Throughout my life, I’ve spent a lot of time playing different racket sports, like Tennis and even Table Tennis, so finding out that there are near true-to-life interpretations in the world of VR was a dream come true for me. However, I never expected to find a completely new sport that combines these into one particular thing while fundamentally changing the rules of everything I knew about in the past. This is Racket Club, my new VR obsession.
No Overhand Serves Allowed Here
The first rule of Racket Club is forgetting every other rule you know from traditional racket games. I jumped in and figured I would know exactly how to play, but I strongly suggest new players glance at the tutorial because things are a bit different here. Sure, it may look like I’m on a Tennis Court, but the rules are a bit more akin to games like Table Tennis. So, my immediate first thought was to hit a wicked overhand serve that my opponent would not have a single chance to hit. Then, they got a point.
I was confused, bewildered even. Did my eyes deceive me? I could have sworn that the ball hit the court first before anything else, but then the officiant’s voice rang out, saying, “Overhand Serve, 0-1”. You see, Racket Club is casual but also difficult. You need to forget everything you’ve known about traditional outdoor sports like Tennis and pay close attention to the rules. You cannot hit the back glass without bouncing off the ground first, and you cannot overhand serve, but you can lay some sweet trick shots off of the glass enclosure that you find yourself and your opponent inside.
It took me a while to remember that I wasn’t allowed to do these sorts of moves, even though I had spent countless hours perfecting my virtual serve in other VR racket games, but as I slowly started to learn the finer intricacies of Racket Club, I became nearly unstoppable. Until I stepped foot inside of the Career mode, that is.
While it’s not the most engaging story you’ll ever hear, it’s a blast to play through. You’ll face various opponents, from the timid Sasha to the IT Girl™, Rachel, who thinks she’s the greatest thing to happen to Racket Club since sliced bread. The cast of supporting characters are entertaining caricatures who lend plenty of personality to the game, but there is one thing that completely took me off guard: play model movement.
Yes, I know it’s VR, but the first time I saw one of the characters start going, as I like to call it, Noodle Mode, I almost lost it. While the character animations are impressive in their own right, it sometimes feels like watching puppets or ragdolls with some articulation try to go after the ball. It seems to emulate what playing against another opponent in VR would look like, but it can be very uncanny and unintentionally hilarious at first glance.
You’ll also find that character dialogue is quick and witty, making pre-game and post-game commentary just as entertaining as the match that you were just involved with. As you work your way up from the bottom, since you suck in the words of the game, you’ll slowly start to prove all of your doubters wrong and become the best that there is.
That is, until the game accidentally registers a hit as a double hit, giving your opponent an extra point. While this was very rare, only happening about three times during 10+ hours of gameplay, it was still an unfortunate thing to come about. This normally only happened during backhand hits, and while it only cost me a few points here and there, it was frustrating nonetheless.
Gameplay That Changes the Rules
Plenty of sports games are available on the Meta Quest and Steam, so what makes Racket Club worth the time and money? Well, it’s the fact that it’s a completely new sport created from the ground up, using the skeleton of many other sports while having some meat of its own. The unique ruleset and small events that happen during the game can make a game end in either the biggest disaster of your career or the greatest victory you’ve ever pulled off.
Rallying the ball for as long as possible is rewarded here, as the more hits that successfully land during a rally, the more points the victor of the round will receive. Starting as a standard one point per score, I found myself in intense back-and-forths that felt like they were dragging on forever. As the officiant of the match called out “Ultra-Rally,” my palms got sweaty, seeing as the final point would be worth five rather than one. This could completely change the tide of the game and put me in the lead if I’m successful.
If it’s a shorter rally, the score may be worth 2 points, whereas Ultra-Rally is worth 5 points. Since I played to a set score, I found that this was an interesting way to keep the action interesting and hectic, rather than always aiming for shots that could guarantee me a 1-point lead. Risk versus reward, as they say, and I love a good bet. It could turn out horribly for me if I whiff on what appeared to be a guaranteed hit, or it could spell disaster for my opponent, who is slowly pulling away from me.
After the initial serve, the action could get as wild as needed. I found myself utilizing the glass walls that surrounded me to my advantage, hitting wicked curved hits off of them to confuse my opponents, and they would do the same to me. I could risk it all for a hit that sent the ball plummeting toward the sky, or I could try and get them with a small little bounce between the two parts of the playing field to ensure that I could get a point rather than them. The options are near limitless and help give Racket Club a personality of its own.
Speaking of a personality of its own, you can create your own Avatar and take it to the courts against other players who are playing in the world. The social scene could be rather bustling, especially if players start to get competitive. Even if you’re not partaking in a match yourself, watching other players frantically make their way around the court in a song-and-dance number is mesmerizing and makes the multiplayer aspect more fun than originally anticipated.
If you find yourself in a lobby full of like-minded players or friends, Racket Club could be a great way to get together on the weekend without leaving the comfort of your home. It features full voice chat and avatars that move and groove both on the court and off the court; it’s a great social scene that will hopefully retain its luster as more players make their way onto the field.
Customization is Key
The avatar customization offered plenty of ways for me to make a unique character, and it’s changeable at any time. While I would like to see even more options added in post-launch, I found it easy enough to make a character that looked like a solid representation of me or the most horrifying abomination that I could imagine with no wiggle room in between. It was very fun to mess around with the variety of options given to me, especially since I know my opponents can see my every move.
A fair number of additional rackets with specific stats can help you master your swings, hits, and even spins. Finding the perfect racket helped me evolve my game and take it to the next level. I strongly recommend that you experiment with different rackets to find one that matches the playstyle that you have begun to master throughout your career.
Racket Club has easily climbed its way up my list of must-play VR games, and offers something incredibly unique that I would love to see make its way to the real-life court someday. With matches that felt like I was participating in a virtual Wimbledon in my living room, the high-intensity action makes Racket Club a great option for any VR library.
Even with the few flaws I could find with Racket Club, I can’t stop returning for more. Not only is it a great game to get your fix of racket sports action, but it’s also a great way to get up and active in the comfort of your living room. If you’re willing to learn the game’s rules, you may have found your new favorite sports game on your headset of choice.
- A very fun new racket sport in VR
- A nice amount of challenge
- Online modes are very fun
- Noodle Characters are very uncanny
- Hit detection can be finicky
- Difficulty curve can be brutal