Hands-On: Raw Data PvP could be the future of competitive shooters

“The future is here.”

That’s the admittedly trite thought that kept coming back to me as I played Raw Data’s new PvP multiplayer mode for the HTC Vive.

Raw Data, for those of you who don’t know, is an excellent VR shooter from Los Angeles based Survios, and arguably one of the original killer apps for the Vive. We've written extensively about the robust single player, so we were excited to get our hands on the closed beta PvP.

Does the frenetic action of the single player mode translate to a multiplayer arena shooter? For the most part absolutely, and this multiplayer addition serves to make a great VR experience even greater.

A taste of what’s to come

The game mode made available to us during this closed beta is called “Hostile Takeover,” and it's essentially king of the hill played on a few different maps. The object is to steal the “data center” in the middle of the map by controlling the point the longest. First person to 100% wins ALL the data. It’s fairly straightforward and easy to understand, and there will probably be additional modes in the final build of the game.

There are four classes to choose from: the standard dual pistol wielding soldier (Bishop), the tough shotgun blasting tank (Boss), and the sword wielding Ninja type (Saija), in addition to a brand new archer class, the “Rogue Hunter.” These are certainly familiar tropes, but they show up again and again for a reason. Balance is key in multiplayer shooters (damn you Oddjob!) and these fairly straightforward builds work just fine.

After picking a class via an in game menu, it’s time to kill or be killed.

Movement is the standard “look and you’ll go there” variety, and the thumbpad is used as a joystick to move in the direction you're facing. It’s a little disorienting at first, but it’s fairly intuitive, and I found myself zipping across the map like a heavily armed hummingbird in no time.

The data centers are where most of the action happens, as you’re either attacking or defending against the blue or red team. Once you meet in battle, it’s all about getting the drop on one another, and the different weapons have the strengths and weaknesses against others you’d expect. It’s a free for all melee, where you can hear your team swearing up a storm every time you lose a data center, punctuated with laughter, groans, and ecstatic victory shouts. In other words, it’s a fairly standard multiplayer shooter experience, only a much higher likelihood of hitting yourself in the face or tripping.

But the level of immersion sets Raw Data apart in a profound way.

The future is here

The VR element adds an extraordinary layer to the multiplayer arena style shooter that makes it an experience unlike any other I have encountered. Running around and killing or (more often in my case) being killed is an unrelentingly entertaining experience. Being immersed in the map and running side by side with your team only to be gunned down is a virtual reality experience that is as thoroughly entertaining as it is difficult to describe.

It feels as though the future is really here, as though what we imagined VR would be ten years ago is finally within our grasp. A virtual battlefield like this is very ambitious, and if Survios can continue to polish the experience, it’s going to seriously blow some minds.

The future is a bit rough

That experience, while incredibly entertaining, was a bit on the rough side. To be fair, this was a closed Beta, and obviously more work will be done, but it’s worth mentioning the negative experiences if for no other reason than to raise awareness for the developers.

Some of the animations were totally absurd, so much so that I actually found them charming. Watching a cybernetic ninja waddling forward like a duck and waving his sword in the air as though it were a baton was awesome, though I suspect not in the way Survios was hoping. Things like iffy collision detection, weird hit boxes and reloading issues were par for the course, but again, that’s the point of a closed Beta, to see what needs to be fixed. Given the level of updates and polish Raw Data has received so far, I have the utmost faith in Survios’ ability to iron out those wrinkles.

It’s a testament to how entertaining the core experience is that despite some serious technical issues, I was having a blast from the moment I started playing.  

An excellent addition

The thing to remember here is Raw Data has been an excellent single player game until now. The idea that Survios is ambitious enough to add a multiplayer component at all is extraordinary, and the fact that it works well is the cherry on top. It’s essentially a free game on top of the stellar experience that’s already here. Raw Data was already one of the best VR games available, and adding PvP, rough edges and all, is only going to make it better than ever.

Servios seems to very much be listening to user feedback, and implementing those changes when they can. This free PvP mode is evidence of that.

To quote James Iliff, Co-Founder of Survios, “The entire reason we made the PvP expansion for Raw Data was because of the community. Their feedback is a big part of our development process and we wanted to thank them by giving PvP to Raw Data owners for free. We made a fair amount of changes based on that feedback and in particular extended our schedule on Raw Data to include PvP, which was not part of the original scope of the project.”

Let’s hope Survios continues to listen.

You can bet that I’ll be back when PvP goes live to the public; I can’t wait to try out new maps and different modes. This is a future I can look forward to.

Raw Data is officially leaving early access for a full fledged release on Vive, Oculus, and PSVR later this year. PvP will work across all three platforms.

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