“You are a proud and beautiful eagle”. These were the first words the developers of Eagle Flight said to me when I stepped into the small room where the hands-on demo took place. “I AM a proud and beautiful eagle”, I thought to myself as I strapped the Oculus Rift to my face. Coincidentally, you also play an eagle in Ubisoft’s newest VR title.
After struggling with the headset for a few minutes (darn glasses), I was seeing the game’s lush version of Paris through the eyes of an eagle named Owl. My teammate Pigeon was perched next to me as we waited for the tutorial and multiplayer match to begin. In the meantime I was admiring my new beak at the bottom of the screen. It was a fine beak.
The hands on demo of Eagle Flight at Ubisoft’s booth featured the same multiplayer mode you might have been during the company’s pre-E3 press conference – Capture the Prey. This variation on the old and familiar mode Capture the Flag sees two teams of eagles fighting over the carcass of a bunny in the middle of an overgrown park in the middle of Paris. All you need to do is swoop in, grab the bunny, and bring it to your nest. Easier said than done when you add in the fact you need to navigate narrow streets and avoid tree branches while flying at eye-watering speeds.
Controlling your eagle is fairly simple. You’re constantly flying toward the point you are looking at, meaning you control your direction with your head. To turn sharply or do a u-turn, you need to tilt your head in the direction you want to turn. That was the maneuver that took me the longest to get used to, as you instinctively turn your head when you want to turn, a move that usually result in you going straight into a wall. However, all it takes is one match to really get the hang of it and start flying with the big birds. You can also speed up or slow down using the triggers on the controller for extra control while taking sharp turns or trying to outmaneuver an opponent that’s right on your tail.
Once you master the delicate art of flying, you can try the majestic bird’s version of aerial combat. Eagles can launch a powerful sound wave to knock a rival bird out of the sky, or deploy an energy shield around them to protect them from once such a sound wave. You can also use the shield to ram into an enemy for a insta-kill. Why does an eagle have an energy shield was never explained, but that’s just one of life’s great mysteries.
After the tutorial was complete, I was ready to take flight and establish my place as king of the birds. The first match ended with a humiliating 1-3 lose for my two-bird team, though I was the one to score the first point of the match. The second match was slightly better, with an end result of a 1-1 draw. It really serves to show just how quickly you can get used to the game’s unique controls. While in the first match I was mostly dying by crashing into building, when the second match rolled around I was already blasting birds and performing daring stunts in my doomed quest for victory.
While Capture the Prey was truly an intense experience that made me forget I was wearing a rather light headset on my face, it doesn’t feel like something that can hold your attention (or neck muscles) for very long. The Eagle Flight developers did mention to me the game will have a full single-player campaign, spanning “several hours”, but they are not ready to show it.
As my first hands-on experience with the Oculus Rift and VR in general, Eagle Flight was a very positive one. It proved to me that you can play a very dynamic and fast-paced game on VR without fear of headaches or motion sickness. I’m still waiting to see the full game, with other multiplayer modes and story campaign, but for now it looks like Eagle Flight is on its way to be a soaring success.
Eagle Flight will be released on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PS VR later this year.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.