If you know your VR history you might recall CRASHLAND, an early VR prototype where players would defend themselves after crash landing on a hostile planet with little more than a radar scanner and a weapon. After the project went dormant for years as the developer focused on Ocean Rift (2016), today we learn that Crashland is about to blast onto Quest after being revived and revamped.
Well before the announcement of the HTC Vive or Rift CV1 and their VR motion controllers, pioneering VR developers were cobbling together Oculus Rift development kits with third-party motion controllers like the Razer Hydra to experiment with games built around motion input rather than a gamepad.
One of those early projects, developed by procedural animation aficionado Llŷr ap Cenydd, was Crashland. Initially revealed all the way back in 2013, the game had players facing off against waves of terrifying spiders that reacted in beautifully grotesque ways as they were dispatched with bullets and explosives. While Cenydd had scoped out some big plans for the project, he ultimately focused his efforts on the more tame aquatic experience, Ocean Rift, which came to almost every major VR platform over the last years.
The new Crashland, due to launch on Quest this Thursday for $20, maintains the same basic premise of crash landing on a hostile planet and defending yourself from waves of aliens. Aside from a full revamp of the visuals, the game’s structure has been fleshed out and includes a wide range of enemies (built around Cenydd’s signature procedural animation approach). Here’s the pitch:
The premise of Crashland is pretty simple: survive in gladiatorial combat until rescue. The full game has 24 missions, over 50 creature varieties, and 14 weapon modes. Missions are a short but very intense 5–10 minutes. It is mostly an action game but does transition in and out of horror. Each mission has a theme centered around a new creature; for example fighting giant hellworms in a sand storm, prehistoric terror birds in the forest, blood sucking spiders in the dark etc. As you play you gain XP, level up and unlock perks, including abilities like teleport punch, auto turrets, slow motion etc.
The gameplay loop is based around four mechanics: smart pistol, boomstick, scanner and teleporter. Creatures, scenarios and perks are all designed around these. For example there are creatures that jam or spam the motion scanner, drain or disable the teleporter, are drawn to or afraid of explosives etc. These are all mixed together so there’s a lot of emergent gameplay in the chaos.
When we played the Crashland prototype so many years ago, one of the major draws was how frighteningly organic the movements and deaths of the aliens were, and the tension of having a radar scanner which would beep with quickening pace as enemies approached. Cenydd says the full version of the game has amped up those elements yet further.
“One of my main focuses has been graphics and spectacle—I’m leaning heavily into my expertise in procedural animation for alien movement and the deaths in particular—the way the aliens have momentum, judder, kick and writhe adds a lot to how the combat feels. It’s a continuation of the [procedural animation systems] I did for Ocean Rift,” he tells Road to VR. “There’s also a huge variety of alien creatures—giant worms, spiders, electric slugs, ticks, dinos, scorpions, cephalopods etc. […] I hope people will get a kick out of the creatures; each mission introduces one or two completely new ones all the way through to the last mission.”
In terms of structure, the game will have a simple arcade format with menus to select levels and modes, with level completion and experience unlocking new missions and weapon abilities. Leaderboards will be included for those who want to compete for the high score. The game is single-player and Cenydd says there’s no plans for co-op at present.
If you’re looking for a deep-dive, you can check out a 20 minute walkthrough straight from the developer:
Cenydd says he’s been building the new version of Crashland since 2019 as a side-project alongside to his day job as a professor of Computer Science at Bangor University in the UK. While the game will launch on Quest first, he remains hopeful that he can “release a PC version later down the line.”
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Solaris: Offworld Combat is coming to PSVR this June with a physical release from Perp Games. According to a First Contact Entertainment representative, the digital version is planned to release a month earlier in May.
Perp Games on Twitter: “We’re not finished just yet. Solaris Offworld Combat is the next game to be getting a physical box release. Coming in June to global markets! Will you be buying it? https://t.co/5sphrqsh10” / Twitter
Solaris: Offworld Combat on PSVR
Originally, Solaris was coming to PSVR late last year around the same time as the Quest and PC VR version of the game but got delayed. Now, it’s slated for release in just a couple of months.
The latest VR shooter from First Contact Entertainment (creators of Firewall Zero Hour) is a sci-fi competitive VR shooter that feels a bit like Quake in VR due to its speed and intense arena levels. It’s a very breezy, fast-paced game that’s accessible and easy to quickly jump in and out of. The closest comparison is probably Hyper Dash.
Soalris is a notable release because other than Firewall Zero Hour, there really haven’t been many options for shooter fans on PSVR. Alvo is coming soon too, but the headset is on its last legs at this point.
The PS Aim Controller continues to be one of the best things about the PSVR platform, so I’m all for seeing more games support it, but it’s a shame games like this didn’t hit PSVR earlier in its life cycle. Hopefully PSVR 2 on PS5 is backwards compatible and it can give late-life cycle games like this one new life when it releases.
Solaris is coming to PSVR very soon with a planned digital release in May and physical release from Perp Games in June. For more on this game make sure and read our Solaris: Offworld Combat review and stay tuned for all the latest in VR.
The VR fitness genre is still relatively new, all things considered. Even though the space is still somewhat niche, it’s absolutely growing at a fast pace as seen by the number of games and players that continue to spring up. How did we get to this point though, you might ask?
Microsoft won a large US Army contract to supply advanced AR headsets for frontline soldiers, based on the HoloLens platform.
The US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip infantry with AR helmets for situational awareness and convenient display of sensor outputs.
The contract is worth up to $21.88 billion over 5-10 years. While the order has been widely reported as 120,000 units, a US Army statement to Breaking Defence suggests that is the maximum, not a fixed quantity.
Early evaluation units based on HoloLens 2
In 2018 Microsoft won the $480 million evaluation contract for just over 2500 units, based on HoloLens 2 with some modifications and an extra sensor.
The current, ruggedized, upgraded IVAS
The evaluation found the hardware not rugged enough for military use, and identified problems with the sensors at night. Since then the hardware has been significantly upgraded. It’s more ruggedized and houses many more sensors.
The field of view has been significantly increased from roughly 40°x30° to 80°x40°. That’s significantly wider than any other see-through AR headset on the market.
Reported use cases for the headset include:
overlaying icons on friendly units, objectives, threats, and points of interest
built-in night vision & thermal view modes
live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensors (SBS) personal drone
simulated weapons & enemies for training exercises
scanning nearby people for high temperature (COVID-19)
facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army is also testing integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see-through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them. That means on dismounting they’ll be situationally aware.
Some Microsoft employees have protested providing technology for the military, but that’s unlikely to have any effect given the enormous potential value of the contract.
IVAS is still in the late testing & evaluation stage, and the scale of deployment will depend on future budgets. But if things go to plan, frontline soldiers could be equipped with these game-changing AR capabilities by the end of the decade.