Resident Evil 4 VR Review: An Incredible Way To Revisit A Classic

There are clear issues with the port and you should play the original first, but Resident Evil 4 is still a powerful experience in VR. Read on for our Resident Evil 4 VR review.

Like you, I’m sure, I was worried. Very worried, in fact. Fans are rightfully protective over Resident Evil 4 and its pristine plotting and pacing. It was difficult to imagine a VR port that didn’t muddy the game’s immaculately precise brand of action which, for many, would be nothing short of heresy.

And Resident Evil 4 VR is muddy. It can be messy and archaic, never more than a few steps away from an awkward screen transition or useless quick-time event (QTE). But it can just as often work surprisingly well, with moments of refreshed intensity and heightened horror. It’s not often you get the chance to experience something so cherished with fresh eyes. Resident Evil 4 VR doesn’t squander that opportunity.

Developer Armature has paid meticulous attention to almost every angle of the original, bringing the entire campaign over to Quest 2. Resident Evil 4 itself was something of an overhaul for the series, ditching the static-cameras and (at least partially) the tank controls of the original games, but it’s almost unrecognizable here. Gone is the defining over-the-shoulder camera, replaced with a first-person view. No longer does Leon sluggishly drag the aim cursor across the screen with all the urgency of a tortoise, enemies are instead at the mercy of your own marksmanship. No more canned reload animations and no long ladder climbing but, in-trade, you can walk and aim, there’s dual-wielding weapons, full freedom of movement and much more. The content of the game might be the same, but actually playing it is a fundamentally different experience.

Resident Evil 4 VR Review – The Facts

What is it?: A full VR port of the 2005 horror classic in which Leon Kennedy battles infected humans to save the President’s daughter.
Platforms: Oculus Quest
Release Date: October 21
Price: $39.99

This, as you can probably imagine, causes friction in some areas, and opportunities in others. But the game gives and takes in pretty much equal measure. The original Resident Evil 4 was a game of astonishingly deliberate flow; Leon couldn’t side-step, making it incredibly difficult to get out of harm’s way, switching out guns meant diving back into the inventory every few seconds, and scoring vital headshots to save on limited ammo was a really tricky affair. Any time you raised a weapon up to fight, Leon would stop dead in his tracks and you could no longer walk. It sounds a little rusty and, in truth, it is, but it’s also impeccably calculated, with no single encounter over the game’s 10 – 15 hour campaign (depending on your familiarity with it) feeling phoned in.

Now, for what it’s worth, you can play Resident Evil 4 VR with these classic controls replicated as best as possible in the settings menu and I’m sure purists will get a kick out of revisiting the game in this way. But, as strange as it is to return to the game with this newfound mobility, it’s stranger still to play a VR experience in which you can’t walk directly left or right, and the full freedom mode very much feels like the way the game is meant to be played.

So, yes, Resident Evil 4 feels fundamentally easier than it ever has. Side-stepping a Ganados as they lurch towards you becomes second nature, as does sprinting up to an enemy, pointing a rifle right in their face and then pulling the trigger before backpedaling to safety. This can be a problem. Having beaten the original game more times than I care to count, I defeated the iconic first El Gigante encounter in record time and, practically none of the game’s bosses can keep up with your increased speed. As with other versions, the hardest difficulty mode is locked when you first boot up the game and hardcore fans would probably have a better time playing on this mode first, so it’s a shame it’s not available right away.

resident evil 4 vr oculus quest

It’s easier still if you stick with the classic laser sight that lets you pull off headshots from the hip. That said, if you’re like me, you’ll get much more satisfaction out of turning that feature off and aiming down the sights. It does a much better job of helping you step into the role and, ultimately, that’s the point.

Resident Evil 4 VR might be more forgiving but that’s mainly because it does such a fantastic job of putting your whole body into the experience. In the original game, you’d need to step back from a hatch to find an angle to throw a grenade down the hole from afar. Here you can simply pull the pin, drop the grenade and delight at the fiery inferno you’ve caused below. The same goes for quickly switching between two weapons fitted to your holster to provide last-minute relief when your back’s against the wall, or using one arm to aim while another turns a handle – there are plenty of new twists that give the game’s tightly designed sequences some fresh perspective.

That freedom is at the core of Resident Evil 4 VR, and it’s also exactly why you should play the original game as intended before experiencing it on Oculus Quest. There is at least some of what made the original game tick in here, but, when all’s said and done, it’s a fundamentally different beast. Not better, not necessarily worse, just different. And I think you need to understand what the game was at first to really appreciate how it holds up in VR.

Whether you take that advice or not, there’s still plenty to enjoy here. To this day there’s nothing quite like throwing yourself into a crowd of shuffling Ganandos, frantically firing off shots left and right, tossing out a flash grenade to get yourself just a few seconds to sprint across the room, hunker down in another corner, fumble a reload and prepare for round 2. There’s an unmatched flow that proves exhilarating time and again and, even with the VR version’s faster pacing, it rarely buckles under the weight of these changes.

Resident Evil 4 VR Review – Comfort

Though free movement feels like the ‘right’ way to play Resident Evil 4 VR, you can also turn on teleport locomotion or use tunneling when moving, too. Still, this is an intense game with fast action and likely needs some acclimatization; there are moments on moving vehicles that might make you sick and the ending sequence in particular is one of the more intense moments I’ve experienced in VR. Keep that in mind before heading into the horror.

And some moments are tougher, too. The cramped confines of the early cabin shootout, in which Leon and companion Luis must hold off hordes of home invaders, is even more claustrophobic than before, with limited room to move even your arms amongst the sea of ghoulish bodies. You’ll also be either delighted or horrified to know that its scariest moments are much more frightening (I’m looking at you, maze with angry zombie dogs), though the game overall remains a very manageable level of terror.

Armature has certainly performed a small miracle getting some sense of cohesion out of this port, then. But even the might of Facebook funding can’t fully escape some of Resident Evil 4’s original 2D design. It gets incredibly bothersome to have the action constantly interrupted by the original’s cutscenes, which are displayed on a 2D screen and often break the illusion if not outright disorienting you. There’s nothing more confusing than running to the top of a ladder, watching Leon push it over on a virtual screen, and then finding yourself staring in a different direction to where you were before.

Mercifully, you can turn off most of the game’s QTEs, but some are unavoidable, which means a lot of waving your arms around to pull Leon up over ledges or backflip over lasers, and you can’t help but wonder if we’d have been better off with an abridged version that skipped these sections.

For example, there’s one moment in which Leon rides a minecart. It’s a thrilling setpiece, with a visceral sense of speed in VR. But, towards the end, the cart goes on a rapid downward spiral before vaulting over a gap and making you swing your arms to clear the chasm. You watch all of this final section on the screen. It’s a huge anticlimax that stings all the more when you see the lengths Armature’s gone to to redesign some of the game’s puzzles to fit the platform, too.

Other smaller issues make themselves known throughout. You can’t duck under trip mines despite throwing yourself to the floor, for example, and I encountered just a few glitches I’ve never seen in the original game, like sending one late-game boss running in circles as I leaned over a ladder. Enemies can shoot through what you might’ve mistaken for cover, and it’s tougher to take care of Ashley in the game’s escort missions when you often can’t see where she actually is.

Perhaps my biggest gripe beyond the cutscenes is the lack of decent spatial audio, which constantly makes you feel like an enemy is breathing down your neck when they’re in fact behind a wall a good few meters away from you. You’ll also be disappointed to learn that the game doesn’t have the bonus Mercenaries mode or additional campaigns that featured in past versions, which is a shame given all of the assets and environments they use are already up and running inside the Quest 2, though you can at least revisit the target practice minigame.

But if there is one area where the game is at least definitively better than the original versions, it’s in the visuals department. Capcom’s HD ‘remasters’ of RE4 were always underwhelming, but Armature has given the game the scrub-up it deserves with up-rezzed textures that hold up to a kind of scrutiny you could never really give them on a flat-screen. It’s especially impressive to revisit some of the original game’s most iconic sights from a new angle and, even though it’s approaching its 20th anniversary, it overall looks stunning in VR. There are some 2D textures that should really be in 3D and Ashely looks weirdly tall and incredibly small at the same time, but that’s about it.

Resident Evil 4 VR Review – Final Impressions

Resident Evil 4 VR is an incredible, if not definitive take on an all-time classic. There are a lot of rough edges to this port like the constant cutting to virtual screens, lack of spatial audio and certain combat encounters that simply don’t translate well to VR. But, for every moment of Wii-waggle boulder dodging or tarnished memories of once much more demanding boss fights, developer Armature mines gold elsewhere. Whether it’s the brilliantly redesigned puzzles, the slick satisfaction of pulling off headshots with careful aim or simply taking in this world of terror from a fresh new angle, there are a lot of reasons to relive the horror. I suspect it’s best enjoyed as a novel way to revisit one of the all-time greats than it is to approach fresh but whatever your circumstances, you’re bound to enjoy the ride. Games like The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners might be the future of VR, but Resident Evil 4 is a welcome reminder that it’s well worth looking to the past too.



For more on how we arrived at this rating, read our review guidelines. What did you make of our Resident Evil 4 VR review? Let us know in the comments below!

Resident Evil 4 VR Doesn’t Include Mercenaries Or Bonus Campaigns

Resident Evil 4 VR won’t include the bonus Mercenaries mode or additional campaigns when it launches on Oculus Quest 2 tomorrow.

We’ve beaten the game ourselves and can confirm the bonus modes aren’t available once you’ve beaten the campaign. In other versions of the game, the Mercenaries Mode lets you revisit levels from the campaign and survive for as long as possible as you hold out for high scores. You could even play as other characters like series antagonist, Albert Wesker. There were also two bonus campaigns in which players assumed the role of Ada Wong. All of these modes traditionally unlock once you’ve finished the story.

Resident Evil 4 VR Mercenaries Missing

Facebook confirmed to us that none of these modes were included in the VR version of game, though didn’t comment on if they could be added post-launch. Hopefully we’ll see them added later down the line.

Once you beat Resident Evil 4 VR, you will be able to tackle the game again on the Professional difficulty, and there’s also the target practice minigame that you can visit anytime. New Game+, meanwhile, lets you play through with your existing weapons and upgrades and you can unlock bonus items like the Infinite Launcher, too.

Despite these omissions, we think that this is a great port of Resident Evil 4 to VR, though it’s held back by some of its original design. You can read our full review right here.

What do you make of Resident Evil 4 VR missing the Mercenaries mode and bonus campaigns? Let us know in the comments below.

Review: Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4

It was always disappointing that Resident Evil VII Biohazard never made it to more virtual reality (VR) headsets as it was such a good experience on PlayStation VR. When 2005’s Resident Evil 4 was confirmed for Oculus Quest 2 it was great to hear this classic getting a VR makeover, even if it was another headset exclusive. However, Resident Evil 4 is a very different beast to that later sequel, and while developer Armature Studio has done a commendable job with the transition with plenty of VR interactions, there are unavoidable elements from the original that do hamper the overall experience.  

Resident Evil 4

If you’ve played the standard version of Resident Evil 4 then you’ll be instantly at home as all the core elements have stayed the same. This entry in the series moved away from the Umbrella narrative, unearthing a new terror called Las Plagas and a mysterious cult based in Europe called the Los Illuminados. The main tie-in to the whole series came by way of Leon Kennedy, who plays the hero tasked with trying to save the president’s daughter.   

Before embarking on any of that though, Armature Studio wants every player to have a comfortable experience, instantly offering a range of comfort and accessibility options. These are as extensive as you could hope for, depending on whether you like to play seated or go full roomscale. Whilst none of these are unique to Resident Evil 4 what is slightly more unusual is the ability to decide on weapon handling. This is a shooter after all so you get the option for full-body support – shotgun over the shoulder, grenade on the chest, that sort of thing – or a slightly more traditional selection wheel. Naturally, it was full-body support all the way, using a selection wheel not only dulls the immersion but also just seemed rude. Who doesn’t want guns strapped to their body in a shooting videogame?

The only slight twist to that was the fact that rather than having your primary pistol directly on your hip there’s a curved indicator on one side for the weapon, with another on the opposite side for ammo. It’s intuitive to use yet it wasn’t quite in keeping with other elements of the gameplay which blended into the background far better. A good example of this is Leon’s watch. It displays various stats depending on whether you’re in combat or not, giving you quick info on ammo and health for example. Perfect when engaged in those fierce boss battles.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4 was never really a great looker when it came to overall aesthetics, with swathes of various browns and greys to look at. Even so, the VR edition looks spot on, the development team has done a superb job of bringing the environment to life, most importantly ensuring there are plenty of physical objects to ground you in the world. VR basics like being able to open a door or cupboards are there (not all doors mind), smashing boxes with your knife, turning cranks and moving puzzles around with your hands are other excellent examples of how this 17-year-old videogame has been transformed into VR.

The same goes for weapon handling. Grabbing ammo requires cocking the gun, with each weapon having its own mechanics that feel fluid and fast. Incalculable the number of times that came in handy quickly reloading the pistol when surrounded by Granados – the main basic enemy you’ll encounter – to pop a few heads in quick succession. Even details like pulling a grenade pin have been thought of. When in the heat of a fight, Resident Evil 4 is able to truly deliver heart pounding moments.

And let’s not forget some of the classic Resi elements such as playing around with your inventory. It returns in all its glory, split down into squares with each item taking up a certain amount. In VR, you can of course grab them all to twist and reposition them just so, maximising space so you can always pick up precious resources like ammo and health.  

Resident Evil 4

However, for all the good there are some inevitable downsides, some of which were going to be unavoidable due to the very nature of bringing Resident Evil 4 into VR. First on the list are those Quick Time Events (QTEs). There are quite a few of these and they generally involve waggling the controllers or pressing both triggers at the same time. Thankfully, there’s an option in the menu to turn most of these off but some are unavoidable. QTEs just don’t work in VR, pulling you out of the whole experience with needless gameplay mechanics. Do you know what also has a similar effect? All the damn cutscenes. It’s easy to forget how many there are and at times it seems like you’re jumping from one cut scene to another – the castles lava-filled section was very notable in this regard – making for a rather jarring experience.   

Other little annoyances also cropped up such as a multitude of “A” button interactions. You can’t climb a ladder, for example, a pretty standard thing in VR nowadays or climb through a window. As mentioned, breaking boxes and barrels with your knife was essential for conserving ammo yet you can’t use the butt of your gun, only the knife worked. And then there was the spatial audio. Outside in areas such as the village, this worked as expected, yet in many of the more confined areas it became more erratic, enemies suddenly sounding much closer than they were.

Even with these gripes, Resident Evil 4 was still as addictive and fun to play as ever, even the typewriter got a makeover so you can label each save however you wish by actually typing on the keys. What was plainly obvious though was how easy the first run though was. Over the course of the first 10+ hour session, having full control to sidestep, stepping backwards or duel wielding a knife and gun meant many of the encounters – the bosses included – weren’t that taxing. Plus, you can only play on easy or normal, to begin with, unlocking the harder difficulty after your first completion. Really, that needs to be available right from the off.

Resident Evil 4 on Oculus Quest 2 is a testament to Armature’s VR skills whilst highlighting the difficulties in bringing an almost 20-year-old videogame into VR. With the immersion settings on full whack, running around monster-filled castles was thoroughly engrossing and genuinely tense at points. But there’s no getting away from the fact that plenty of rough edges remain and moment’s like the QTEs are going to be highly divisive amongst players. Resident Evil 4 certainly isn’t a pivotal VR showcase by any means, yet for Resi fans, there’s enough to keep you entertained.     

Review: Sweet Surrender

Sweet Surrender

Virtual reality (VR) roguelites seem to have become really quite fashionable in the last couple of years, with the likes of In Death: Unchained, YUKICosmodread and Until You Fall all carving their own particular niche. The latest to do so on Oculus Quest is Sweet Surrender by Salmi Games, offering fast gunplay and a very stylish, heavily cel-shaded design. However, like any genre that suddenly sees an uptick in titles, does Sweet Surrender provide enough of a tasty treat to make it stand out?

Sweet Surrender

This is Salmi Games first VR experience that VRFocus knows of and straight away it impresses, easy to pick up and dive right into without really caring why you’re there in the first place. A basic narrative puts you in a dystopian future in the bowels of a gigantic tower, having to work your way up through the various levels, destroying every enemy in your path.

You can go about this in two ways (but both are almost identical). The main Adventure mode gives you the chance to keep retrying, again and again, inching ever forward. Whilst the Daily Run mode is just one pure shot to the top and leaderboard glory. Fail and as you might expect, you’ll have to wait until a new day to try again.

As with any roguelite, whichever mode you choose all the levels are procedurally generated so there’s no learning a specific route through. However, because Sweet Surrender’s gameplay is split into rooms that you have to clear before proceeding after a few runs the designs inevitably repeat so you can get a feel for things like enemy placement. Some rooms only have a singular level whilst others can be multi-floored structures to explore.

Sweet Surrender

And it’s certainly worth doing so as it’s the only way to survive and upgrade yourself. None of the robotic enemies are exactly smart with each having its own particular role to play, from ranged gunners to spider-like specimens that’ll try and run up to you and detonate. There’s just enough variety in their design to make stepping through each door interesting yet their only real danger is in numbers. This can quickly happen as you can’t run between rooms until they’ve been completely cleared. Hence why finding the chips are important, these will give you extra perks for the fight ahead.

Upgrade chips come in all sorts of flavours, more damage, bigger ammo clip, restoring a small amount of health after each shot; you get the gist. Sweet Surrender’s deeper strategy is all about how you use them. Chips are attached to your forearm, two on each side for a maximum of four. They come in various grades which isn’t really explained although it is simple enough to work out. Unfortunately, that’s about as complicated as Sweet Surrender gets, more paddling pool than a deep lake.

As for the guns, there are two hip-based holsters for smaller weapons like pistols, with larger two-handed rifles and shotguns going over the shoulder. Having tried a few of these out, the standard pistols are just too good, a great mixture of damage and range. The SMG’s, rifles and shotguns were okay, they just weren’t as much fun to use. Oh, and ammo isn’t an issue either, reloading is automatic, all you need to do is point the gun down. Making Sweet Surrender feel like a classic arcade shooter, just run and gun.

Sweet Surrender

Another to the pistol setup to get into the action was the grappling gun. Ideally suited to those multi-floor rooms mentioned, having the grappling gun meant not needing to use the lifts or jump pads. These routes up always felt like walking into a trap, the enemies knowing exactly where you’ll be. Grappling up – or across open gaps – nicely switches up the gameplay, giving you more options when the timing is right.  

All of this makes Sweet Surrender immensely fun to play the first few times, what it’s lacking is that reason to push forward to try and discover more. Like those other roguelites mentioned, death means starting back at the beginning to try it all again, just a little wiser. However, nothing carries over. You start in a hub/office space that’ll highlight as holograms what opponents you’ve encountered and guns you’ve picked up. Those chips have disappeared, of course, encouraging you to find the augments again. There’s no additional benefit to making it further up the tower, unlike Until You Fall where you can permanently upgrade a weapon or unlocking a new Bladewing in YUKI. That’s what Sweet Surrender is really missing. You can complete in-game tasks to unlock access to later levels but it isn’t quite the same. 

There are a few other glitchy moments such as getting stuck behind massive crates that suddenly fling into the air whilst casually walking by – with no way to pick them up – or robots. What’s good to see in this type of VR videogame are accessibility options, Sweet Surrender has plenty. Play seated, standing, add a vignette, switch to left-handed mode, it’s all there.  

Sweet Surrender

Sweet Surrender is very much a no-frills type of roguelite. It covers all the basics with a reasonable amount of variety in the weapons, enemies and upgrades, all displayed in a very nice, low-ploy aesthetic. There’s still finessing that needs to be done though, weapon balancing, a bit more room variety, tougher enemies and progression expansion. Great for those that love easy to digest action-oriented shooters, not so much if you want a roguelite with mechanics you can really dig deep into. Still, even after all of that Sweet Surrender has that addictive quality that draws you back in. Hopefully, Salmi Games continues its refinement.

Review: Eye of the Temple

Eye of the Temple

Roomscale gaming where you purely use your body and not the controllers isn’t something often seen anymore. There are plenty of virtual reality (VR) titles where you can move about a virtual space, crouching or walking over to pick up an object but actually employing your two feet as the only locomotion isn’t easy; especially if you’re working with a minimum 2m x 2m area. Sure, videogames like Space Pirate Trainer DX offer the chance to run around a play space if you can find an area large enough. This is why Eye of the Temple is a bit of a rarity, a true roomscale experience with an awesome Indiana Jones vibe.

Eye of the Temple

Eye of the Temple is the work of solo indie developer Rune Skovbo Johansen who’s been working on this project for several years now. The whole ethos behind the title is navigating your way through an ancient, trap-filled temple, carefully watching where you place each and every foot. One wrong step and it is instant death.

While you might be quite comfortable walking around in any normal VR experience, Eye of the Temple is very different, for one you spend a lot of time looking at the floor and around your feet. Traversal through is primarily via stone blocks that move in one particular direction, carefully gauging your timing so you don’t fall between the gaps. There are some cylindrical blocks as well, encouraging you to keep your position by walking backwards as it rolls forward.

It’s this type of movement where some players are going to struggle, Eye of the Temple even offers a warning right at the start. You might think that physically stepping through the environment would be fine, however, a disconnect can happen when a block suddenly drops down, raises up or moves in an unexpected way. As long as you’re aware of this Eye of the Temple can be a lot of fun.

Eye of the Temple

The gameplay is challenging right from the outset, it isn’t just about looking where to step next, there are gems to collect, multiple pathways to choose from and then there’s the whip. In fact, you have a whip in one hand and an unlit torch in the other, both designed to help you interact with the environment and solve puzzles. At times Eye of the Temple is like trying to rub your belly whilst tapping your head, as well as being spatially aware of obstacles; ducking under stuff plays an important part.

Even though Indiana Jones makes using a whip look easy, that isn’t the case here. With it, you can smash jars filled with gems, use it to pull levers from afar or kill enemies like little annoying flying scarabs. It certainly takes practice as the first few times trying to wrap the whip around a lever just seemed impossible.

As you can probably tell, Eye of the Temple is a physical experience all the way through, and it’ll have your heart thumping in no time. Not in the same way a rhythm action title would as the pace is steadier but you soon notice it after an hour or so. It becomes that engrossing you really do need to make sure your gameplay area is clear of any objects, it’s used to the maximum. If your boundary stops at a wall at times you’re going to be right up against it.

Eye of the Temple

Eye of the Temple isn’t hectic in any way, encouraging you to take your time and explore. All those extra pathways offer secrets to discover which is exactly what you’d expect when exploring a lava-filled temple of death. No difficulty option is available, surprisingly though some accessibility options are, like being able to change the duck height or the whip hand if you’re left-handed. Best of all though is the auto-saving which seems to happen at every block. So there’s no trudging through swathes of a level if the worse happens.  

This October features some really big VR releases and sandwiched in between them all is this nugget of indie inventiveness. Eye of the Temple feels like it goes back to VR’s roots in a way, the gameplay is simple but very effective, always keeping you thinking and on your toes. The whole experience achieves that one sort after quality in VR, immersion, where you become so focused on what you’re doing it’s easy to forget that the temple is actually your living room. Just be careful not to topple over, that can happen!   

Lone Echo 2 Review: A Gorgeous But Glacial Swansong For The Oculus Rift

Lone Echo 2 is a suitably lavish swansong for the Oculus Rift, but it’s a familiar and glacially-paced adventure. Read on for our Lone Echo 2 review.

Get a good look at Lone Echo 2 while you can. Drink in the sweeping vistas, finely-detailed space junk and frankly unmatched character animations because, let’s face it, VR probably isn’t going to look this good again for some time. Ready At Dawn’s long-delayed sequel has the unenviable task of being Facebook’s last Oculus Rift exclusive; one final high-budget, ludicrously-produced bash to make even the newest of GPUs groan. The game itself is unconcerned with that burden, instead stubbornly fixated on its slow-going roots in a deeply respectable but glacially-paced follow-up.

We’re back with Jack and Liv, the android and human odd-couple that, at the end of the first game, found themselves at the other end of time after a supernatural event catapulted a disease-ridden ship into their own era. The pair must find a way home whilst also combating the infestation, known as the Biomass.

Fans of the first Lone Echo will remember it for its deep focus on narrative and character connection, and that’s still very much the case here. I’d argue that, to this day, we haven’t seen a more convincing VR companion than Liv, a sullen-but-fair Captain that’s immaculately realized both through believably empathetic dialogue perfectly delivered by Alice Coulthard and RAD’s own penchant for impeccable facial animations and performance capture. Her relationship with robotic protagonist, Jack (who, oddly, is voiced by Troy Baker literally doing the robot), is a rare thing. It’s built on a deep admiration and fondness for each other but leaving the player to ponder the iffy ethics of human/android relations themselves.

Lone Echo 2 Review – The Facts

What is it?: A sequel to 2017’s sci-fi VR blockbuster in which you throw yourself through zero-gravity environments in a narrative-driven campaign..
Platforms: Oculus Rift
Release Date: Out now
Price: $39.99

It’s this relationship — and others that will brew throughout — that ends up carrying the sequel’s plot. The quest for a potential cure for the Biomass is certainly filled with twists and turns, including moments of nail-biting tension, but it’s also one of hefty, hefty conversation. There is a lot of waiting around and listening to other characters talk in Lone Echo 2, even more so than the first game given that this is a longer sequel stretching out to a 7+ hour adventure. The small dialogue choices return and there are sometimes microinteractions to keep you busy but, even though the game remains powerfully immersive throughout, your own patience might not last the trip.

That’s not to say the story itself is boring, it’s just extrapolated to an unnecessary degree. Characters sluggishly reach conclusions that you’ve come to minutes before they’ve finished a monologue, or deliver objectives to pull switches or scan items long after you’ve already completed them. In one late-game sequence, an AI extensively explains how to use a hand-mounted gun while you’re chained to a wall and you’re not let free until you’ve completed a lot of target practice. Anyone that’s played a VR game before will likely have learned how to use it in mere seconds. Every tiny action or minor development comes with a similarly lengthy explanation. The game essentially refuses to move at your pace and, whenever you’re accompanied by another companion, you know you’ll be moving at half the rate you would otherwise.

It’s not until you’re finally given some alone time — a good few hours into the game — that Lone Echo 2 finally starts to return to some of the interesting puzzle-platforming it explored in the first game. The zero-gravity movement is still wonderfully fluid, allowing you to hurl yourself from one end of the room to another with lucid-like simplicity. Challenges pick up where the first game left off; the bulbous Biomass presents a lot of navigational trials but the game quickly sets about establishing a few new threats. Ticks, for example, are a mobile form of the infection that you’ll first need to distract with another power source — say moveable cranes or door locks — before passing by, and one section with net-like Webs requires you to target specific mounds of Biomass to unblock passages.

Lone Echo 2 review

Smaller side missions are also back though there are precious few of them, and many of the tasks at hand resemble the busy work and fetch quests you’ll have gotten used to in the first game. In other words, gameplay in Lone Echo 2 is very much in service to the story at all times, and there are only a handful of moments in which it really feels like a game more than it does a kind of interactive movie.

Appreciated as these new challenges are, there’s little to Lone Echo 2’s gameplay that’s drastically different from the first. New powers like telekinesis and, eventually a wrist-mounted firearm (borrowed from the excellent Echo Combat expansion to the multiplayer Echo VR) are similarly welcome but really don’t evolve too far beyond what’s come before. Both thematically and in execution this is a little bit too much of the same, and the sequel doesn’t benefit from the same sense of revelatory exploration that made the first such a landmark achievement. When I finished the first game in 2017 I said I felt like I was witnessing the end of the first act rather than a full game and both Lone Echo 2’s story and gameplay features definitely feel like expansions to the original more than the next big step.

If there’s one element of that game that does push the boundaries, however, it’s the sheer graphical ambition. Lone Echo 2 is, without a doubt, the best-looking VR game you’ll play this year. Not only are the character models some of the most strikingly authentic you can find in gaming but areas of the game are huge in scope with stunning complexity to them. The Biomass itself is a thing to behold, flooding through corridors and floors. But it’s not until later in the game that you realize each and every bulb in the sprawling sea of infection is its own unique property, and not just an asset mesh. That counts right down to the tiniest of spheres on a control panel; it’s ridiculously impressive to take in.

Lone Echo 2 Review – Comfort

Lone Echo 2 is pretty unique in the comfort zone given that its movement is different to most VR games. Throwing yourself through environments feels natural and, as such, you’ll hopefully find it to be a very comfortable experience even if it’s technically smooth locomotion. You could always try the free Echo VR multiplayer to see if you can stomach the experience, plus there are incremental artificial turn options too.

Amongst this eye-opening display of technical proficiency hides a rawer beauty. When you die in the game, you reboot at a Fabricator machine and the husk of your old shell is still visible. In one scene I respawned just in time to see my old self float past in a fetal position before being lost to the vastness of space. It was a stunning moment of quiet awe that I won’t soon forget, and you’ll more than likely discover many of these moments for yourself.

But you will, of course, need a very decent rig to make it run and there are some technical hiccups. My RTX 3060 could just about handle the game on high graphics settings but even then, running the game off of an SSD with 32GB RAM, there was some pretty aggressive pop-in in some of the game’s larger areas and even some of the smaller sections had blurred textures. Combined with the cut to loads between areas, the overall package doesn’t feel quite as polished as you might expect in certain segments. It’s also worth nothing that, if you’re playing with an Oculus Quest via Link or AirLink, the camera placement on that device can cause some hiccups in tracking when facing away from your hands.

Lone Echo 2 Screenshot

Lone Echo 2 Review – Final Impressions

Lone Echo 2’s incredible production values and first-rate immersion make for an enjoyable swansong that’s let down by its plodding pace and familiarity. Despite arriving four years after the groundbreaking original, there’s very little that will surprise you here and, although well written, the drawn-out character dialogue quickly wears thin. It’s still held up by a fantastic locomotion system with first-rate immersion alongside a solid story with believable performances, but the startling spark of blockbuster innovation that fuelled the first game has long-since died out. Jack and Liv’s mission to get back to the past makes for a fun ride, but parts of Lone Echo 2 were stuck there to begin with.

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Lone Echo 2 Review Points


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Review: Lone Echo II

Lone Echo 2

2017’s Lone Echo was a good videogame. Actually, it was an excellent videogame because it came at a time when virtual reality (VR) needed big, impressive experiences that really showcased the potential of this technology. 2021 is a very different era. Titles like Half-Life: Alyx, Song in the Smoke, Stormland, and more provide players with epic adventures with engrossing storylines and inventive gameplay. After several delays to ensure Lone Echo II can be as good as it can, has Ready At Dawn achieved the sequel fans have been hoping for? Let’s just say, it’s nice to be back Jack.

Lone Echo II

Normally when it comes to a sequel if you’ve not played the previous title in the series then no bother, there’s a handy catch up at the beginning and you’re away. It’s the same here with Lone Echo II’s loading sequence providing snippets of the original to fill in those blanks. However, on this occasion, it’s advisable not to, purely due to the narrative at play here. The story directly continues over and because of the interactions at play between the two main characters and the grandiose setting, it’s worth experiencing the saga in its entirety.   

Awakening as Jack, the android assigned to protect Captain Olivia “Liv” Rhodes, you’re once again making sure she survives the perils of deep space and a deadly organism simply known as the “Bio Mass”. The entire adventure takes place (mostly) on a deserted space station made out of various asteroids joined together. This entire installation orbits Saturn which makes for a particularly impressive backdrop once you get outside. Lone Echo was known for its gorgeous visuals with Lone Echo II somehow managing to outdo its sibling. Whether you’re casually floating through the void of space or on a pressing mission, there are visually striking moments everywhere so try not to let all that eye candy distract you too much.

So Lone Echo II still looks pretty but how does it handle? Not much has changed here actually. The entire experience is still in zero-g – no artificial gravity in this sci-fi universe – so getting about is a mixture of grabbing the environment or using little wrist-mounted jets to propel yourself. Whilst there is a larger boost to navigate some of the larger expanses, most of the time you’ll be using a mixture of the first two. In conjunction with the storyline, this tends to make Lone Echo II a slow and methodical type of videogame. Certain sequences do add a sprinkling of action but for the most part, Lone Echo II isn’t about rushing, a general playthrough should last around ten hours without doing all the extra side missions.

Lone Echo 2

With no change in the core movement options, fans will instantly be at home here, flinging themselves from pillar to post in no time. If you are jumping right in it’s worth noting zero gravity can be a bit much for some, even with the accessibility options available. One nice mechanic Lone Echo II does employ is keeping you on the same visual plane, you can’t suddenly spin yourself upside down for example – one of the best ways to induce nausea. The only braking of that rule comes with a little device called the “Extreme Drifter”. Find it and you’ll blast across the space station. A word of warning, you can twist and if you don’t let go, it’s the only way to reorient yourself.

So you might now be wondering what is exactly new. Well, most of this involves dealing with the Bio Mass threat and its various evolutions like the really annoying, power-hungry ticks that’ll latch onto any sort of power source – not great when you’re an android. Lone Echo II’s puzzles begin by trying to avoid or manoeuvre these creatures, with plenty of physical interaction cutting access panels, pulling power levers, and more, nothing too taxing. As you get deeper you’ll unlock offensive capabilities (not just tools) offering light combat segments.

All of these are located on Jack’s wrist, activated with a blue button. You get five gadgets in total, some that’ll get far more use than others. Unlike actual shooters where weapons or tools are usually quickly accessible, that’s not really the case here. You have to grab a blue orb representing each tool, not the greatest mechanic if you’re being attacked. This again highlights the composed approach you have to take in Lone Echo II, carefully planning how you handle every danger. Death is no worry for an android as you’ll be rebuilt at the nearest Fabricator but that doesn’t mean you should rely on it. Some aren’t always close by.

Lone Echo 2

Lone Echo II’s gameplay might be finely tuned, however, it would be nothing without the relationship it fosters between Jack and Liv. The epic storyline is enthralling – as good as any binged TV show – nonetheless the bond you build with Liv is what gives both Jack and Lone Echo II their humanity. Dialogue options allow you to play a more logical android character or add a little bit of jokey banter into the mix, eliciting different responses from Liv. Without spoiling too much there’s a particular scene where you have to hold her hand, it’s a very touching moment between two friends.

Ready At Dawn may have originally planned to release Lone Echo II in 2020 before having to push it back several times and that’s completely understandable considering the quality of videogame that’s been produced. There’s a lot to love and get engrossed in as it’s so immersive, the real criticism comes from the fact that Lone Echo II plays everything a little too safe. The experience doesn’t break any new ground and it really could’ve done with some greater challenges thrown in. On the other hand, it was engrossing until the very end, easily the standout AAA VR experience of 2021.      

Forcetube Review: A VR Rifle Stock That’s Equal Parts Hassle And Immersive

The new ForceTube makes meaningful upgrades and offers a novel experience, but clunky setup and steep pricing means it’s only for the most dedicated of VR shooter fans. Read on for our ForceTube review.

Protube has been around for some time, making magnetic rifle stocks for basically every VR headset in recent memory. The idea for its core MagTube product is sound – an adjustable set of tubes you can fit to your liking, with VR controllers sitting on top in detachable cups to simulate holding a rifle. Whilst PSVR has the excellent Aim Controller, for PC VR and Quest headsets this is the only alternative to pretending to hold a gun with two hands which, let’s admit, has always felt a little silly.

But the company’s newly-updated ForceTube model goes beyond even that, adding a haptic module on the back of the device that you’ll rest your shoulder on. Pull the trigger in a compatible game and it will jolt to simulate the experience. Again, the idea is great on paper and I suspect VR’s most devoted shooter fans will really enjoy the added immersion, but this incredibly expensive peripheral, priced at €395, is far too much of a hassle to recommend to everyone.

Design

In its base form, the ForceTube (and, by extension, MagTube) works well. There are three adjustable bolts that need tightening and loosening with an included Allen key so you can get the right fit and make sure it stays there. The controller cups can also slide up and down the kit using the same process. It does, however, mean that adjusting the stock takes a lot of effort, which is especially annoying when trying to fine-tune your grip during first setup. ForceTube might seem like a great idea to show friends at VR parties, but everyone will have to adjust to your grip unless you want to spend 20 minutes fiddling with its more bitty parts every time you swap the headset.

Once you are up and running, though, ForceTube feels great in a lot of games. Raising a rifle scope to my eye in Sniper Elite VR was powerfully immersive, as was wielding shotguns and machine guns in other levels. That said, while this certainly feels better than simply imitating holding a two-handed firearm, the bottom-heavy setup leaves a lot of room for improvement. You’d hold a real gun from below, so it’s a little strange to have all the weight under your hands here. I’d definitely like to see a future design that tried to work around this problem, as complicated as it may be. Some of the 3D printed elements of the stock also feel a little cheap and one non-essential part even snapped in shipping.

In fact, the overall device doesn’t look especially attractive; more like some leftover materials from a DIY session that you’ve cobbled together. If you’re a shooter enthusiast that probably doesn’t matter too much to you, though. The haptic module’s plastic, meanwhile, seems flimsy and not reflective of the steep €395 price point.

ForceTube VR Review (3)

All the same, there are some really ingenious factors to ForceTube’s design. The controller cups are held in place with magnets, making it easy to quickly break away from the stock with one hand when you need to pick something up, push a button or throw a grenade. You also get a strap so you can take both hands off and dangle the stock (which is unavoidably uncomfortable) when need be. And resting the haptic module into your shoulder really adds an element that’s been missing from a lot of VR shooters, even PSVR titles that support the Aim controller.

Fans of the first ForceTube will be happy to know this redesign is smaller and lighter than the original, while still promising to pack the same punch. It’s still a heavy device, though, weighing in at 1.2kg when paired with the gunstock. That will no doubt limit how long the controller feels comfortable to hold; I could manage about 10 to 15 minutes of play before my arms started to feel tired and burying the haptic module in my shoulder also started to feel quite painful after a little bit. Again, though, you can always rest your arms and dangle the stock for a while.

Haptics

ForceTube VR Review (2)

But what about the sensation the haptics themselves provide? Well, obviously, the ForceTube doesn’t deliver the powerful kick of, say, a shotgun when you fire your weapon. Putting the force of an actual weapon in there would be a bit overkill. Instead, you’ll get a very noticeable push more akin to the recoil of a paintball gun. I wouldn’t say it provides an incredibly authentic experience, but the extra kick does give you at least a little more of a sensation of being inside the game.

I’ve been enjoying ForceTube most with fast-firing machine guns. It really adds an extra dimension to feel the rattle when you squeeze the trigger. The haptics are localized to the back of the unit, so you won’t really feel the shake too much in your hands and it makes less of an impact with single-shot rifles and shotguns. Of course, how much you enjoy the experience will depend on how well it’s implemented into the given game. Sniper Elite helpfully lets you streamline controls as much as you see fit, so you don’t need to worry about colliding with the stock when taking your hand away to reload.

Another big caveat is that the thing is noisy. Like, really noisy. Every squeeze of the trigger results in a very audible clank that sounds more like I’m using a nail gun to assemble a set of shelves than it does anything else. That’s definitely worth noting if you don’t want to be disturbing neighbors or even just other people in your house. I’ve noticed a few bugs too; in Contractors the module started responding to when my enemies fired their weapons, for example.

Compatibility And User Experience

ForceTube VR Review (3)

As tricky as some elements of the ForceTube can be, I’d have had an easier time using the kit if there was a better set of instructions and tutorials included. The unit I was given was actually pre-assembled (which the company says they do only for media), but I still needed to get to grips for adjusting the kit which took a while to figure out. But, if you do have to set it up, you’ll have an incredibly long list to clear through. The entire thing comes deconstructed and ProTube says it takes around 90 minutes to set the kit up. There are at least video tutorials, though they’re hidden away on the company’s YouTube channel and it’s not easy to find them on the official website.

The website also has a list of compatible games but only hidden away on the store page for each product and in a PDF document. It’d be nicer to have a more accessible, regularly updated list of games to reference. Overall ProTube could really do with streamlining its support system to give you faster access to better instructions. Either that or ship the product already assembled to give customers less of an initial headache. That said the Bluetooth connection on Quest was very easy to set up and had me ready to go in minutes once I enabled support in the games I tested.

Currently, the actual list of compatible games is quite small, but there are some big titles compatible on both PC and Oculus Quest. Those include Onward, Contractors and Sniper Elite VR on both platforms, and PC players also get Pavlov and Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades among others.

Those multiplayer titles are crucial to giving ProTube some longevity, but it’s definitely a shame not to see native support for games like Boneworks, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. Getting support for third-party peripherals not officially endorsed by platform holders themselves must be tough but, when ForceTube costs an eye-watering €395, it’s tough not to see the handful of games included right now as lacking.

With that said, you can implement your own support into PC titles using the company’s companion app. ProTube has its own software to edit bindings and haptic feedback which, again, is a really excellent feature for enthusiasts looking to fine-tune the realism they get from VR. As with other elements, though, actually setting all of this up takes multiple, complicated steps and once again underscores how the ForceTube is really only for the people that have the patience (and money) to improve their VR shooter setup.

ForceTube Review – Final Impressions

ForceTube VR Review (1)

ProTube’s ForceTube update offers some meaningful improvements on the original design, but the device will really only appeal to the most devoted of VR shooter fans that will stop at nothing to get the most immersive experience. Though it’s far from authentic, the haptic sensation is a great novelty that adds a little punch to your shooter sessions, but it’s loud and proves uncomfortable to hold after a while, while limited compatibility makes the €395 all-in price a bitter pill to swallow.

PSVR’s Aim Controller may not have the haptic module or the shoulder stock but its universal size, integrated buttons and lightning-fast setup will make it a much more preferable option if you have that headset. But if no obstacle is too big to get as close to an immersive shooter experience as possible, then ForceTube is a fun, if entirely inessential addition to your arsenal. For anyone else, you’re better off to keep playing pretend for now.

 

Loco Dojo Unleashed Review: VR’s Logical, Enjoyable Answer To Mario Party

Loco Dojo’s likable, well-paced take on Mario Party in VR hides some brilliant VR interactions. More in our Loco Dojo review!

Loco Dojo might essentially boil down to a series of fast-fire minigames, but packaged up together it’s an earnest exploration of just how different VR can really be. Swinging sausage nun-chucks around to ward off bats, catapulting balled up cats onto dog fur, or spraying a friend with shark food and then watching them desperately duck out of the way of sharp-toothed toys is all a potent reminder of the vast possibilities that lie just beyond the rings of the Oculus Touch controllers. There’s no gruff firefights or intense melee sword battles here, just a desire to offer something new. Though these moments are fleeting, Loco Dojo’s sharp pacing and fun social mechanics make them worth coming back to time and again.

We’re strictly in ‘Mario Party but in VR’ territory here. Up to four players join a lobby and take turns moving counters along a game board. Land on one of the 16 activities and you’ll be carted off for a few minutes of game time. Win the given activity and you’ll earn points, enough of which will provide access to a central temple where winning just one game will land you the crown.

Everything moves along with rejuvenating speed: spin the wheel, move the counter, and more than likely you’ll be jumping into the next game in no time. Crucially, the minigames are something to look forward to. Some hit on the conventional thrills like throwing items or spinning figurative plates, but the best feel like they’re truly unique to the platform. My personal favorite has some players using a paddle to bat urchins onto the stomach of a whale, while others tilt a platform to move a saw that brushes them off. Or there’s a VR take on an egg and spoon race in which you’ll balance a giant egg whilst trying to punch your opponent’s with a giant boxing glove. These feel frantic and exciting, with no shooter or sword-play muscle memory to fall back on.

There are a few more troubling omissions and hiccups that frustrate the experience, though. Though players start at opposite ends of the map, it’s entirely possible for one to catch up with another. Should that happen, you run the risk of repeating the same games over and over again, which can be a slog. And, although this new Quest version adds in single-player training, it’d be nice to have the options of a few practice rounds before getting stuck into a minigame on multiplayer; if it’s your first time you’re likely to lose points just figuring out the basics.

Loco Dojo Unleashed

Of course, some of the games also don’t really land. Controlling a potato-shooting turret just doesn’t feel natural without a sense of feedback, and a game involving one player tossing snacks into a monster’s mouth is a trial for the opponent, who has to try and predict sometimes buggy hand placements to block incoming fire. Some games are also over just a little too quickly, feeling like the whistle blows before you’ve really settled in to find the fun.

But the better games easily outweigh the duds and the structural issues don’t derail the fun of a four-player tournament. Is it enough to keep you coming back? Well, that depends on if you have the friends to play it with, which is a considerably bigger ask than console party games with local multiplayer. For its part, the game’s charming toy-like presentation and always entertaining narration from Brian Blessed do their bit to make it a cheerful space to be in.

Loco Dojo Review – Final Impressions

Loco Dojo doesn’t rewrite the rules on the party game format, but it successfully finds the fun in adding VR to that template. Its best games are brilliantly entertaining explorations of the different kinds of experiences the platform offers and, although it has some structural issues, tournaments move with a pace that makes them easy to jump into and tempting to replay time and again. It might be hard to realize a family game night in VR but if you and your friends find yourselves in four corners of the globe with an Oculus Quest each, Loco Dojo is a good way to capture the camaraderie often reserved for local play.

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Song in the Smoke Review: A Primal VR Survival Game With Real Majesty

Song in the Smoke deftly balances its mix of survival mechanics and earthy undertones for a rare experience that nails gameplay and atmosphere. More in our Song in the Smoke review.

It doesn’t really matter that Song in the Smoke is, visually speaking, a little rough around the edges. Though leafy and lush, its forests are linked by walls of muddy textures and dated character models, but developer 17-Bit more than wins you over with a rare and extremely raw spirituality. Fantastic, otherworldly creatures that equal parts enamor and terrify, arresting supernatural sights that capture an enormity of the universe beyond and soulful audio work that steeps this prehistoric adventure in a sense of deep respect for culture make it a thing to behold at any one moment. Truly, Song in the Smoke is a game with a seldom seen majesty to it.

It’s also, helpfully, a really good survival game.

Song in the Smoke Review – The Facts

What is it?: A VR survival game set in prehistoric times in which you’ll craft items and hunt increasingly dangerous creatures.
Platforms: Quest, Rift, PSVR
Release Date: Out now
Price:

17-Bit’s VR debut has the depth of its flatscreen contemporaries with an understanding of what needs to change to make them work inside a headset. Song in the Smoke has aim and direction, giving players a series of areas to discover and complete objectives in (which are impressively big for a Oculus Quest) before moving on to the next and managing their energy and food supplies at the same time. Crucially, the laws of this jungle are tough and unforgiving but also don’t waste your time with antiquated UI or overly complex crafting, and it has its own ideas about how to expedite or enhance some of the genre’s more mundane elements for VR. The result is a uniquely assured gameplay experience.

So, yes, you’re collecting sticks and stones to make arrows and rocks. You’re going to get hungry, you’re going to get tired, often at times that are very inconvenient. But you’re also going to actually enjoy managing these systems; you’ll always have the tools to craft wood and stone — a bone knife and billet respectively — in your inventory that allow you to quickly make use of any of the plentiful resources you’ll find at your feet. While they won’t solve everything, special plants can help combat fatigue and health without having to return to a campfire and waste away a day sleeping.

Most importantly, there’s a rare tactility to using these items, doubling down on Song in the Smoke’s connection to nature. Crushing petals with a mortar and pestle is rightly rustic work, and there’s a strangely wholesome satisfaction to running a knife alongside a stick of wood until it turns into kindling for a fire. Striking stone on the side of a wall to spark up a flame, meanwhile, never gets old.

Streamlined, perhaps, but not entirely unforgiving. The game only lets you save at campfires that, with eight stones, you can make pretty much anywhere. But death will take you back to the last time you stored your progress, meaning there’s often the genuine threat of losing a crucial set of resources or a hard-fought victory.

It doesn’t completely sidestep the more exhaustive side of surviving. Hunting animals uses up a lot of laboriously sourced arrows and, when you kill something, it’ll take up a chunk of the day to carve even just one of the three or four items you can get from it. Costing time translates to an increase in hunger and fatigue that makes reaping the rewards of your hunt a slightly bitter pill to swallow.

But, for every time Song in the Smoke frustrates, there are more than enough great ideas to balance it out. Status ailments are brilliantly displayed as hallucinogenic smokescreens that keep you aware of your condition without being too invasive, food can be cooked and then dried to keep it from deteriorating in your inventory, and a broken bow or club can be near-instantly replaced with the sticks at your feet. Most survival games release in Early Access and take months, if not years to find the right groove, but Song in the Smoke seems to have it right out of the gate.

And there’s evolving structure beyond that survival core. In every area of the game you’ll first have to seek out three stones that will, in turn, unlock a boss fight elsewhere in the map. These encourage you to fully explore your surroundings before learning a new technique to help you overcome new threats. Sometimes it’s as simple as crafting exploding arrows for more damage and, at others, it involves first luring a beast into a false sense of security. New areas bring new conditions that will need warmer, more defensive outfits crafted from animal pelts, and the strength of the natural resources around you will improve too.

Song in the Smoke reviewIt’s a winning formula that makes Song in the Smoke feel as much like a campaign-driven epic as it is a wide-open survival experience. It also means the game offers plenty of content – each area will likely take you at least an hour of exploring, upgrading, surviving and battling, and then there are hidden health boosts to find by risking going out at night. It’ll take you past the nine hour mark with ease unless you’re dedicated to rushing it.

Having said that, combat is one of the game’s weaker elements, let down by the enemy’s skittish AI that aims to reproduce the primal, erratic nature of, say, a hungry lion, but often ends up just having them run in circles. You also have an upgradable arrow quill that can only hold a certain amount of ammo, while the rest is stored in your pouch. I’d often find myself running out of arrows mid-fight, which doesn’t make sense when I’d have another 10 just sitting in my backpack, and the game doesn’t pause to let you restock them. I can understand why 17-Bit made the decision (if you could fire 40 arrows at will, fights would be over in no time), but this isn’t as elegant a solution as you’d hope. You also can’t swap items in your hands without dropping them, which is a little inconvenient.

What I like most, though, is the game’s admiration for its ecosystem and otherworldly heritage. Song in the Smoke is about embracing the wilderness, imagining the chill around your ankles as you hunt for fish by a waterfall or applying planning and patience to a hunt. There’s haunting beauty to each of its elements, from the way a lion slowly decays into a ghoulish husk days after a fierce battle or the ethereal appearance of boss creatures, which look like a cosmic window into the far reaches of space.

Song in the Smoke Review – Comfort

Song in the Smoke offers both smooth and teleportation-based locomotion with other comfort options for the type of turning. Though it’s a long experience, the relatively slow-paced nature makes its quite comfortable.

This carries through to the game’s plot which, while light, makes its mark with a handful of cutscenes that bind the levels together. Without spoiling anything, they’re flashbacks that are hypnotic to watch, a mix of gorgeous ritualism and tribal decoration in which you’ll struggle not to find a sight to be arrested by, be it the watchful gaze of a crow above you or the carefully-plotted choreography of an elder in action. It’s utterly engrossing.

A few bugs will break the spell, though. The game gives you three save slots and I strongly encourage you to alternate between two and keep the third for just before you start a new level – I lost about an hour’s progress when I realized one area didn’t spawn the collectables I needed to progress and I even encountered areas of the map that just straight up didn’t load if I approached from one angle, leaving me staring into a misty abyss with the resources I need just out of reach.

Song In The Smoke

Song in the Smoke Review – Final Impressions

I am, if you couldn’t tell, quite in love with Song in the Smoke, then. It’s rough, yes, and some of its design ideas need a second pass. But it’s also an intoxicating trip, an experience directly connected to the beating heart of nature and acutely aware of the structure and interaction needed to make its survival gameplay work in VR. All of this is thrown into a mortar and crushed beneath a pestle to conjure a game in which you can practically feel the slip of wet mud, scrape of scrambling over a cliff face or chill of water flowing over your feet. Like the healing potions and mystic concoctions you’ll brew, Song in the Smoke is a hell of drug.

 

 


For more on how we arrived at this rating, read our review guidelines. What did you make of our Song in the Smoke review? Let us know in the comments below!