Playing Hover Junkers makes for a pitiful scene: me, alone in my office, crawling around on the carpet, pretending to fire an invisible revolver like I’ve seen in the movies. I fire from the hip, behind my back, with the gun turned sideways (damn, so cool), blind over cover, crouching and bouncing around like Robert Redford’s Sundance Kid—all the stupid things I can think of short of Max Payne-style leaps that’d end in a concussion. Just from watching me in the other room my dog has probably sprouted the legal intelligence required to look into emancipation forms.But she poops on the carpet so who cares what she thinks: Hover Junkers is so fun I’d have hopped around all night were I in better shape. It’s the best VR game I’ve played yet: a multiplayer shooter that keeps it simple but doesn’t feel like a proof-of-concept demo, and couldn’t exist without the HTC Vive.It is simple, though: there are two guns, a basic loot system (just junk to use as cover), two modes (free-for-all and team deathmatch), up to eight players per match (six is default), unlimited ammo, and no frilly progression system or classes. Just moving, reloading, and shooting. I’d welcome more, but right now Hover Junkers can get by on just that, because even reloading is fantastic fun.This heavy junk is locked in shipping containers in inhospitable desert environments. You pilot a hovering ship of your choice that can collect and transport it, but there’s competition – other junkers want your loot. Time to lock and load.In essence Hover Junkers is a simple deathmatch and team deathmatch arena first-person shooter, but the HTC Vive, and its excellent controllers, make it so much more.That’s because when you shoot it feels like you’re really shooting a gun. For your aim to be true you need to look down the sights, arm-extended and one eye closed. That’s fine when you’re practicing in the shooting range with no-one else firing back, it’s a very different story when you’re in-game. That’s when you need to keep your wits about you.
Hoverships are silent and you might not realise an enemy is coming up behind you until the first bullet whistles past your ear. Whether you survive or not doesn’t just depend on being a crack shot, but also how well you pilot the ship.Standing on the deck of my junker (there are a bunch of different sizes, so you can play even if you only have a small space to stand), I use the Vive controller in my left hand to pilot, pointing it in the direction I want to go and holding the trigger to putt along smoothly like I’m on a giant Segway. I forget I’m even doing it after a while, and the junker stays stable, so I never feel seasick. In fact I didn’t notice any motion sickness at all, though I’ve got a pretty strong stomach, so your vestibular systems may react differently.With my left hand piloting, the controller in my right hand is my gun, and that can be switched up for left-handed players, or I could stop piloting altogether and dual-wield. The rest of the movement is me tumbling around my deck, hiding behind hardpoints, looking for shots as I gently collide with other junkers while their pilots likewise crouch and dodge and shoot back at me. In team deathmatc(which the small playerbase never seems to want to play), you can also choose to spawn on a teammate’s junker, which is great fun so long as they’ve chosen a deck big enough to keep you from clipping through each other constantly. VOIP is built in, but one teammate and I took to communicating non-verbally, giving thumbs up when we were ready, instinctively switching firing positions while the other reloaded. It was thrilling and I felt truly upset when my missed shots directly lead to the avatar in front of me crumpling to the
The shotgun, conversely, is inaccurate, but also great at shooting off an enemy’s junk (not a euphemism) to allow a clearer shot of the soft, gooey body behind. As of writing a submachine gun is available to try out in the practice range but not yet available in the competitive game.
Unfortunately lag can, on occasion, be an issue. I was left fuming thanks to missed headshots and unfair deaths, but the biggest problem with Hover Junkers is that there’s not yet enough people playing it. There were times I logged in when I was on my own, regardless of which continent’s server I tried to join.But even though matches feel samey, they’re great fun in the short term: a giddy merging of make-believe play and game rules, where score is kept but winning isn’t as important as the inherent joy of playing ultraviolent peekaboo, rolling around on my carpet like an idiot. Sometimes I even add my own recoil in, pulling my arm back as if there were actually force to my shots. I bounce around more dramatically than I need to, and pretend I can’t just put my arm through the hunks of metal I’m hiding behind.
It makes me feel like I’m an actor in that ridiculous Hot Pockets VR commercialand having just as much fun as those kids are pretending to (except without the disgusting breadbags of hot goop they love so much). With the currently limited selection of VR games, if you own a Vive and want to use it and have fun, I heartily recommend Hover Junkers. It’s not highly populated right now, but I’ve never had trouble finding a few other kids to play pretend gunfight with.