Skyrocket is unveiling Recoil, its modern take on laser tag that makes it easier to play outside adds body tracking and wireless networking, and enables up to 16 players to fight in a match anywhere they choose.
The startup’s outdoor game is yet another hybrid toy-game combination that melds physical activity and digital gaming. You attach a smartphone to a toy gun, adding more computing power and location data for improved performance and tracking. The company provides its own Wi-Fi hot spot, which syncs with the toy guns that each player carries as well as their smartphones, so that you can play anywhere. The result is a combination of a first-person shooter video games and laser tag.
The company is targeting Recoil at those 12 years and older, and the cost depends on how many accessories you buy. The starter set costs $130.
“We are trying to get a first-person shooter to come to life,” said Craig Mitchell, senior director at Los Angeles-based Skyrocket, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We saw the impact of Pokémon Go in the real world, and we thought about what would happen if Call of Duty met Pokémon Go.”
I played a couple of rounds of three-on-three multiplayer recently when the Recoil folks visited San Francisco. They set up a battlefield with a bunch of obstacles and cover in an empty parking lot.
To do so, they put the mobile Wi-Fi hot spot in the middle of the battle arena. They attached smartphones to each gun and synchronized the wireless sensors on the guns with the hot spot. Skyrocket uses the positional data on the phones as well as the sensors on the guns to track players on the battlefield and detect when someone has been shot.
When a player points a gun at another player and pulls the trigger, the game calculates whether the shot is accurate and if the player is knocked out of action. If the shot is on target, then that player is removed from play until they move back to the team’s home base to respawn.
Recoil also provides in-ear surround sound and real-time voice communication via audio headsets, so the members of each team can communicate by yelling at each other. They can also listen for sounds on the battlefield to figure out where the enemy team members are located.
It was a pretty hot day when we tried it out. I was all dressed up, and the running to cover, ducking, and shooting at enemy players really made me sweat. When I fired my assault gun, I could feel the weapon’s kickback. I could also look down on the map on my smartphone to see where my own team members were, and where the enemy was.
Recoil has competitive modes like Skirmish, Team Skirmish, and Search & Destroy. I played with a few players. We had a choice of either assault guns or pistols, and we could pick up frag grenades as well. If you moved to a certain spot, you could pick up a better weapon or grenade. The weapons give you haptic feedback when you fire them. You can also use your smartphone to call in air strikes on a particular target.
I did OK in the first run, but I had trouble figuring out if I actually hit anybody. In the second game, I fared better. But my enemies kept blowing me up with grenades. I didn’t really coordinate that well with my teammates via voice chat, but we did talk when we were within physical earshot. And when I wasn’t out of breath from running, I was laughing at either shooting the enemies or getting shot. It was exhausting, but it was fun.
The Recoil mobile app ties it all together. You can use the app to view the map, order air strikes, and find out your status in the battle. The app screen shows you how much ammo you have, said Cory Ledesma, executive producer at Skyrocket, in an interview. The battle arena can extend to a radius of 250 feet from the Wi-Fi hub.
“You need to use real-world tactics, and have a lot of skill and accuracy when you shoot,” Ledesma said.
The general public will be able to preview and play Recoil at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, within a 10,000 square feet arena in The Activation Zone across from Petco Park. The game will be available at retail on August 15.