Ultimechs hands-on: Rocket-punch League
This free-to-play 2v2 game is a blast to play.
Most mech games focus on shooting adversaries. Shooting other mechs. Shooting giant monsters. Shooting aliens. But shooting a giant ball to get it into the goal? That's not particularly common to find.
Ultimechs is a new free to play 1v1/2v2 esports game for the Oculus Quest 2 (opens in new tab) that tasks players with exactly that: shooting their rocket fists across arenas to knock a giant ball into one of two goals. Players can choose from three different mechs from the get-go and, with content-heavy season passes, can unlock new outfits and other cosmetic items to make their robots look unique.
But there's little time to stop and smell the roses or admire the details on your fellow mechs in the arena. That's because Ultimechs is fast, fast, fast. You can zip across the entire arena in a matter of one second flat (or less), and the ball isn't just on a horizontal plane, either. It can go anywhere, and you'll really need to pay attention in order to beat the other team.
And it's developed by Resolution Games, the minds behind some of the best Quest 2 games (opens in new tab) like Demeo and Blaston. Think you have what it takes? Here are my impressions of Ultimechs for the Meta Quest 2 so far.
In Ultimechs, you'll find yourself in the shoes of one of three different-sized mechs, each with a different super-charged power-up. Viper, the smallest mech, can instantly hit the ball from anywhere across the arena when powered up. Nitro, the medium-sized mech, trades speed for explosions, causing the ball to fly across the arena with a player-damaging explosion when powered up.
On the other hand, Titan — that's the largest mech, if the name didn't clue you in — plays a more defensive role. Its power-up places a giant wall between two movement points anywhere on the field, and can be strategically placed to help defend your goal or funnel the ball into the opposing goal.
Each side of the arena features two goals. The larger goal on the bottom is worth one point when scored on, similar to Football/Soccer. The secondary goal that sits above is much smaller and is worth two points. When a match ends in a tie, the entire back wall on either side becomes a goal to make scoring quickly as easy as possible.
Right now, there's not much arena variation. You can pick from a small or large arena, which is roughly double the size of the small arena. Beyond that, you'll choose day or night color schemes. I imagine we'll see more options in the future, though.
At the beginning of each round, players will find themselves situated right in front of the mid-line on the field. After a brief countdown, a ball is shot from somewhere on the mid-line up into the air — the direction and location of the shot is randomized to make it fair — and players will need to move quickly to get the ball down the court.
It's a typical sportsball game at its most basic design, but it's the locomotion and how you get the ball across the court that makes Ultimechs so fun.
Oh, and the speed. My gosh, the speed.
As I said previously, players can find themselves whipping across the entire arena in under one second flat if they really want to. But that speed comes at a "cost" of some freedom.
Instead of using the joystick to move, or freely teleporting to any old spot you might want on the field, players will dash between pre-determined points in the arena by pressing the A or X buttons on either controller. You'll then dash toward the next spot that you're looking at, and this can be combined with using the right stick to virtually turn more quickly, helping players whip around and dash around the arena with ease.
There's little doubt that many players will have an issue with this restriction at first — especially folks used to other competitive VR titles that offer different locomotion options. I imagine Resolution Games might offer additional movement options at some point in the future, but I think this movement style actually plays to the game's strengths quite well.
First up, it's extremely accessible. Look somewhere and tap a button to move there. That's it. No worrying about placing your teleporting spot in the right place, no getting motion sick because virtual sliding movement feels weird for some players. It's pretty tried-and-true.
This shouldn't be a surprise coming from Resolution Games, a group of developers that tends to make incredibly accessible games no matter the theme or genre. Demeo is dead simple to drop into, Blaston is straightforward, and Angry Birds needs no introduction.
Second, having the same locomotion style for all players helps level the playing field. And, in all seriousness, I'm not sure the game's style and speed would work particularly well with complete freedom of movement, especially at this speed. Being able to tap three times to get halfway across the field is a tactical choice, while it's likely that you could easily press the joystick forward too much (or too little) and lose the ball.
Shoot the goal... literally
With the movement out of the way, you'll then focus on actually getting that ball into the opposing goal. Like the movement in the game, Ultimech's controls for shooting your mech's rocket fists is as simple as they come. You'll aim your arm and press and hold the trigger to launch the rocket.
So long as you're holding down the trigger, your rocket fist will continue to propel itself anywhere you steer it in the arena. This is where the real strategy comes in.
While the rocket fist is flying through the air, you'll tilt your wrist to steer it in any direction you'd like. Once you get the hang of it — it only took me a round or two to get the feel — you can start doing some seriously sick trick shots by quickly whipping the fist to make it fly sideways, up, down, or in any direction you want.
Your rocket fists don't instantly appear back on your arms, though. You'll actually have to wait for them to propel themselves back to you when you let go of the trigger.
I loved this mechanic, and it'll help players prioritize just using one fist at a time. Hitting the ball with two rocket fists will propel it further and quicker, though, so there is actually an advantage of using both in a pinch.
Throughout matches, glowing golden spheres will appear on random tiles. Players who dash to these spheres will become powered-up and can use their special move, which is activated by holding the grip button and tapping the trigger.
For me, the two most useful mechs were Titan and Viper. Viper's instant (and incredibly powerful) power-up shot makes it easy to get a quick save. Just be sure you don't pick up two power-ups in a row and quickly use them, as rocket fists have a cool-down after the power-up is activated.
If you're not careful, you could find yourself being able to dash around with no usable rocket fists for several seconds.
While most of the action in the game is lightning fast, I'd love to see some quicker ways to rematch. In my play sessions, at least, I would have to go back to the lobby and then start a new game, which seemed like an unnecessary bit of friction in an otherwise blisteringly-fast game.
Thankfully, the game's party system was robust enough that I didn't need to join back with my party after returning to the lobby. In fact, voice chat never even cuts out while loading, which is important when trying to decide what to do next. Since Ultimechs is cross-platform between Meta Quest and Steam, having an in-game party system is essential to making sure the platform your friends prefer doesn't matter in the end.
In the lobby, you'll be able to customize your mech, including changing out paint jobs, adding decals, and even including masks, hats, and other accessories on your robot as you unlock options in the season pass. Since the game is free to play, season passes will cost you a few bucks to unlock, but Resolution Games hasn't revealed the pricing just yet.
Once you've paid whatever that amount is, you'll level up and unlock rewards during play. It's like every other game you've probably ever played with a season pass.
Pre-season starts now
While the game doesn't officially launch until September 15 on Steam and Meta Quest platforms, developer Resolution Games is hosting a pre-season weekend event on Steam from August 25-28.
Head on over to the Steam link below if you have a VR-ready PC and give it a shot! Otherwise, you'll need to wait until September 15 to pilot your own mech in the arena.
In the brief couple of hours I've been able to play it, Ultimechs has truly been a blast. It's a game that'll get your heart racing and your head sweating. It'll test your reflexes and keep you coming back for just one more game. But it's also going to live or die by the community that is developed.
As a free-to-play title, there's always the risk of getting griefers or other nasty players that ruin the experience for other people. Thankfully, you can always stick to private or ranked matches, which should help weed out these sorts of players naturally. Otherwise, if you want to get your practice in with an unranked match, you could always mute or block other players that act obnoxiously.
I'm absolutely looking forward to honing my rocket fist skills over the next few months as Ultimechs continues to develop. September 15 is still quite a ways away, but I'll be dreaming of climbing the ranks between now and then.
This rocket league puts you in the shoes of a mech with rocket fists, and it's free to play! Dash across the arena and score on the opposing team by launching those rocket fists into a giant ball. Are you fast enough?
Get it on: Oculus (opens in new tab) | Steam (opens in new tab)
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