Developer / Publisher – Normal
Price – US $99.99 / CA $11.99 / EU €9.99 / UK £7.99
Release Date – May 24th, 2023 (PSVR 2)
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Sitting, Standing, Roomscale
Store Links – Steam, Quest, PlayStation
Reviewed on – PlayStation VR 2
Nock is through and through a VR sports title and will require a lot of upper body movement as you will be constantly swinging your arms around to move and shoot. Like I said, this is bow and arrow soccer and takes place over a handful of different styled arenas in matches ranging from 1 v 1, 2 v 2 or 3 v 3. This can be played offline with bots, but really is meant to be played online with others.
Jumping into Nock on my PSVR 2 I went in completely blind, as I had completely missed out on the Hype surrounding the Quest release. I knew this was supposed to be very reminiscent of Rocket League, but I had my doubts that Nock would be able to capture that Rocket League feel, as I had visions of teleporting around an arena awkwardly chasing a ball while awkwardly firing off arrows. Well, I’m thrilled to say I was totally wrong about this game, as within minutes of jumping into the tutorial stage of Nock I quickly realized that the developers had indeed managed to crack the VR code on this one. The gameplay here is incredibly simple really, but much of why this works is due to Nocks style of locomotion. Nock does not have you teleporting, but instead has you essentially rolling around the arena on what feels like being on a hoverboard or something. The game describes itself as being on skates, and I also get that comparison. Moving around in Nock instantly brought to mind my time in the now classic VR title, Sprint Vector. Similarly to that game you glide quickly and effortlessly in any direction in Nock, carrying a sense of momentum with you that feels like gliding when you get off the throttle. Thankfully for my shitty cardio, you won’t be pumping your arms like you did in Sprint Vector to move forward and instead will use your left hand’s grip button to grab the space in front of you and literally toss yourself in the direction you wish to go. Now when the tutorial first asked me to do this I instantly thought of pulling myself around games like Gorn and Gorilla Tag and threw up in my mouth a bit, but let me tell you, it really works here, making movement fast and effortless, and changing directions on the fly a breeze. And it is where the feeling of gliding with your gained momentum really comes into play, as half the fun and much of the game’s strategy revolves around you being able to fire off arrows while keeping your momentum. Keeping with the Rocket League gameplay comparison, players also have the benefit of taking to the air for more vertical plays when the ball is up high in the arena. This can be done either by quickly gliding into the game’s curved walls and scaling them or you can simply grip the ground with your right hand and push down, launching you into the air. To keep things from getting too crazy, changing directions is limited when in the air, and I think this was a great choice to maintain that gameplay balance found in Rocket League.
Now as for actually interacting with the ball, of course shooting it with your bow is the primary gameplay mechanic. Thankfully it feels great to shoot off arrows and the included reticule really helps with accuracy. Furthermore, the controllers track almost perfectly and include some nice trigger haptics to boot. Shots are limited though, as players are only given 3 shots in their bow. Every successful hit on a ball replaces the ammo, so accuracy here is key. However, you will miss a lot and to replace your ammo you must glide over green ammo pickups scattered around the arena, much the same as when you picked up nitro bursts in Rocket League. The decision of giving players limited ammo was wise, as it keeps things from becoming a mess of arrows, but man is it frustrating to run out when you’re coming in for a key shot. Thankfully this isn’t the only way to interact with the ball as you yourself can ram into it to push it in a given direction, going as far as even dribbling it down the field if you have the skill. However, watch out for flying balls, as a fast ball fired off into your body can incapacitate you, same as a body check from another player. This isn’t permanent, but it will take you out of play for what can be 5 precious seconds. But let me clarify, getting in front of the ball is part of the game and to get knocked out you will have to take it to the face point blank. As such, much of the game will see players playing defense and goalie trying desperately to chase, block or redirect incoming shots on net. However, players do have another arrow in their quiver, in the form of a block shot which can be used instead of putting their own body in harm’s way to block a shot. This uses up ammo in the same way a normal arrow does and can be deployed by simply firing off an arrow and pressing x. Now this was something I never really used while I was playing offline with bots as I simply didn’t see the need. However, once I jumped into a live match, I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to see all my shots blocked, reminding me of the first time I played Fortnight and a player essentially built a house around themselves. Beaten down, I retreated to my offline bots and started getting good. Now mind you I still suck, but I am getting better.
And that is the secret sauce in Nock as, just like Rocket League and another PSVR classic Sparc, Nock is easy to pick up, instantly fun to play, but very hard to master. Nock is instantly addicting, as flying around its arenas is easy and fun and the quest to get good is enticing. It can also be quite the workout, as the gameplay gets fast and frenetic as players race and fly around the arena jockeying for the perfect shot or play. As such, I also wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for those without their VR legs, as this really is a game that requires you to go full VR. However, it can easily be played seated, so standing is not required here, though it is recommended. Playing with Bots offline was definitely good practice, but they aren’t very smart and not nearly aggressive enough. As such, going online is where this game shines, and in fact is the only way to actually rank up your player, as this can’t be done offline with bots.
While playing the PSVR 2 version before it launched, all I saw was Quest headsets. From the looks of the numbers online it’s a good thing this is coming to the PSVR 2 and PC later, as I found it hard to find a match, at least during the times I was looking. That being said, I don’t see this being an issue once some fresh blood is pumped into the servers, as Nock is cross play. Keeping players hooked online is also the added incentive of the season pass which is included in the PSVR 2 version. Essentially a battle pass, the season pass awards players with new bows, skins and blocks as they level up. If playing online with friends, you can set up private lobbies and in game chat is available.
Visually Nock is very simple, with its simple and clean arenas and players that look like a Playdoh rejects from a 4 year olds misadventures in preschool. That being said, I never did think that Nock should or could look better in the headset, as its minimalist approach works here. The game is super sharp in the headset with not a jagged edge in sight and zero pop in. Running at a native 90 fps, Nock plays fast and smooth and never gave me a single bit of discomfort, regardless of how hectic things got in game. And yes it looks like Rocket League arenas, and I’m fine with that as it really works here for the gameplay.
Sounds wise, things are also pretty minimalistic and get done slickly. That being said, I really want an option to turn off the sound of players hitting the ball as it began to sound like a pong game from hell when getting into 2 v 2 and 3 v 3 matches and everyone was firing on the ball, each with their own pitch.
This brings me to my final thoughts and review score. Nock certainly wears its Rocket League influences on its sleeve, but I must say the developers have managed to take what could have been an awkward mess in VR and made it work brilliantly. I have countless hours in Rocket League, and I admit to being surprised as to how much Nock manages to replicate its speed and addictive gameplay, while also throwing a cool VR spin on it, offering the ability for ranged play with the use of bow and arrows. PSVR 2 was missing a competitive sports game in its library and Nock is the perfect solution to this.
Mighty Cocunut provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!