Dead Moon perfectly captures everything that was great about the original Doom. I don’t mean in the carbon copy kind of way. Because this is 2017 and just remaking a game from the early 90’s simply wouldn’t work. The music and color pallet of doom worked well back in the day but would come across as silly to today’s audience. No, this is more like the developer got into my teenage head when I was playing doom on an old 486 back in 1995 and said “Now let’s make something that will create all of those feelings”.
Where Dead Moon does stay close to it’s inspiration is in basic mechanics. This is a full, free movement VR game, none of that wave shooter nonsense that’s fun for 15 seconds but wears thin the longer you play it. Teleportation is available as well as sliding movement which works in an interesting way. Pushing forwards on the Oculus joystick or Vive trackpad starts you moving, and you move in the direction the controller is pointed, while the angle from the floor adjusts the speed. If you point it down at the ground you move very slowly, direct the controller straight ahead and you will being to run. It’s quite natural and probably very helpful for those who suffer motion sickness, but still want the full freedom of movement. Thankfully, for those of us who don’t have sickness issues the developer recently announced that the next patch will also include full joystick directional movement.
Classic FPS elements are here also, you have to collect ammo, health and shields. No magic healing while you hide behind cover or teleporting bullets out of thin air. Health and ammo are resources that must be managed, scrounged for, rewarding exploration. It’s welcome and refreshing change from all the hand-holding simplification that seems all to common in VR. Don’t get me wrong, we all love a bit of Robo Recall, but playing DM reminds me of what I’ve been missing. Just having to keep an eye on health, having to consider carefully which weapon to use and which precious type of ammo to save is a simple but effective way to create a layer of realism.
It also completely changes level structure for the better. Robo Recall had nice open levels with back streets and corners to explore, or at least I think it did. I never bothered to check any of them, and why would you? All the robots come right too you and there is nothing to collect, no secret ammo dumps. Dead Moon has branching corridors, large open rooms, platforms and trenches, locked doors and secret walls. It’s just great to have enough freedom to let you make touch decision. Is it worth exploring that next room, or will I get eviscerated by some kind of frightening new tentacle monster? Is there a massive stash of ammo at the bottom of that scary pit or just a swarm of daemons? It all seems so basic and simple but it’s missing from so many VR games nowadays.
Dead Moon scares the crap out of you. Every time I started it up I would feel like a big man ready to take on the horde. Within minutes I would be backpedaling down a hallway fidgeting to find a weapon with a decent amount of ammo loaded while some writhing mass of flesh and eyes clambered towards me. The monster design is pretty
awesome, like a mix of daemons, aliens and Dr Who monsters, except with more legs. But even better is the sound and lighting, there is always a torch at the end of the controller but it’s a narrow beam and the horrors can attack from any angle. There is no music, only the constant creaks moans and shorting electrics of a broken down space station. Lights flicker off exactly when you don’t want them too and there is almost always the telltale noises of monsters in the next room to keep you on your toes. Every single session with this game would turn me into a sweaty mess, and it’s mid-winter where I live.
Working Out the Kinks
Being early access though it is still a little rough around the edges. Mercury Aerospace is only a small developer and Dead Moon is obviously a labor of love but there are a few bugs and spelling mistakes around the place. Movement can be a bit clunky, try to get too close to a wall or object and you will be awkwardly pushed away. Monsters are completely flummoxed by doors and the splash damage from explosive barrels can apparently turn corners, a harsh lesson. Boss battles are not quite as fun as the rest of the game, while they are gigantic and scary, they are little more than giant bullet sponges. Fighting the bosses is simply a case of keep shooting while running backwards. But by the time of publishing this review the game will only have been in early access for a few weeks so time will tell how much of this changes.
For $10, I would highly recommend this game to anyone. It’s not big on story but it has atmosphere to spare. The sound design, models and textures are all of a level of quality you would expect from a AAA studio. You will understand what I mean as soon as you fire the basic pistol in the loading screen. It has a really satisfying animation and barks like a rabid dog. Simple things like satisfying gun sounds might seem basic but many games still stuff it up. Dead Moon however does it perfectly, firing the weapons is so much fun it makes finding hidden ammo all the more satisfying. Even if you don’t enjoy basic shooters the $10 price would be worth it just to see your friends crap their pants the first time the walk into a room full of daemons. Good times.
- Classic FPS fun
- Loads of atmosphere
- Awesome guns
- Basic traditional gameplay
- Thin story
- Bit rough around the edges