One Small Step Into The Arena: Space Junkies Review
VR by virtue of the fact is an isolating experience. After donning the headset—in this case, the PSVR headset—and putting on your headphones, you are left to your own devices in a virtual world. Which is why having the chance to experience a game with other players is always refreshing.
Ubisoft Montpellier’s Space Junkies takes that notion and pits a small group of players against each other. While competitive multiplayer games come and go for Sony’s VR platform, none have drawn direct inspiration from the old school arena-based shooter genre.
Though Space Junkies may seem fairly bare bones on first glance, it is all by design. While the trends of late have been pushing for bigger teams and larger maps, Space Junkies was developed to harken back to the early days of Quake. Space Junkies only includes a few online game modes including 2v2, 1v1, and four-player free-for-all. Each mode feels very intimate and condensed in comparison to today’s standard. The action is fast and fluid. Each map is closed off and easy to navigate. It’s exactly what you’d expect to see out of an arena shooter.
This all comes with a big caveat. Space Junkies has a steep learning curve. While I have had my fair share of VR experiences, there was a bit of a struggle grasping the controls. However, the tutorial was incredibly helpful in leading me through the paces.
Space Junkies, as indicated by the name, drops you into zero-G environments. The left and right analog sticks both control your movements vertically and horizontally. While the PSVR headset tracks and calibrates your peripheral vision, akin to the traditional right analog stick movement.
Taking all this in, it would seem like motion sickness would be right around the corner. It was, at least for me. Locomotion is usually hit or miss for me. That being said, after a few Quick Play matches, the motion sickness begun to sink in. Thankfully, not every player will experience motion sickness, and it was pretty light in comparison to a lot of other VR games.
Movement was only half the battle. The biggest hurdle in playing Space Junkies was becoming accustomed to the shooting mechanics. Similar to playing Firewall: Zero Hour with the DualShock 4, Space Junkies’ aiming mechanics are through the controller itself. Moving the controller in accordance with your enemies position is quite tricky. The response time and accuracy of me needed in the competitive space made it difficult to get any kills. It takes a little while to learn to navigate, shoot, and keep your attention to your HUD all at the same time.
It is unfortunate that the PS Move controllers are not being supported. Space Junkies gives you the ability to dual-wield two weapons at a time. However, the DualShock 4 makes the process of aiming and firing the two weapons very obtuse.
Space Junkies offers a fair number of different weapons to equip and use on the battlefield. Guns can range from shotguns to pistols and assault rifles. High-powered weapons such as a slingshot and rocket launcher will spawn in-game which makes them highly sought after due to their effects in turning the tide for each team. Throughout the map, health and ammo pickups can be found. Knowing where to look for them as well as learning the layout of each map becomes crucial.
Winning a match rewards players with in-game currency. Space Junkies’ store features cosmetic skins for your weapons and new upgradable items to use. Gathering enough resources, you can purchase new avatars with their own stats. The contents of the store are not excessive, and it is nice to see the entire catalogue is obtainable without the use of microtransactions.
Stylistically, Space Junkies pops quite a bit, and not because the screen is dead-smack in front of your eyes. across all weapons and arenas. There is a bit of cartoonish heart to it all as Space Junkies never takes itself too seriously. In the pre-match lobby, players can jump into a pick-up game of space-basketball with a giant inflatable beach ball.
Developers, Ubisoft Montpellier have been vocal about supporting Space Junkies for the next foreseeable future. Although, the long term success of this game does rely on maintaining an install base. During my time so far, jumping into a match and finding three other players has not been an issue. Whether players hang around or move onto will be important as there are no single-player aspects outside of the short tutorial.
Despite the challenges that may await, Ubisoft Montpellier has medicated the situation by incorporating cross-play with other VR platforms ie: Vive and Oculus Rift. Although this decision does give an advantage to the PC players over the PlayStation 4 users by way of controller support.
Space Junkies, simply put is a fast and fun experience. Jumping into a small multiplayer game with just enough features to keep you invested is a nice change of pace when compared to the multiplayer games we see every day.
Learning the controls and becoming comfortable with the mechanics may prove challenging at first. Take into account the chance of motion sickness as it does have a role in the longevity of your play sessions. While the stickiness of the game is not set in stone, I do look forward to seeing if a community will flourish.
Available: March 26th
Platform: PlayStation 4, Steam, and Oculus Store
A PlayStation 4 code for Space Junkies was provided for review purposes.