A few weeks ago when writing about Blood & Truth, an upcoming PSVR-exclusive spy action game, I pointed out the striking similarities to Defector, an upcoming Oculus-exclusive spy action game. Both games are due out this year and have seemingly been in development essentially side-by-side and were announced only a few months apart. That sort of thing doesn’t usually happen too often but it seems to be happening once again with Echo Combat and Space Junkies.
Ubisoft’s Space Junkies was announced first at last year’s E3 with Echo Combat announced at last year’s Oculus Connect. Since then we’ve gone hands-on with both games on multiple occasions and have spent our fair-share of time floating around in zero-gravity while shooting guns. There are a lot of similarities here, but a few key differences as well.
Obviously it needs to be stated explicitly that this comparison is currently based off of pre-release versions of both games. We’ve only played them briefly and sessions were of alpha and/or beta versions of the games. This means that once they do finally release each game could be quite different, so just don’t expect this comparison to hold true accurately forever.
We’ll make updates when the time comes on release for both games.
Best Locomotion System: Echo Combat
There’s really no contest here. Echo Combat’s movement system has been lauded ever since it was first deployed in Lone Echo, the single player space adventure, and Echo Arena, the disc-based multiplayer game that precedes Echo Combat. By pushing off of people and objects, as well as using wrist-mounted boosters, you can easily and nimbly move around the entire environment in 360 degrees.
Space Junkies does have a similar system, but you have far less nuanced control. It’s really just a jetpack-based movement system so you can accelerate easily upwards and forward, but it’s tough to change directions quickly and you can’t grab onto parts of the environment. Ultimately they’re very similar movement systems, but Echo Combat’s is just more fluid and natural.
Best Gun Mechanics: Space Junkies
This was a close call. Each game has a good amount of variety with weapons, but Echo Combat only has three guns (auto pistol, shotgun, and charged sniper rifle) and virtually everyone uses the standard Pulsar auto pistol most of the time anyway. In Echo Combat you also can’t switch weapons — whatever you pick back at the spawn terminal is what you’re stuck with until you respawn.
But in Space Junkies guns are scattered around the map just like in old school Unreal Tournament. There’s the basic pistol, a shotgun you have to pump with both hands to load it, a machine gun with ricochet bullets, a large mini-gun that has a ton of kickback, and even a grenade slingshot. It’s a ton of variety and feels like they’re only going to add more as time goes on.
Best Additional Abilities: Tied
Luckily neither of these games is just about flying around shooting at each other. That’d be pretty boring. In the case of Space Junkies and Echo Combat, they bother offer a lot of variation in other ways to engage with your enemies. For Echo Combat that comes in the form of ancillary abilities, such as healing teammates, sending out a radar blast to identify enemies, and dropping a shield that sticks in the environment for people to hide behind. You can also throw out explosive discs to deal big burst damage.
For Space Junkies the main two extra items are a laser sword that’s extremely powerful, but has limited range, and a shield that only covers a small portion of your body. There are other items you can take in the character customization menu such as a decoy to fool enemies, as well as different suits with varying speed and health stats. Overall both titles have a similar amount of depth here and it’s too early to really tell which setup we prefer more.
Best Map Variety: Space Junkies
This one was a harder decision than you’d think. While it’s true that Echo Combat only has one map (and probably won’t ever get more than that one map if Echo Arena’s single map over a year later is any precedent to go off of) that single map is so perfectly designed for the game that it makes up for it. But it absolutely will get old eventually. It’s basically like Overwatch, but only a single map.
For Space Junkies it’s hard to tell what the final map count will be, but there were at least right around a half dozen or so available during the most recent beta test period. Every map features a large open area near the middle mostly with lots of debris and obstacles in the way. Some have more interior environments than others, with winding hallways, while others may just have one or two smaller stations to explore. To put it simply: there is a good deal of variety, which is more than can be said for a single map in Echo Combat.
Best Game Mode(s): Echo Combat
Once again Echo Combat only has one game mode, but in this case focusing solely on one style of play that has actual depth and nuance is a good thing. All we’ve seen from Space Junkies so far is your standard Team Deathmatch and Free-for-All game modes, which are anything but inspiring at this point. They just get old fast and don’t have enough special sauce to make me want to keep coming back.
For Echo Combat it’s way more involved than that. You’ve got the swan statue that the attacking team is required to load up on top of and guide it through the level. That’s the payload. The defending team has to stop them from advancing it to win the match. It works a lot like Overwatch and it’s extremely addictive since the map is so open and varied every round plays out differently.
Verdict: Echo Combat
It’s a close call based on our time with these games so far, but as of now Echo Combat gets the edge. The areas that Space Junkies seems to excel at the most (gun mechanics and map variety) are easy things for Echo Combat to catch up on, whereas fundamental features like locomotion and the core game modes and gameplay experience are much better in Echo Combat.
As far as we can tell both games are extremely competitive and high-quality zero-G VR shooters in their own right, but we prefer Echo Combat just slightly by comparison.
Worth noting however is that Echo Combat is an Oculus Home exclusive, whereas Space Junkies will release on both Oculus Home and Steam for Rift and Vive. Both games are due out later this year with exact dates TBD.
Let us know what you think of both games so far down in the comments below!