In the world of multiplayer shooters, it feels almost impossible to make something new and unique. You'll certainly find some unique experiences among the endless sea of Call of Duty or PUBG clones, but they are few and far between.
That's part of what makes NERF Ultimate Championship so special: It feels unique from the moment you begin the game. Even some of the best Quest 2 games (opens in new tab) can't claim such a thing.
It all starts with the guns. As you would expect, the team has swapped out the usual set of realistic or sci-fi guns with something strangely innocuous as far as multiplayer shooter video games are concerned. That's NERF blasters, of course, complete with darts for projectiles instead of bullets.
Along with unique weapons (and weapon handling) is a parkour navigation system that would make Titanfall blush, all done in VR for extra immersion. NERF Ultimate Championship is just getting started with a handful of arenas and modes at launch, but the promised free seasonal content and updates mean players will have plenty to look forward to over time.
I got the chance to play through several beta matches and a one-on-one session with the developers. These are my impressions of NERF Ultimate Championship for the Oculus Quest 2 (opens in new tab)!
NERF Ultimate Championship is a multiplayer 4v4 shooter available now for the Meta Quest 2, and sells for just $14.99. It launches with four maps and three game modes, but (at this time) you can only play certain modes on certain maps. More on that later.
The development team at Secret Location is owned by Entertainment One, a subsidiary of Hasbro themselves, so this game is as "official" as it gets.
Part of the perks of being official includes super authentic in-game NERF blasters, which look and behave like real NERF blasters. Each of the 10 blasters feels very different from one another and shoot actual darts, including unique trajectories that feel very different from bullets.
The first month of NERF Ultimate Championship is considered the pre-season, and players will be able to unlock a swath of content as they level up through the first 10 available levels.
Secret Location says that it has three seasons worth of content planned right now, which will extend well into 2023. Each season is completely free and doesn't include microtransactions at this time, as the team told me it's committed to growing the game and playerbase without forcing players to pay more for a game they already bought.
Every time you launch the game, you'll be tossed into the social hub. If you've ever played Echo VR, you'll immediately feel comfortable with the setup. The hub in the middle is where you'll interact with a console that lets you customize your character, browse the season pass to check out the rewards, party up with friends, and start your next match.
Additionally, the social hub has additional areas that can be explored, including a parkour course where you can practice your platforming skills, and the blasting range where you can try all 10 NERF Blasters at will.
As you level up, you'll gain access to new weapon skins, characters to play as, and clothing for each character.
Unique movement and locations
From the moment you start moving around in NERF Ultimate Championship, you'll get the feeling that your character is actually walking around. The familiar head bob of a human walking pattern felt natural to me, although you can enable the FOV reduction system if it makes you a bit queasy.
Secret Location also provides options for smooth or snap rotation, but there's currently no teleportation or other non-virtual movement locomotion system. The roadmap includes QoL improvements, so it's a possibility that we could see additional options in the future.
For now, I'd only recommend the game to players who have their VR legs about them — i.e. smooth virtual movement doesn't make you sick. If you already play Population: One or one of the other popular VR multiplayer shooters like Onward or Contractors, you should do just fine.
Players can press a button to jump — or twice for double-jump — and this gives way to the incredibly fun parkour system. Players can run on any surface they see, including walls and free-standing platforms. Players can jump from any surface, including walls, so you can chain together some incredible movements in any of the busy courses available.
It takes a little bit of getting used to, but you can even steer your character a bit once you jump off something. That's great if you slightly misjudged your original jump and need to course-correct before landing. It also means you can pull off some sick stunts when chaining together jumps and double jumps from the floating walls strewn around each level.
Each of the game's four arenas all look visually different, and are very well designed. The problem I see, at this point in time, is that there are only four arenas to play in. I had a lot of fun playing throughout several play sessions, but will certainly be hungry for more content soon. I imagine other players will feel the same way.
Another slight hang-up is the fact that each map can only be played in one mode. The Mesa features three capture points that teams must hold on to in order to accumulate enough points to win. Colosseum reduces this to one central point, which keeps contention high.
The other two arenas — Blast City and Factory — are confined to deathmatch-style modes.
Now, with that said, I think the foundations here are all solid. We'll just need to see how these maps hold up to players over time.
An armory that'll make 10-year-old you jealous
Next up, is the armory itself. Since these are NERF Blasters, they don't shoot bullets. They shoot darts. If you've ever had the opportunity to shoot both types of guns in real life, you'll obviously know how different the two feel from one another.
That's also the case with NERF Ultimate Championship. When a dart is shot from a blaster, it travels in a much slower trajectory than a bullet. As such, the game doesn't use what's called "hitscanning" — that's what most shooter games use, and it simply means that when you shoot a normal gun in a video game, the bullet instantly hits whatever you were aiming at.
Instead, darts in NERF Ultimate Championship are actual objects that must make physical contact with the thing they hit. That means there's quite a learning curve that has to be gotten over before you'll even remotely resemble a good player. It also means darts can bounce off surfaces and hit players, instead of just relying on direct shots.
In addition to unique projectiles, Blasters must be primed before they can be shot each and every time. By default, this is set to automatic. In this mode, a pre-canned animation will show a hand priming the gun before it can be shot. I'm quite glad this is the case because, otherwise, I think the learning curve would be too much for some players.
Once you've gotten accustomed to the mechanics, you can enable one of two additional options: manual, or dual-wielding.
Manual requires players to physically prime the gun with each shot, instead of relying on a pre-canned animation. With manual reload, you can actually hold the trigger and rapid fire your Blaster by quickly pulling the primer back and forth. This takes even more time to get used to, as that motion will mess up your aim before you figure out how to hold the gun steadier.
Players that have figured out this mechanic will have a huge advantage in close-quarters battles, as you can shoot far more quickly than players using the automatic reloading mode.
Dual-wiedling is a hybrid of both modes, and will automatically reload anytime players are holding one gun in each hand. Since it's impossible to prime a gun while holding one in the other hand, this is pretty essential for any player who wants to play this way.
When you run out of darts, you'll need to reach over your shoulder and grab a new pack. It's easy enough to cram them into a gun, but reloading takes time since each dart has to be put in the gun individually. Don't worry, that's a pre-canned animation and won't require some kind of crazy finesse. This animation will take longer for more powerful guns, helping to balance out the armory a bit.
After an hour of playing, I felt like I had most of the mechanics down-pat, and did quite well for myself in each match. I'm definitely not tournament material, but could see a marked improvement in my skills in a relatively short amount of time.
I think, largely, it would help to have some sort of physical weight to help make these Blasters feel as authentic as they look and operate in the game. Thankfully, it looks like the folks at HelloReal might be thinking the same thing with a limited-edition controller accessory that looks very much like one of the Blasters in the game.
SURPRISE! We are incredibly proud to announce that we have teamed up with @NerfVR and crafted a ✨ limited-edition NERF Elite 2.0 Commander VR attachment ✨to celebrate the launch of NERF Ultimate Championship, coming to Meta Quest 2 on August 25th. 🏆🥇GIVEAWAY info 👇🏻👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/GIhuJLCNKSAugust 19, 2022
NERF Blasters in the game range from light pistols to shotguns, automatic weapons that have to be revved up before they'll shoot, and even giant blasters that'll shoot through dozens of rounds in seconds.
You'll find three guns at each team's starting point, with a special gun that spawns every minute or so. Players can also find additional darts and guns scattered throughout each level.
Each player has a set amount of shield that needs to be dissipated before taking actual damage. That's great, because it gives players at least a moment to realize they're being hit before they need to respawn.
If you do end up "dying," you'll respawn back at your team's starting point within a few seconds. Each team's base is a protected space, so there's no way for players to grief each other by spawn camping.
Looking to the future
In summation, the game feels authentically NERF in a way that other games don't. It's a special position for developer Secret Location to be in, and it means the game has a lot of promise.
There's not a ton of content at launch, but I imagine players will get several hours of enjoyment out of just mastering the mechanics before Season One begins in September. At that point, we'll see a new map, 30 additional levels of unlocks, and a new Blaster to play with.
Aside from the uniquely fun mechanics, I was impressed with the team's dedication to a fanbase that doesn't even exist quite yet. Promising several seasons of content specifically without microtransactions is a good sign that the game will do well over time, as it will see regular updates and keep players coming back consistently.
Plus, $15 is a surprisingly excellent price considering most similar games cost twice as much. It's a great start, for sure, and something multiplayer shooter fans should definitely consider giving a shot.
Never worry about losing a dart again with NERF Ultimate Championship for Meta Quest 2. This 4v4 multiplayer shooter might utilize non-lethal darts, but you'll need to hone your parkour skills to keep from getting destroyed in each arena.
Get it at: Oculus (opens in new tab)