Racket Club: A New Dimension of Racket Sports in VR by Resolution Games
Resolution Games, the creators of well-received VR titles like Demeo, Demeo Battles, Ultimechs, Bait, Cook-Out, Blaston, Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, Acron: Attack of the Squirrels and more have recently released a new title called Racket Club.
Alex VR and I (Skeeva) of Between Realities headed over to a real-life Pickleball court to get a feel for racket sports in real life compared to the Virtual Reality alternatives. With the help of Resolution Games, we ventured to a huge sports complex in my hometown of Mesa Arizona. Pickleball is a racket sport that has absolutely exploded over the last decade.
For those that aren’t familiar with Pickleball, this is a racket sport that is played on a court similar to a tennis court. The court is 44 feet long (12 m) by 20 feet wide (6 m) with a net in the middle that stands 36 inches (91 cm) high. The objective is to get to 11, 15, or 21 points depending on the rule set you are following. There are five rules to follow in Pickleball. The first is the ball must stay in bounds. There should be one bounce per side, serving must be done at the baseline and the serve can’t land in the no-volley zone often referred to as the “kitchen”. The game is played with a paddle, which cannot exceed 24 inches (61 cm). The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43 cm). The game gets its name from the ball that is used. The Pickleball is a wiffleball style ball that is hollow with 40 holes that are circular and evenly spaced that allow air to pass in and through the ball creating drag. The ball bounces well and is made of hard plastic. The ball is around .88 oz (about 24.95 g) and just under 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter.
Alex and I were greeted by three Pickleball pros to show us the ropes: Sorin Gowa, the facilities Pickleball Director; Adam Cox, an instructor; and Jace Morris, a junior coach and national Pickleball champion.
They taught us all about the game and how to properly play and then played a few games with us. We started off with a few doubles matches with Sorin and Adam. They started easy on us so we could get a feel for this new sport that neither Alex nor I had ever played before, and they also gave us a taste of what Pickleball pros could really do on the court. Their passion for the game really showed as we played, as they explained all the aspects of the game. Alex and I tried but were ultimately no match for these seasoned professionals.
After a few games of Pickleball we broke out the Virtual Reality headsets and introduced our instructors to Virtual Reality & Mixed Reality on the stand-alone Meta Quest 3. Sorin, Adam and Jace were instantly wowed by the color passthrough and being able to see each other even though they had a device over their eyes. We fired up Racket Club by Resolution Games and everything became very familiar to our racket sport instructor friends. We played our matches in Racket Clubs pass-through mode which is a mixed reality feature of the game on the Meta Quest 2, 3 and Pico 4 versions of the game. This view lets you see your side of the court in the real world using the full color pass through camera on the headset. You see your surroundings, the virtual court lines are painted on the real-world floor and your doubles teammate standing next to you. On the other side of the net, you see the virtual world along with avatar representations of your opponents in a beautiful cell shaded environment.
Racket Club is not Pickleball in VR. In fact, Racket Club is its very own sport that combines elements of Pickleball, Racket Ball, Badminton and Tennis in a small play space that most should be able to find in their home. Most people will not be traveling to real life tennis or pickleball courts to play VR, so Resolution Games had to make this game accessible and playable for a vast majority of play spaces.
The singles court in racket club is 25.5 feet (7.8m) by 7.8 feet (2.4m) and the doubles court is 25.5 feet (7.8m) by 15.7 feet (4.8m). You can see the difference between the Pickleball court size to Racket Club court which is a lot smaller. This does not mean you need this size of a play space. Your play space is only your side, or in doubles, your quarter or the court. While this might not be possible in all homes, it is playable for a lot of people with sometimes a little furniture manipulation.
Back to our game with Adam and Sorin. These seasoned pros were instantly familiar with the physics of the game and how to work the ball around the court. Remember how I said Racket Club had some Racket Ball similarities? You are surrounded by glass walls which you can bounce the ball off for a variety of shots. Smash the ball on to a side wall and send it over the net diagonally to throw off your opponent or hit it over the net like in tennis. It must bounce on the floor before hitting the back wall or the point will go to your opponent.
Adam and Sorin immediately showed that their real-life Pickleball skills and understanding of racket and ball physics had a direct crossover into the virtual world of Racket Club as they proceeded to give Alex and me a run for our money in this fast-paced sport. Once they got used to this new sports rules they ended up on top. In Racket Club, you cannot serve the ball above 3.2 feet (1m). So, there’s no overhand spike serves. You can, however, use the walls on your serves if you would like. In doubles you must cross-serve like in most racket sports. The ball must bounce before hitting the back wall which really makes you control your hit strength. If you hit the ball over the net and bounces twice between the net and the line in front of the net (often known as “the Kitchen”) then the point is awarded to your opponent.
We played a number of one-on-one matches with Jace, who is a national Pickleball champion. He absolutely fell in love with Racket Club and talked about how he couldn’t wait to introduce this new sport to his family and friends.
I have been playing Racket Club daily since the game’s release. It is possibly the best sports game that VR has to offer. It shows how talented Resolution Games is at creating competitive, balanced, social games while making them beautiful, especially on mobile headsets that don’t have the power of a PC behind them. All while considering smaller play spaces and using Mixed Reality to make people feel safer and give the confidence of not hitting that wall or lamp that’s just outside the play space, because you can see it!
Racket Club has a great social hub. When entering a lobby, there are 5 courts. 2 singles and 3 doubles. You are free to walk around and watch games as people from all over the world go head-to-head or just make new friends at the concession stand. You can customize your avatar with a variety of clothing options, hair styles and more. As you progress in the game, you will unlock new items like rackets that have different specs like power and spin. The game has an incredible single player career mode. You will face a wide variety of AI players that use machine learning to improve and are not actually scripted. As you go through your career you’ll level up and unlock all kinds of fun cosmetics and equipment. There’s a great training mode to hone in your skills and get you used to the game and its mechanics along with allowing you to practice and get better at all aspects of the game that you may need improvement on.
Racket Club is very well thought out and very well rounded. This is a game that has the potential to be played for an incredible number of hours and really brings great value for the $24.99 asking price. Resolution Games truly knocked it out of the court with this one. It’s a must own for any VR gamer and is available on Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest 3, Pico 4 and Steam VR supported PC VR headsets.
You can find a video documenting this experience on the Between Realities YouTube channel HERE
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