Hitman 3’s PC VR Support Is Pretty Janky Right Now

Hitman 3’s PC VR support is finally out. Unfortunately, though, the game seems to need a fair bit more work.

If you’re not familiar with Hitman’s VR history then let us fill you in. When the game was originally released last year it had full support for Sony’s PSVR headset on PS4. You could play the entire campaign with the headset and also import levels from Hitman 1 and 2 to play them in VR too. Crucially, though, you could only play with the DualShock 4 controller. There were some limited motion controls via the lightbar tracking, but the support mainly still relied on button inputs, with no Move controller support at all. It was still really fun, but it definitely only felt like a taste of what a true VR Hitman game could be.

Hitman 3 PC VR Hands-On

We had hoped that developer IO Interactive would give the long-anticipated PC VR support a much-needed overhaul given that this version would support two-handed motion controllers. But that’s not quite the case. Check out over nine minutes of gameplay above, which features many of the issues we’re about to talk about.

Though you can finally move Agent 47’s hands freely, Hitman 3’s PC VR support very much uses the DualShock 4 controls and PSVR tracking as a foundation, and the control scheme remains largely the same. That means you can’t hold two items at once, for example, and the game’s not designed to encourage you to physically rotate yourself to move around environments. You can still turn around yourself, but whenever the camera cuts to a virtual screen, it’ll be wherever you first started looking (though recentering the camera is just a button press away).

47’s body, meanwhile, seems to twist and contort to where you face unless you use stick turning, and his avatar, in general, can be very distracting. Playing with Oculus Touch controllers, his hands also seemed to be lower than where I was holding them and this made aiming weapons really tough. The two-handed support also only means that your off-hand will grip larger weapons in a sort of magnetic fashion, automatically sticking to the grip when you move it near, which feels strange.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the VR right now, though, are the bugs. Specifically, I was unable to hold some items like a camera or knife in my hand without it going completely berserk. My hand would either completely disappear or shoot in and out of view, making some items impossible to use. The same happens to NPCs when you strangle them – they essentially start to zap in and out of existence from random angles before vanishing into thin air. There were also times the item menu button didn’t appear to work, leaving me stranded in a tight spot.

I suppose some of these issues were to be expected. It was, perhaps, a little too hopeful to think IOI might go back and completely revamp the game’s VR support to work naturally with PC VR hardware given its PSVR origins (seen in the video review above). But VR design has come a long way in the past two or three years and Hitman 3’s PC VR support has the air of a 2016 title still wrestling with how to best implement motion controls. We can, at least, hope those disastrous bugs will be ironed out in the future.

And then there’s the persistent issues from the PSVR version. It’d be great, for example, to have a body-based UI so you don’t have to dive into menus to select things, and there’s still no support for physical crouching.

Ultimately Hitman 3 on PC VR still feels designed for a gamepad. The addition of motion controllers should give the game a new level of interaction and intuitiveness but it actually ends up going the other way. A lot of these issues could be patched – IOI is clearly committed to delivering the best experience it can in every area of Hitman, and the developer could stand to learn from games like Sniper Elite VR or even the excellent port of Resident Evil 4 VR for ways to make the game feel much more native to the platform.

Perhaps the game’s 2D roots run too deep to really overhaul the experience in that way but, unless that happens, you should probably stick to the traditional Hitman experience or — and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this — seek out the PSVR version. At least that was contextualized to a controller that let you competently play the game.

Hands-On: The Shore VR Is A Compelling Lovecraft Tribute With In-Progress VR Support

Ares Dragonis’ The Shore VR is out in early access today. The game shows some promise, but the basic VR support itself is unfinished and needs a bit of help to get over the line.

The original version of The Shore released on PC in February 2021. It offers a darkly hypnotic tribute to the works of H.P. Lovecraft, set amongst the bleak remains of an old lighthouse overlooking a beach populated with otherwordly and demonic monsters. The Shore VR isn’t a direct port of that game – it’s actually got new story elements set after the events of the original but still retains the setting and reuses some of the sequences from the original game.

So some of the original’s more fantastic sights, like the rise of a monolithic creature that then stomps through the water in an oddly calming fashion, remain. And they’re indeed amazing to take in in VR – The Shore can be intensely atmospheric, never freeing itself of a deep-rooted uncertainty that eventually tips its characters into madness.

But, even given the early access labeling, it’s tough to recommend the game right now with VR support in its current state unless you’re willing to essentially serve as a game tester. The implementation is, by the developer’s own admission, unfinished.

Many of the issues I’ve experienced after playing the game for an hour come down to basic nitpicking with some quick fixes. Subtitles, for example, sit at the bottom of the lenses when playing on a Rift S, making them very hard to read, and hand placement with the Touch controllers doesn’t feel quite right – it needs to shift a few millimeters or so upwards at the least. Camera shake when monsters would is really uncomfortable and there are graphics that don’t load in properly, like a grey box texture in the game’s menu.

But there are more inherent issues afoot. Puzzle solutions in The Shore often require you to locate a certain object but, at present, there’s no indicator to show you what items you can pick up on a littered desk and what items are static. There are a lot of objects in the game and it’s impossible to tell which you might need later unless you run your hand along the surface spamming the grip button.

the shore horror game

Similarly, this means you might run straight past some interactive puzzles without realizing you’re actually meant to do anything with them. The control scheme is also rudimentary, entirely relying on the Touch’s grip button for even basic menu interaction, and some of the visual techniques employed in the flatscreen game don’t translate well to VR, like seeing a strange kind of translucent border where water meets the shore.

Were this a finished product, these would be significant problems. But given the game’s been released in early access, the developer has a few months to identify and fix these issues with the aid of playtesters. Only then could we recommend jumping into The Shore VR for an immersive experience.

You should only consider The Shore VR right now if you’re planning on providing feedback to the developer on its Discord channel, then. This is very much an in-progress release not so much in terms of content (though there’s more of that still to come) as the strength of its VR support. There’s a glimpse of an engrossing experience in what’s here right now, but it needs a fair bit of work to get it up to snuff.

Hands-On: Zenith Might Just Be The Quest, PSVR And VR MMO You’re Looking For

Last month’s Zenith beta suggested the VR MMO could go the distance. Read our hands-on below.

Watching from afar these past few years, I’ll admit I thought it was a given Zenith would fail. Heck, I didn’t even think it would get to the point it would be considered a fail – I’d assumed it was destined to fade from memory without so much as an apologetic tweet or under-the-radar Steam store update.

Two and a half years on from those presumptions and, well, I look a bit silly. I’ve played Zenith. In fact, I’ve played it on Quest 2, which basically means I’ve played it on the most challenging of platforms that developer Ramen VR will be toiling away on. And it’s good. I think it’s very good, even. But that’s of course based on just a few hours of what promises to be a much, much bigger experience, and there’s still much to learn about what the developer is cooking up.

Zenith has just enough of VR’s newness sprinkled into the classic MMO formula to make me think people that love the latter element are going to devour it and people that want the former and going to respect it.

There are two core classes to start with that basically split the MMO crowd right down the middle: swords or spells. Warriors will dual-wield electric katanas, slicing in deliberate patterns to maximize damage, whereas mages (or at least spell shooty people, as I’ve come to think of them) use two wrist-mounted, laser-guided gauntlets for projectile attacks.

There are smaller sub-roles to consider like being a tank, too, but combat is the main decider in what kind of experience you have. Mercifully, at least as far as I can tell, the game seems to have ditched the Beat Saber-style approach it first promoted as taking onboard in 2019.

Sword combat deftly avoids the pitfall of VR waggle – you can just hammer enemies repeatedly, but you won’t be doing much damage. Instead you need to allow time for your swords to charge between each attack to maximize your attack power. It’s a smart way of ensuring Zenith isn’t just about mindlessly waving your hands around and watching numbers fly with little to necessitate it being in VR. You can always swipe horizontally and vertically to initiate special attacks for extra damage and buffs, though I’m yet to dive in to find out deep the upgrades and progression to these systems really go.

Zenith Beta

Magic — something I’ll admit I usually shy away from in this genre — seems simplified, but that works in its favor at least in this early stage. Point, shoot and occasionally press a different button to activate your other powers. I haven’t seen much in the way of complex systems to maximize the effect of your attacks, but this makes the class really approachable early on.

Other VR-specific touches are sprinkled throughout. There’s the freeing physical climbing you can find pretty much anywhere these days and then Population: One stops by to lend what’s probably its key contribution to the industry – instant gliding by making players assume the t-pose. It puts a welcome spring in the step of a genre that historically moves at a snail’s pace.

What’s more familiar, though, is Zenith’s structure. Past the surprisingly brief tutorial, you’ll be let into the game’s first environment with a swathe of other players. Here you’ll take on your usual assortment of fetch quests. There’s lots of killing a certain type of monster once… and then doing it all again 5 minutes later. And, hey, that’s all great if a little routine in these early days. Zenith does just enough with its VR interactivity to make up for the early obviousness of its objective types, but I definitely hope to see more elements that speak specifically to the platform later on in the game.

And, of course, there’s the social aspect. I really took to the ease and openness with which I could play After The Fall with pretty much any VR owner when it launched last month and that simplicity seems to be fast approaching a common trait in the industry. Just choose the right server, meet in the same place and you’re in. Not only that but you’re in with friends that have great full body representations, with the ability to party up just a few clicks away.

The fundamentals seem well in place for Zenith’s launch later this year, then. But, as I said before, all of this is a very surface reading of what the MMO has to offer thus far. I’m looking forward to diving back in for a deeper look during this month’s second beta and then, obviously, really pushing how far it can go during launch, which is promised for early 2022. As it stands, though, Ramen VR has already gone beyond my reserved expectations. Now it just needs to stay above that bar for another 50+ hours.

Forget Stride, Against Might Be Joy Way’s Best Game Yet

Joy Way remains something of an enigma.

The Moscow-based studio — which last year rebranded from the arcade-focused PlatformaVR — has been pumping out VR games at a relentless pace, with no less than five projects either announced or released in the past two years. There is a worrying side to the developer’s speed – the conceptually-clever Time Hacker hasn’t moved out of early access since October last year, for example, and it seems to have lost interest in Brain vs Zombies, which it announced in 2020 also. It’d be easy to write off the studio for throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something sticks, then.

Thing is, though, most of their games are actually quite sticky. Stride has fantastic potential once it gets more modes, and Outlier is a promising future roguelite. But, for my money, Against might just be Joy Way’s best game yet.

If Stride is VR’s Mirror Edge then Against is… well, okay, it’s another VR rhythm combat game. But, as I said when I first played the game last summer, it’s a lethally good one, combing the heavy-handed impact of Beat Saber with the pinpoint precision of Pistol Whip and then coating it all in an intoxicating mix of supernatural neo-noir and a brooding shade of red blood.

In early access there’s seven levels and the beginnings of a campaign mode with a story. But all you really need from a game like Against is solid tracklisting and a healthy dose of style. This has both in ready supply.

What makes the game work is its refusal to stick with one gameplay style for too long. Each level consists of standing segments and on-rails sections, during each of which you’ll either slice with swords, shoot with pistols and tommy guns, or box with brass knuckles. Against has rhythm not just in the beat of its music but in the way it sequentially throws these different weapons at you, switching out upwards of 10 times over the course of a map. It really gives the game unprecedented flow to catch a new weapon, immediately understand what you’re meant to do with it, and then get back into the pace it sets.

Against Release Date

Once you’ve played a few maps you’ll come to compartmentalize its individual components. Crowbar-wielding thugs are essentially humanoid Beat Saber boxes to be slashed in a certain direction, whilst more brutish foes need to be punched in the face with the timing and accuracy of FitXR. Firearms, meanwhile, are similar to Pistol Whip but ditch the reloading and provide a welcome bit of visual aid, with a target turning red to indicate shooting them to the beat.

As for style? I’m not exaggerating when I say Against is one of the slickest games I’ve seen. The moody noir tone works really well in VR, with rain beating down into levels and a blinding ray of light reflecting off of the tip of your sword. It proved to be a little much for a 2060 Super card, though it ran incredibly smooth on a 3070 Ti, so keep that in mind.

What isn’t quite there yet is a true sense of identity for each level. Some maps are propped up by memorable boss fights, but others are more run of the mill, even if they have a different environment. It’d be great to see existing levels updated with more elements unique to them over the course of early access.

But this is a hugely promising start for Against. Not only do I want to see more levels but I’d also welcome more weapons and other twists during early access. If Joy Way can flesh it out to offer a bigger, more varied package then it has a serious shot at being one of the best VR rhythm games on the market and, as we all know, that’s not something to be taken lightly.

Against is available now on SteamVR.

Preview: AGAINST – Slicing a Hardcore Rhythm

Against

When a virtual reality (VR) developer reveals another rhythm action videogame it can be a little difficult to get excited about the whole prospect. However, when Joy way revealed that its latest project AGAINST would be in this genre it piqued VRFocus’ interest due to its dark aesthetic and multiple gameplay features. Looking unlike any other rhythm action title is one thing but providing a unique gameplay experience, that’s a bit harder. Due to arrive as a Steam Early Access videogame, AGAINST does have its own flair, even if it is a bit cheesy at points.

Against

You might have already played a version of AGAINST as Joy Way took part in Steam Next Fest during the summer, offering an early demo of its gritty design. The look and feel of AGAINST has been significantly enhanced since then, particularly where the visuals are concerned. Gone is the very striking, almost film-noir style in favour of an environment a touch easier on the eyes. That hint of colour which would only appear in an enemy’s eyes or as the indicator to slice in a particular direction has made its way across the landscape, making for a far more polished looking experience.

AGAINST might look prettier but it’s no less brutal in its delivery, where you can hack henchmen in half, cut the heads off giant snakes and uppercut gormless goons with visceral trails of blood. Unlike a lot of other rivals AGAINST doesn’t pretend to try and handhold new VR players with friendly, bouncy rhythms; it’s brutal, in your face and definitely looking to attract those hardcore VR fans.

In a similar vein to Pistol Whip 2089, AGAINST employs a narrative campaign strategy rather than loads of individual songs you can swap between. So you get a story set in 1930’s New York City, playing out over seven levels. Full of the stereotypical comic book tropes, there’s an over-the-top villain who wants to unleash darkness on the world and you play a detective determined to stop him. While the narrative does provide a mildly humorous respite between levels and provides some explanation of why you’re fighting werewolves, burly blokes and snakes, if you skip it you won’t be missing much. Although the skip function never worked, so replaying levels meant having to listen to it all again and again, unfortunately.

Against

When you first start AGAINST it drops you almost immediately into the tutorial, and for good reason, there’s a lot to get to grips with. If you’ve played any rhythm action title several components will be instantly familiar such as using the sword to slice opponents, knuckle dusters to punch them, and a revolver – followed by Tommy guns later on – to shoot them at range. Kill them in time to the music – which is mainly Dubstep or heavier EDM – and you’ll score points, helping attain that leaderboard position, you get the gist.

AGAINST mixes things up by adding punchable directional arrows, thus activating a short wall run sequence or boosting you up to a higher platform. The wall running especially helps to open up the dark and moody levels, providing a novel switch in focus for a moment. However, later levels naturally bombard you with opponents, obstacles to dodge and these switching moments. Even on the normal difficulty setting (Easy and Hard are also available), this can get quite fierce which some players may find jarring.

Get past that and you’ve got a really challenging experience that takes two or three levels to get into. The first just seemed ridiculously difficult even on normal with multiple restarts required to complete the level. The second and third were a breeze in comparison and moments where you have to use the sword to deflect bullets back at the shooter became mini (John Wick style) badass moments that were very satisfying to complete. What you have to get used to is the constant weapon switching between the sword, guns and fists. As any Beat Saber player will know, you find a nice rhythm and flow that makes the more expert levels manageable. AGAINST doesn’t quite have that as it just feels like it’s trying to do too much all at once.  

Against

That being said, AGAINST has a personality that other VR rhythm games lack and additions like the mini-bosses at the end of some of the levels help to give it a classic arcade vibe VRFocus loves. Joy Way says that the Early Access period will be used to add a couple more weapons and polish and that the core campaign is done, which is slightly concerning regarding longevity as there are only seven levels. There is a free Beatmap Editor (VRFocus hasn’t tested this tool yet) which could extend the experience by making your own custom maps if you really want to. AGAINST didn’t instantly hook, it takes time to warm to but there is a little magic under the surface. Hopefully, Joy Way will nurture it and not leave it in the early access abyss.

Hands-On: Demeo’s Third Campaign Offers A Change Of Scenery And Typically Punishing Gameplay

After a few months off, it’s a special sort of warming to find that not much has changed with Demeo.

It’s still a fantastically fluid bit of cooperative gameplay (and a much better place to casually talk over work plans and scheduling conflicts than Workrooms, for my money), with brilliantly authentic touches. But, even with the addition of a fifth class, it also remains a brutally punishing test of patience, the slightest fault in which will quickly cost you an hour or more of progress.

Some things never change, then.

Roots of Evil, as today’s third campaign is labeled, sticks close to the formula of the first two campaigns in Resolution’s tabletop dungeon crawling delight. Only things are now decidedly less dungeon-y; the muddled mazes and filthy sewers that came before have been swapped out in favor of moody forests. It’s not your typical visual showcase of lush, leafy-green vegetation that gently sways in the breeze but instead a tonally in-step series of twisted trees and thorny bushes obscuring decaying ruins. In other words, in the world of Demeo, it looks exactly the part.

Residing within this overgrown labyrinth are enemies both old and new. Dog-like Root Hounds seem to be the new rats, swarming the map in number, but you can discover cards that will turn them into allies – a small tweak that can just about tip the scales in some tighter situations.

More immediate, though, is the game’s first new class, The Bard. Tradition dictates that this class will buff teammates. And, to some degree, he does fulfill that role with a regenerating ability to charge a single player’s courage, in turn increasing their defense and attack power for a limited time. It’s a crucial addition given the game’s diamond toughness, but it doubles down on the need for a slow and steady approach, as it can only be applied to one user per turn.

More unexpected, though, is the Bard’s ability to fight back. A quick play of his lute can summon a deadly cyclone that will occupy one tile and move with a mind of its own between turns. It’s best to toss it into an area like a cluster grenade and then run like hell, as there’s a decent chance you’re the one it’ll end up doing any damage to.

What remains consistent amongst all these changes, then, is Demeo’s show of brute force difficulty. I had forgotten just how mercilessly the game will throw enemies at you, often before you’ve even ventured too far from your starting location. The game becomes less about hunting the map for the way forward and more about surviving an onslaught, hoping the key will somehow stumble into your lap in the meantime.

As a long-time turn-based tactics fan, I always welcome the challenge. But I do wonder how Demeo must appear to those a little less experienced with the genre, or at least those with less patience for it. Is the deadly cycle of death balanced enough to encourage repeated tries, or do most simply throw in the towel after their fourth or fifth unforgiving slaughter? Suffice to say I think a more balanced difficulty mode would be a welcome addition to the game’s just-announced 2022 roadmap.

But, if you loved what was on offer with Demeo’s base launch and Realm of the Rat King expansion, there’s little reason not to jump into Roots of Evil. There’s enough new twists here to give your party of 4 some welcome new challenges, and it’s great to see the game quite literally branching out (sorry) into new territory. VR’s best social gaming experience just keeps getting better.

Hands-On: Ultrawings 2 Could Be The Flight ‘Simulator’ VR Really Needs

Chris Stockman has a secret. Or at least, he should have one.

When I sit down to talk with the Studio Director of Bit Planet Games about the upcoming Ultrawings 2, I sheepishly confess that the flight genre, at large, is not my cup of tea. I tell him I’m a nervous flyer. Not in the real world but certainly in VR. Not because I’m worried I’d have a near-real, near-death experience but because I’m forever concerned that I just won’t ‘get’ what I’m meant to be doing.

It happened with Flight Simulator, a game I have endless respect for but have settled for never fully understanding with its torrent of dashboards and tutorials, and even the drastically simpler Star Wars: Squadrons’ class-based multiplayer seemed beyond my grasp. Stockman stares at me over webcam with a knowing grin and says: “I thought that way. I hate flight games and, honesty, I hate Flight Simulator.”

Surely, this is heresy of the highest order. But Stockman’s words aren’t intended as an attack on the wider genre — which he recognizes has its many dedicated fans — but instead as a guiding light for the design philosophy for Ultrawings 2. “We kind of made a flight sim for me,” he says.

More broadly speaking, I think Bit Planet is making the flight ‘sim’ VR needs right now.

Within minutes of jumping into the sequel, I find myself getting the hang of it. Ultrawings 2 doubles down on a blend of authentic process and accessible control. It’s got a virtual joystick-based control scheme that actually works, making smart use of Touch controller haptics and audio cues to give you a sense of just how aggressively you’re steering. But it also doesn’t deprive you of the inexplicably moreish details of flight simulation, like flicking a bunch of switches before take-off or angling a plane just right for a slow and steady touchdown.

Stockman describes it as controlling an aircraft as how it “should” feel as opposed to how it actually feels. Early staple challenges like flying through rings against the clock aren’t deviously difficult displays of aviation so much as enjoyable obstacle courses that lul you into how and when to pitch and at what speeds, before later missions start to incrementally ask more of you.

“For us, we want the learning curve to be there because this isn’t Ace Combat,” Stockman notes. “But with that said, we don’t think you need an FAA license to pilot anything.”

Ultrawings 2_shotB

Within my first hour of play I was racking up Gold Medals with ease without feeling like the game itself was going easy on me. Crucially, I was confident that I could hand the headset over to pretty much anyone else and they’d experience a similar learning curve. These details will be familiar to anyone that’s played the first game, but this is also an extension of all of that. It’s aiming for all the right cliches in VR’s early life: more content, new features and refined gameplay.

“The first Ultrawings was very relaxing and, at the time, I thought it was kind of groundbreaking with how we did our motion controls and being able to interact with all this stuff,” Stockman says. “But that’s where the time was spent, in the creation of the islands. Less time was spent on having a lot of variety of gameplay. And so that’s something that we focused on really early was how can we just make it better across the board?”

Better across the board means a new map with no loading times between differently-themed islands (albeit with a lengthy journey between them), new challenges with a medal-based rating system to satisfy casual players whilst still pushing the hardcore pilots, and a series first – aerial combat. The first Ultrawings had target practice missions in which you held a gun in one hand, but Ultrawings 2 will have full-on dogfights that adhere to that same mix of half-sim, half-arcade design.

You might’ve seen me behind the wheel (or yaw), facing down enemies in new gameplay from last week’s Upload VR Showcase. It’s about 30 seconds of highlights edited down for a 10-ish minute battle in which I was frantically looping round and trading shots back and forth. At times there’s a dreadful sense something’s on my tail. At others, there’s a smirk across my face as the crosshairs line up and I pull the trigger. There’s a touch of frustration as I come to understand the game’s laws and how to get myself out of harm’s way but, as with the rest of the experience, I soon figure it out.

“We wanted to be semi-realistic, but not completely,” Stockman says of combat. “I don’t know if you noticed the enemy’s die a lot faster than you do. And that I think was important because I just don’t think it’d be very fun [otherwise].”

He later adds: “Most realistic aircraft games, if you take off your fly to a location for 20 minutes, you do a little bit of combat. And ours, it’s all very much within the world and within the island that you’re on so that you get into it really, really quickly.”

Moreover, every element of the game, from the combat-oriented missions to the time-based challenges, will have a sense of progression to them. Stockman says that battles will evolve from dogfights to combat with ground-based vehicles and beyond, whilst races with slowly get you to hone your skills and try out new tricks. Missions will be bite-sized chunks that get you in and out of action quickly (you can also fly around in a free-flight mode), with mode raised from completing objectives then spent on new planes and airports.

You’ll also get to spend more time at other islands; the starting location is a humble little town but just over the pond awaits winding canyons and bustling cities. Playing on Quest 2, I’m struck by how I can view all of these islands from far off whilst also spotting cars moving around the streets directly below. The game has a remarkable draw distance on that front, though rest assured that the PC VR version will also use improved assets for a visually superior experience.

Another key feature of the experience is persistence. “In one mission, you may encounter enemy fighters. And if you don’t destroy them, they’ll actually come back in on a future mission,” the developer says. “To gold metal everything you kind of have to play it in a sense of like, you really should have destroyed those fighters before in a previous mission before they came back.”

The result, Stockman says, is something that might be almost too big. He says that unlocking most of the essential features — all aircraft and airports — will take around five to eight hours depending on skill level. Completing all the missions? Perhaps around 20 to 40 hours. But what if you want to Gold Medal everything? “I like to say takes about 60 hours to go Gold Medal everything,” Stockman answers. “I think that might be an understatement. It might be closer to 80.”

Granted that’s a goal only the most dedicated will aim for, but it’s certainly a welcome thing to hear. And it calls back to why I think Ultrawings 2 might be the flight ‘sim’ that VR needs in 2022. Because this is one of the few things headsets can do really well right now, and we all want something that realizes that potential. Microsoft Flight Simulator is an undeniably fantastic experience deserving over every accolade thrown at it. But it’s also obtuse from just about every possible angle and it needs a lot of work to understand and a lot of expensive machinery to even get running smoothly.

Ultrawings 2 has its learning curves, yes, but it’s much faster to deliver gratification, meaning you spend more of those 5 – 80 hours feeling like an ace pilot and not studying tutorials. Some people might be sniffy about that and, yes, that’s fine too; you already have your flight sim of choice. This, however, feels like it’s going to allow a much wider range of people to soar.

“One of our beta testers — we have a few beta testers that are playing — they wrote back to me,” Stockman adds. “They said “Ultrawings 2 is a love letter to aviation.” I think what he meant by that is that we took all of the good things about flying and distilled them down into that and removed all of the boring things about flying.”

Ultrawings 2 releases on Quest in February of 2022, with the PC VR version to follow soon after.

Preview: After the Fall – Frosty Social Mayhem

After the Fall

With all that’s happened over the last couple of years, 2019 seems like an age ago. It was that year when VRFocus got its first hands-on glimpse of Vertigo Games’ Arizona Sunshine follow up After the Fall, an action-packed shooter set in the frozen wasteland of Los Angeles. After a few delays, the studio is almost ready to launch the zombie-themed FPS across multiple headsets and VRFocus got another peek at the title and game mode called Harvest.

After the Fall

In actual fact, the demo contained three distinct sections of After the Fall, and as expected offering a different flavour to the proceedings since last we met. Available were the Outlands, and introductory level given players the main gist of the controls, a hub section called The Line where players can meet up and chat before heading out on co-op missions together, which leads us to the Harvest.

If you’ve played Arizona Sunshine you’ll likely have dabbled in the frantic horde mode, a later addition where you have to survive waves of enemies. Harvest is After the Fall’s horde mode of sorts but instead of running around a singular map, players have to work their way through a level, stopping off at occasional safe houses, with the main goal being to collect as much Harvest as possible from dead enemies.

This you can then use in Harvest-o-Matic’s found in safe rooms to purchase useful equipment such as health, pipe bombs and ammunition. It’s a setup most Left 4 Dead or Back 4 Blood players will be familiar with. You all have to work together because inventory space is very limited, choosing between a health pack or a tasty explosive could mean life or death on those frozen streets.

After the Fall

Before getting there The Line is worth an exploration. It’s like a massive arcade with loads of cabinets in the middle, where you can team up with three other friends before going on a Harvest (AI bots are available to make teams up to 4), head to the shooting range or talk to Luna who runs the place. *Spoiler* As an awesome nod to Vertigo Games’ previous title there are Arizona Sunshine cabinets offering a very basic twin-stick shooter for a quick time killer.

Vertigo Games has been sure to include plenty of accessibility options that are always worth a peruse before heading into the action, as you can play seated or standing, teleport or use smooth locomotion and change how reloading works. It’s the latter that VRFocus instantly had issues with which was a worry so close to launch.

Ammo is located right on your chest, with the belt height adjustable to suit each player’s requirements. You then have the choice of Quick or Advanced reloading, the former consisting of merely bringing the gun to your chest whilst the latter is a more traditional manual VR mechanic, ejecting the magazine, grabbing a clip and cocking the gun. However, when it came to fighting that first ravenous horde of Snowbreed it was an absolute fumble fest. The Quick reloading was intermittent at best, constantly jabbing the gun at the ammo belt until something happened. Advanced reloading, on the other hand, was smooth as butter, feeling natural popping clips out and jamming another in. Additionally, there’s a Harvest multiplier if you choose the Advanced option.    

After the Fall

After the Fall also employs and omits several other familiar VR shooter mechanics. Taking a leaf out of Half-Life: Alyx’s book are the wrist pockets, these are your only inventory slots for things like health and explosives. This becomes even more of a juggle once you start locating Floppy Disks, these unlock new equipment by taking them to the Harvest-o-Matic and then completing the run. You can hold up to four weapons if you so wish, one on each hip and one in each hand for that proper gun-toting Rambo look. But you can’t put anything over your shoulder, even the bigger two-handed weapons go on your hip which seems a bit strange. There wasn’t a chance to test how two rifles on each hip and one hand-held would look although we’d imagine the visual clutter might be a bit much. Also, there wasn’t a chance to test the weapon upgrade system which was a shame, that’ll just have to wait for the full review.

Even with those grumbles, the gameplay was exactly as hoped, fast and at times unrelenting, with Snowbreed clambering through walls, across ceilings or just plain smashing through stuff like a bulldozer. It was arcade action at its best, ziplining across buildings, gunning down corridors or monsters then in those moments where you could take a breather exploring rooms to find useful loot and collectables. Aside from the base slow and fast Snowbreed there were four more specialised foes that would pop up occasionally, Juggernaut, Eater, Brute and Smasher. They’re all tanks in their own right with the Juggernaut able to pick you up, the Eater explodes, the Brute is a super speedy fella whilst the Smasher was the final huge opponent to overcome. Certainly impressive and tough in the first run, how well they work across multiple Harvest remains to be seen.

After the Fall is gearing up to be one of VR’s biggest winter 2021 launches thanks to the wall-to-wall combat. There’s also the impressive feat of co-op, cross-platform gameplay between all supported headsets, which should ensure player numbers for full Harvest runs. Considering how some VR videogames have struggled with this feature, having it available from day one could mean all the difference. After the Fall is coming to Oculus Quest 2, PlayStation VR and PC VR headsets on 9th December, so there’s not long to wait to see if it’s been worth those delays.

Hands-On: After The Fall Promises Near-Seamless Social VR Shootouts

We’ve played Vertigo Games’ latest zombie shooter. How’s it holding up? Find out in out After The Fall hands-on preview!


I know you don’t want to hear it and I sure as heck don’t want to say it, but After The Fall feels like a proof of concept for how the metaverse could work.

Yes, I said the word, and I’m sorry. I’ll try not to say it again.

After The Fall Hands-On

As I boot into a demo for Vertigo’s upcoming Left 4 Dead-like VR shooter, I’m readying myself to dive into a sprawl of menus, searching for the username of my guide, prepared to wait for party invitations and connections that eventually land us in the same level together. Much to my surprise, as the door opens to the game’s hub area, my guide is already standing there waiting to greet me. If I point at him and press an icon above his head, we can party up near-instantaneously, not to mention hang out in the hub spending time playing arcade minigames. If I walk into the weapon customization room I’m taken out of the multiplayer instance but, when I return, I’m seamlessly transported back into it.

And that’s the key word here: seamless. Or at least near-seamless. To me, the most impressive element of After The Fall thus far is just how easy it feels jump into a social experience. When full, Vertigo says this hub will comprise of 32 players all connected across PC VR, Oculus Quest 2 and PSVR (and, yes, you can turn cross-play off if you want). Granted there is still some fumbling required for cross-play with friends: you’ll need to use friend codes to find each other given you’re playing across different platforms, but support for spawning into a hub based on an in-game friend list location or a party leader instance is coming post-launch.

Not quite perfect, then, but for Vertigo’s Arizona Sunshine follow-up to really work, it needed an effortless infrastructure that allowed you to easily jump in and out of games with friends no matter which platform they’re using. Granted I haven’t seen a full hub working together yet but, from this glimpse, I think it’s quite possible they’re going to pull it off.

The game itself? Well, that’s looking pretty good too. Describing After The Fall in a post-Back 4 Blood and Aliens: Fireteam Elite world is much easier because, well, you’ve likely recently played something that’s almost exactly like it. Up to four players go on short-ish ‘runs’ of levels that take place in a frozen-over LA with frosty zombies known as the Snowbreed pouring out of basically every open space in their masses. You need a fast trigger finger to thin the herd as quickly as possible, two items can be stored on your wrists in an Alyx-like inventory and, brilliantly, you’ll discover new weapons that are still attached to the frozen bodies of other humans, still standing upright from where they perished as if Mount Vesuvius spat a thick plume of liquid nitrogen instead of ash.

Though the game remains basically the same as when I first played After The Fall two and a half years ago now, it’s clear Vertigo has listened to at least some of the feedback from then. If you want, you can still reload as you did in Arizona’s fast-firing arcade action by swinging your weapon near an ammo pouch placed on your body. But there’s also an immersive reload option that requires you to press a button to eject a clip, load another back in and then pull a charging handle. You can even do this whilst dual-wielding, as the weapon in your other hand will disappear when you grab a clip, for example.

It’s a bit of a tricky fit, and there are mental gymnastics involved to reloading both weapons with a horde of Snowbreed breathing down your neck, but you’ll also get a 50% increase in Harvest (the game’s brand of currency) for playing this way, which makes a huge difference to end of level results. You can also grab weapons with two hands, which is basically required to shoot straight with a rifle.

Outside of the reloading, though, After The Fall is still a fundamentally accessible shooter, with little of the physical complexity of The Walking Dead’s brain-eviscerating melee or Boneworks’ unwieldy weapon handling. While long-time VR players might be hoping for something with a bit more depth to it, I suspect it’s the right approach for the game’s appeal – I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve mistakenly booted a first-time VR user into Saints & Sinners before realizing that’s really something you need to graduate to. A lot of new and existing VR gamers will find After The Fall under their digital Christmas tree this holiday and pretty much be good to go.

Other than that? You’re getting a lot of what you expect here. Minibosses appear throughout the levels, requiring everyone to focus their fire on armored Juggernauts or avoid the bloated Eater who explodes in close proximity. Vertigo also says there are branching paths in some areas.

Simple, then, but not without some twists. Floppy disks are hidden in levels and can be loaded into arcade machines known as Harvest-O-Matics in safe rooms throughout a map. They’ll unlock new weapon attachments should you survive the rest of the level, upping the stakes the further you get into a run. You’ll also be able to restock on supplies with those machines.

When I first played After The Fall in 2019, I said the game felt familiar, but the draw of an accessible social VR experience that could keep players coming back could be big. Over two years on and I’m now much more confident that will be the case. There’s still a lot to prove – I don’t know if this base package will have the long-term progression structure and right number of maps to help it stick. Vertigo is promising four difficulty modes for launch and you’ll be able to add better weaponry to your inventory to tackle more challenging runs, but given other games like Back 4 Blood have launched with a pretty generous amount of content of late, the bar is going to be high. We’ll find out how much the game really offers when it launches next month.

After The Fall hits Oculus Quest 2, PSVR and PC VR headsets on December 9. An Oculus Quest 1 version will arrive in 2022. We’ll have more coverage of the game soon, but check out our Upload Access interview too.

Hands-On: Hubris Might Give PC VR Its Graphics Fix After Lone Echo

Hubris is visually stunning and has promising gameplay mechanics too. Something nedes to be done about that voice acting, though. Read on for our Hubris hands-on!

The release of Lone Echo 2 earlier this month was something of a solemn moment for PC VR fans. The game set a graphical benchmark for VR visuals, but with Meta’s funding now focused on the Oculus Quest 2 and no new announced VR games from Valve, it seemed like it might be a long time before we got another high-fidelity adventure for VR’s most advanced headsets. That’s an especially sour note given the recent news of high-end devices like the Varjo Aero and Pimax Reality Series.

But Hubris suggests that might quite not be the case.

No, this new VR adventure — the first full title for headsets from Belgium-based Cyborn — doesn’t quite match Jack and Liv’s zero-gravity adventures in the graphics department. But, by god, does it give it a good go; set in a far-flung universe, you play as a recruit of the Order of Objectivity (which our review comments section will be dismayed to learn I’m not joining) that crash lands on a mysterious planet.

Yes, there’s a story about… something, but I was too busy taking in the game’s fantastic landscape to pay too much attention. This alien planet is one of gritty rock formations, lush underwater wildlife and dense otherwordly architecture. Even after the impressive debut trailer earlier this year, I was surprised to jump into the experience and discover just how rich it appears. Convincing character animations and detailed enemy designs also go well with the bright color palette. It really is a breath of fresh air.

Hubris isn’t just a visual feast, though. Cyborn seems to have a good grasp on the first-person fundamentals, including climbable surfaces, over-shoulder inventory systems and summoning a pistol with a quick press of a button. The 20-minute demo includes some combat, in which you dive underwater and blast squids before taking their tentacles to craft (weirdly) fleshy ziplines to traverse. In fact, swimming seems to be a crucial part of the game, with a push of your arm in any direction propelling you through the water. It doesn’t feel quite as natural as other control schemes I’ve seen like in Freediver: Triton Down, but it works well.

Not quite as welcome is the focus on trial and error platforming, which includes some sequences in which you’ll have to swim all the way back to the start of a series of jumps should you misjudge a gap. It’s dependable enough that you can avoid too much pain but, still, judging the distances of jumps with no sense of your own momentum or feeling your feet on the ground is a strange feeling that doesn’t really work.

Hubris Part One

Combat, meanwhile, seems promising in this opening phase. Underwater battles with a rechargeable gun do at least feel different to what’s on offer with other VR shooters, though the only on-foot combat I saw was a very simple shooting gallery against small bugs, so I’ll be interested to see what else Cyborn has in-store here.

We also have to talk about the voice acting which is, to be direct, not very good at all. It’s a shame to see Cyborn build up such an interesting and gorgeous world, only to have it squandered by the cheesy, poorly-delivered lines on offer in the demo. If the developer wants to have its new lore taken seriously, it’ll want to do another pass on this front.

Hubris is no longer coming in 2021, but should touch down on PC and PSVR in 2022. It’s also due on Oculus Quest, though we’ll be waiting to see if Cyborn can keep the title as visually appealing on that platform.