catch myself pushing up and down on the right stick.

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With VR, I control my aiming and the rest of my head movements by actually moving my head, and it really is a whole new world in terms of gameplay. I still catch myself strafing too much as my head is turned pretty far to the right or left. All of a sudden I’ll notice that most of my HUD isn’t on the screen, and then I can correct it.

Weapons are independent between the right and left, so you can have a different weapon on each side. Each is controlled separately with L2 and R2, while L1 and R1 control your ability to dash to each side, a move which becomes essential when you’re try to close the gap between yourself and an opponent. Dodging rockets and other attacks as you sprint toward an attacker is pretty intense, and everything controls wonderfully.

… a quick glance at what you need to know …
Visuals:
I can think of four or five PS VR launch titles that have some exceptional visuals, and RIGS is one of the best in that field. Colors are vibrant and deep, the framerate is like butter, and the actual visual design is something that other developers could use as a template for how to create their own top-notch graphics.

The sense of size of both your RIGS and the arenas is there, and being in VR, the level of depth is something you need to see for yourself. The HUD appears as a hologram on the glass of the cockpit, and the layout is fantastic for taking a quick glance at what you need to know.

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Effects such as explosions and fireworks look astonishing in VR, and this is one of the few launch titles for PS VR that doesn’t exhibit much, if any, aliasing while you play. Textures are incredibly detailed, which is welcome after seeing some other games suffer from lower-res assets due to the power needed to drive a game in VR.

Nothing about this game says “we had to compromise X to get things working”, and it’s just a treat to play, no matter how much time you spend in this world.

… hawt mech-on-mech action …
The arenas are very well built, with huge differences between the four that are available, but it makes me yearn for more to be added. It takes a while to learn the layout of those four and to learn the best routes and hiding places in each, but even still, I do hope that the game sells well enough to warrant bringing some new arenas out at some point.

The four that are present though are fantastic. You’ll definitely need to wrap your brain around playing in a fully 3D environment, with the presence of numerous ramps and cubby holes to sneak through.

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Audio:
Since this is a Sports FPS, there’s a good blend of both in the audio design. The best part is obviously the enthusiastic announcer, who will keep you apprised of more than what the score is. Sometimes he and the arena announcer will mirror what the other says, but it makes me laugh instead of annoying me.

Gameplay sounds are huge, especially the clanking of that hawt mech-on-mech action. Explosions really bellow in your ears and the 3D positional audio is ample in this offering. Use it, and you’ll be able to hear everything that’s going on all around you. Again, this is AAA design throughout.

… Performance online so far has been stellar …
Online/Multiplayer:
Online play is probably the biggest component to RIGS, and luckily there’s some pretty decent depth. Matches are always 3-on-3, but it can be a mixture of real people and AI pilots if you so choose.

Private matches are available right from the start, which is something that some games still lack for some reason. As with some other PS VR launch titles, in-game chat is included, with controls to mute whomever you choose. Voice quality is good, and as expected, you’ll only hear your teammates unless you’re in a pre or post-game lobby.

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Three different match types are available, each offering a pretty unique play experience. They are as follows:

  • Powerslam: It’s all about scoring points for your team by getting your RIG into Overdrive and jumping through the arena’s central goal. Your opponents can do the same, however, so make sure to keep them away from the goal until their Overdrive timer runs out.
  • Endzone: A hard-hitting sport in which two teams vie for control of an energy ball that must be delivered to the opposing team’s endzone. When you’re in possession of the ball, you can pass it to a teammate by pressing the L3 button.
  • Team Takedown: The rules for this one are as brutal as they are straightforward. You score points by taking down players from the opposing team. Will you rely on intricate team tactics or simply use brute force to dominate the game and crush your opponents?

Team Takedown is a great way to get rolling since the mechanics are obviously the easiest of the three. It’s also the most “FPS” of the three types, so that may make your transition into this new universe a bit easier to handle.

All three are tons of fun and the way that the single-player is setup you’ll definitely have some exposure to them by the time you decide to go online. I haven’t found a favorite yet because I’ve been enjoying all three quite a bit, but I’m sure that one will start to pull ahead at some point.

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Online offers four different modes too, and should be able to handle any need that you may have:

  • Division: The Division draft type is a dynamically ranked 3v3 matchmade experience in which you team up with two other players to challenge opposing teams of three players. You progress through a ‘season’ of ten matches. Your performance measured across those matches determines if you’re promoted to the next division, relegated to the previous division, or held in your current division at the end of the season. Your seasonal progress is linked to you alone – other players may not be playing the same concurrent season of ten matches.
  • 1v1 (Matchmade): In the matchmade 1v1 draft type, you team up with two AI pilots to challenge an opposing player backed by two AI pilots. You can use any of the AI pilots you’ve unlocked. The winner earns credits and fame.
  • 1v1 (Private): In the private 1v1 draft type, you team up with two AI pilots to challenge a friend backed by two AI pilots. You cannot earn rewards for playing this type.
  • Exhibition: The Exhibition draft type offers a private 3v3 experience in which you team up with two friends to challenge opposing teams of three players. You cannot earn rewards for playing this type.

Performance online so far has been stellar, with no matches exhibiting any obvious lag issues or teleporting. I would assume that limiting online to six players per match helps, but who cares right? How well it plays should be the only focus, and in that regard, I have no complaints.

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Conclusion:
It’s hard to believe that RIGS is a launch title for PS VR because everything about the game is excellent. My only complaint really is the limited amount of available arenas, especially after making your way through the offline leagues. They do take a while to learn, so the curve is definitely easier with only four available, but once you get to a certain point, you’ll definitely want more.

I can’t praise this game enough though. Being developed by a first party with access to the new hardware as soon as possible obviously helped. I’m sure that getting loads of feedback at different events was vital for figuring out what control schemes worked best in VR, which is something that many developers are definitely struggling with still.

RIGS impresses in so many ways and if you’re into big mechs battling in an arena-style FPS with sports undertones, this one is definitely for you. Now we just need a Milwaukee-based arena with Motorcycles circling the play area, a huge brewery at the center, and snow covering everything. Make it happen Guerrilla Cambridge!

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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