Strap on a VR headset and take to the battlefield to build and battle in up to twelve versus twelve team-wars, or twenty-four player free-for-all modes in Population: ONE by BigBox VR.
I will fully admit I was skeptical when I first saw Population: ONE’s pitch as a ‘VR Battle Royale’ game, but they have since made me a believer. At the demo event at PAX South, I was able to don an Oculus Rift headset and play a short two versus two match. Another player and I were given a tutorial to showcase the various systems, including locomotion and gunplay, and then dropped into our deathmatch against the other team.
The first thing to notice is the climbing and falling mechanics. You can climb anything — no, really! If you have the resources then you can build platforms as tall as you can see and climb all the way up to snipe people from a distance. I am personally deathly afraid of heights, but Population: ONE handles the falling problems found in most climbing games quite elegantly.
If you happen to fall or choose to jump off a platform, you can extend your arms out into a wing-like formation and soar down to the ground using your wingsuit. You can also ‘feather’ your flight by lowering your arms a bit, with turning solved by tilting your arms accordingly. It’s freeing and actually feels like flight — a hard thing to accomplish in VR without making it feel cheesy. This system is one of the best features of the game as it allows almost infinite nuances of building and climbing particulars to the gameplay alone and also offers a safety net to one of the biggest problems about verticality in virtual reality.
Guns feel great and are as fun to hold as they are to shoot. Pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles and even rocket launchers can be found on the battlefield, with random stats, similarly to how other games in the genre handle it. You need to make sure you pick up some ammo for your weapon, however. Once you do, you can load it into the respective weapon by jamming the highlighted golden clip into the gun and performing the also highlighted reload procedure which depends on the type of weapon. You can hold the gun with two hands for a scoped mode or use any gun to fire ‘from the hip’, which I found to be a bit more successful in heated situations.
The entire space of the game is about one square kilometer and each area is designed to feel like its own space, similar to how Fortnite handles their zones. You won’t have much time to appreciate them, however, as the border’s bearing down on you pushes the seemingly larger areas — thanks to the perception inside VR — down to small spaces perfect for heated firefights.
Population: ONE manages to do the Battle Royale genre justice without making many sacrifices. Movement is locomotion-based with snap-turning, but there are plenty of comfort options — regardless of how much experience you already have playing VR titles — to dial in to your perfect settings.