When we did our launch line-up roundup for the PlayStation VR, it was hard not to be a little disappointed. Most of the games were glorified tech demos, with little to no replay value and almost never lasting more than 90 minutes. A couple of them even made some of us nauseous due to control schemes that just didn’t work well in VR. But, there was one game we had put to the side because of its heavy online multiplayer aspects, knowing we’d have to wait until PS VR was in the hands of consumers to properly test it: RIGS: Mechanized Combat League. Not only should it be separated from the rest of the PS VR launch line-up because of its online play, but also because I think it’s the only one of those launch titles that’s truly worth your time.

RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is equal parts Mechwarrior and Blitz: The League. In a far off future, the main sport of choice for people to watch revolves around two three-person teams that face off in a variety of competitions while piloting giant mechs. Similar to international soccer, the winning team nets three points in the standings, and the team at the top at the end of the season is the league champs.

As the game begins and you first approach the Mechanized Combat League about turning pro, the crew chief in charge of keeping your rig in top fighting shape gives you the lowdown on how everything works. Unlike a lot of other PS VR games, RIGS offers you two methods to control your mechanical behemoth, giving extensive tutorial time to both. It may feel rough to have so much of a tutorial standing between you and the game—around 30 minutes in total—but if you’re new to RIGS, or VR in particular, those lessons are a welcome experience.

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The first control scheme is a common one in VR, but it also tends to make people a bit nauseous (including yours truly): the left stick moves your unit, and you use your head to turn and aim your mech. The second option is more akin to a first-person shooter, making it easier for more experienced gamers to pick up and learn. Playing that way, your head only controls the aiming reticle, while the right stick controls what direction you face and the left moves your body independently. This third degree of control cut out my motion sickness almost immediately, and still gave me the precision to be extremely effective at the game. Including more options in these early days of VR is definitely a smart move, especially considering we’re still learning what will make someone uncomfortable while playing.

After learning how to shoot, boost, and figure out which aiming system you respond best to, you then get to choose from four different mech classes: the flying Tempest; the strong all-around Hunter; the double-jump equipped Mirage; and the ground-pound enabled Sentinel. Each choice’s options differentiates enough between them in a way that is comparable to other class-based shooters, and the manufacturer of the mech type you choose decides which extra abilities and weapons it features. All told, there’s over two-dozen mechs to pick from, and you can unlock more by playing the game and earning digital credits by winning matches.

A match in RIGS always falls into one of three game modes: Team Takedown, Endzone, and Power Slam. Team Takedown is basically Team Deathmatch, while Power Slam and Endzone have elements of real-world sports in them. Power Slam is like basketball, but requires you to actually throw your entire rig through a giant hoop once it reaches Overdrive mode (a more powerful state your rig can obtain by doing well in match). If you make it through the hoop while powered up, your team scores. Endzone, meanwhile, is much like football, where a ball carrier tries to cross an opponent’s goal line to score, but can drop the ball if the rig is destroyed, leaving it open to be picked up by anyone on the field.

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Also similar to other online shooters, RIGS offers up a challenge system. Presented in the form of fictional sponsorships, meeting certain conditions in each match can earn you cosmetic pieces for both your pilot’s suit and your mech. It’s a great way to not only incentivize certain playstyles, but also adds a nice layer of customization, so that you can really make your mech stand out from the crowd when you hop online. Before all of that, however, RIGS introduces you to its offline season mode. Playing solo against the computer is a great way to learn the game modes, test out strategies in some of the fictional arenas, and earn credits or complete conditions for new rigs and customization options.

Whether playing online or offline, though, there’s really not a lot beyond all of this to RIGS. Yes, it handles surprisingly well, and it’s a ton of fun to team up with a couple of buddies (or even some strangers) to blow up giant robots. In regards to the online play, there was never an issue finding a match or connecting for us, by the way. But, unless you hope that RIGS becomes the first VR esport—which, admittedly, it has the potential to do, depending on how much Guerrilla and Sony support it post-launch—it remains somewhat shallow. It checks off a lot of boxes when it comes to shooters in regards to customization and classes, but with only three match types at launch and a storyless season mode offline, the game might lose its luster quickly for some.

RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is the first great VR experience. Despite not having a lot of depth, giving players multiple control options means there’s a greater chance to find one that will fit your playstyle and help with an immersive experience. Although what’s there isn’t very deep, it’s extremely fun to jump into combat with friends online—especially if you’re as competitive as I am. If you’ve invested in PlayStation VR, there’s not a lot out there that is worth your time; RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, though, is on a short list of must haves.

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Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment • Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge  • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 10.13.16
8.0
RIGS is the first great PlayStation VR game. It can be a bit shallow with a lack of match types and game modes, but I cannot deny how great it feels to pilot my own mech into competition—and to do so with a natural-feeling control scheme that immerses players in the experience.
The Good The first really great game if you’ve invested in PS VR.
The Bad There isn’t a lot of depth to the online or offline content.
The Ugly It must be really expensive to keep replacing all those giant mechs between matches.
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League is a PS4 exclusive. PlayStation VR is required. Review code was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.
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