Like many gamers, the first time I put on a virtual reality headset, my first thought was “Wow, this would be great for shooters!” It’s no coincidence that several years after the emergence of VR platforms, the FPS has been a reliable staple though developers have approached the genre in a number of interesting ways, First Contact Entertainment being one such team, gearing up for the summer launch of Solaris Offworld Combat.
Their first major release, Firewall: Zero Hour, took the tense, tactical skirmishes seen in games like Counter-Strike and Rainbow Six: Siege, adapting them for virtual reality. Now, in 2020, they’re looking to revive the frenetic arena shooter of yesteryear using the power of VR.
In Solaris Offworld Combat, you won’t be playing as an elite military operative. Set in the far flung future you don the helm of an Athlon, a virtual avatar locked in gladiatorial battles – a new form of entertainment for ravenous esports fans.
Speaking with Game Director, Damoun Shabestari, he explained the inspiration behind the premise of Solaris Offworld Combat:
“Our team is into a variety of eSports as well as physical sports. From fighting games to competitive Overwatch and Call of Duty leagues. When we discussed what the world would be playing in the future, we landed in this meta inception of a virtual space where you partake in a competitive and physical battle with your team in these arenas.”
From that initial trailer and its handful of accompanying screenshots, you can sense a certain arena shooter vibe mimicking classics of the genre such as Quake and Unreal Tournament. However, Shabestari noted the gravitational shift towards hero-based shooters like Overwatch, Valorant, Paladins, and Rogue Company. Even Call of Duty continues to dabble, as seen in Black Ops III and Black Ops 4.
He also points to how these games have evolved from boxed products to more of a live service: “Games are providing deeper mechanics and longevity through content updates without sequels. I believe arena shooters can come back to a popular gaming space so long as it has some social and seasonal updates attached to it. Bethesda does a great job of this with Quake Champions, and I think players enjoy what they’re doing. I really hope we see more of that.”
Needless to say, Solaris will follow suit. Much like Firewall, First Contact has a content roadmap already planned out, ensuring there’s a steady stream of updates and events following the game’s launch later this month.
Part of what made Firewall such a huge hit among PlayStation VR fans was how the game moves. Stacking up, peeking around corners, and making gestures to squadmates helped ramp up the immersion though the pacing in Solaris is far more frenzied. Juggling player comfort within this quicker pace and not breaking immersion will be a challenge.
“Movement is definitely something we take seriously so that players can enjoy game sessions without discomfort,” Shabestari told us. “There is a lot that is taken into consideration when it comes to how we treat player locomotion. The type of gameplay is a huge part of how we start player movement; additionally we factor in the title’s art style, lighting, animation sets, and audio. Solaris is quick and energetic where players need to take advantage of flanks and teleporter routes to take and hold the Control Point.”
While we’re excited to see Solaris touch down later in August, some way be concerned that First Contact are peeling away from Firewall: Zero Hour. However Shabestar confirmed to us that a separate team will continue working on that game.
Solaris Offworld Combat will launch on Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift on August 27th. A PlayStation VR version is also in the pipeline though we don’t have a confirmed release date. In addition, when asked about a potential PS5 release, to which First Contact made no comment.