Become an actual bird (with a beak and everything): You should be playing Eagle Flight VR

What is it?

A VR game that lets you become an eagle and fly through the city of Paris.

Try it if you like...

Any kind of VR experience. Or stuff like Wipeout, which offers high-speed racing.

  • Format: PSVR, Vive, Oculus
  • Price: $39.99
  • Out: now

Who hasn’t dreamt of flying? Of suddenly taking off like Superman and soaring over the town or city where you live, drinking in the vast beauty of the earth below you… maybe even zipping in between tall buildings or diving into a valley as you glide freely through the air? See where I’m going with this? Eagle Flight VR is the closest you’ll ever get to flying this side of free-falling from a plane.

Except you can do much more than just drop to the earth - you can speed effortlessly through a virtual Paris, ducking between buildings and skimming the surface of the river Seine, watching salmon leap around you. You can screech through underground catacombs at breakneck (sometimes literally, if you make a mistake) speed, plotting a course through a maze of debris, other animals, and narrow passageways. All controlled by subtle movements of your head.  

That’s what the marketing material will tell you, and it’s largely true - there’s an incredible sense of freedom in Eagle Flight that’s totally unmatched by other VR experiences. It may sound like a pleasant distraction for 15 minutes, but hardly enough to drop top-dollar on a full-priced game, right? While the ease of movement is incredible, and the freedom of having a whole city to explore from the air liberating, it’s actually the depth and breadth of Eagle Flight that really impresses me. There’s a hell of a lot of actual game here - more so than almost any other VR experience.   

To start with you’re born. You hatch from an egg on a Parisian rooftop, and see your parents for the first time. As you blink and take in the scene, all of Paris lies ahead of you. It’s not the human-stuffed city we know today, but a post-civilization world inhabited by wild animals and overtaken by trees and vines. And - because this is a game - there is a hell of a lot to see and do. There’s a full ‘story’ here, which sees you slowly making the whole of the city your territory as you encounter the perils and sights of each district, and every mission is marked by a little floating bubble which you fly through to activate. Ever played an Ubisoft open-world game before? It’s basically that. Check out the video below...

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There’s about 15 or so hours of single player stuff to fly through here, double that if you’re chasing down gold medals for each mission you play. These range from simple check-point dashes through the city (which get tricky, very quickly) to aerial escort missions and dogfights with other birds. Crucially, the simplicity of control in this game means that everything is easy to understand but, in many cases, incredibly tough to truly master.

Eagle Flight demands that you fly like a bird. Very literally (apart from the flapping of wings). You tilt your head to control where you fly, which allows for some incredibly agile, very fast movements. The end result can be utterly exhilarating as you’re flying through the abandoned Metro tunnels, virtually grazing your wings on the objects you zip past. It’s tough to over-emphasise how quick this game actually gets, and because you’re controlling your flight in a way that feels natural and instinctive - more so than any pad-controlled game - you’ll find yourself making split-second manoeuvres you didn’t think possible. The best comparison I can think of is the speeder-bike chase from Return of the Jedi, where you’re in perfect control of the bike, dipping and diving through the trees of Endor at a near impossible pace. It’s that quick. And the absolute best part? Thanks to some clever technical trickery, which blinkers your vision as you turn (it's the vignette you see in the videos, but in VR it's barely noticeable), you’re unlikely to ever feel sick or overwhelmed. Even when you're doing... Well, take a look.

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On top of the solo mode, there’s a genuinely brilliant multiplayer that sees two teams playing Capture the Flag across Paris. There’s a genuine thrill in snagging the objective, then diving straight down to street level and trying to lose your pursuers. Again, it uses that ease of control and sense of freedom to thrilling effect. When you get an evenly matched pair of teams (which is tricky, given the scarcity of people who own Eagle Flight, sadly) it’s an absolute delight, and truly unlike anything you’ve played before.   

Eagle Flight is a wonderful showcase for the possibilities of VR. It’s the perfect match of theme and gameplay, delivering a core human fantasy with an almost universal appeal - we’ve all dreamt of flying. The fact that it does so with such precision and panache, while also delivering a generous quantity of stuff to do makes it absolutely essential if you’ve taken the plunge into home VR.   

You Should Be Playing celebrates innovative, unexpected games that belong on your radar, with a new game every Monday at 0900 PST / 1700 GMT. Follow @gamesradar on Twitter for updates.

Andy Hartup