Landfall is just the right combination of familiar yet different. A clever mix of the best parts of a few different genres, it’s equal parts twin stick mayhem and hardcore RTS. On the one hand, you only control one character and there is no need to micro manage the other troops. One the other hand, you have to constantly pay attention to those troops and work with them to take, and hold new ground. They know what to do, as they should, but require your superior abilities to advance on the battlefield.
Even though you are Superior, the grunts carry generic machine guns and you have a fantastic array of Sci-Fi death cannons at your disposal. In each mission you have a specific set of load outs available, each with a different weapon, special ability and a Mech suit you can summon (more on that later). You can switch between these load outs any time by returning to the drop zone. Among your arsenal are sniper rifles, chain guns, plasma cannons and even skeletonizing laser rays. Special abilities come in many flavors too, from temporary invisibility to airstrikes to a charged lighting field that wipes out everything in a radius, there are many ways to bring death and destruction, and they are all equally spectacular.
Sci-Fi Waterworld with Fireworks
One thing that really caught me off guard about Landfall is the eye candy. I expected tactical action sure, but I never thought a top down game would be this good graphically. The back story is basically a more logical version of Waterworld; rising sea levels pushed humanity to the brink, clustered around the tiny spots of remaining land where a new fuel was discovered deep within the earth. Great walls (like 200 stories great) were erected to hold back the ocean so this ‘Tar’ could be mined. These walls are epic curved structures, you tower high above the battlefield yet they tower above you.
Within the walls you will find lush jungles, ruined desert cities and massive caverns, it all serves as a beautiful backdrop to the intense Sci-Fi battles. The whole thing looks and sounds amazing, hovercopters buzzing overhead while everything constantly explodes in flashes of colored light. The orange sun of reflecting off the metallic bodies of APCs as they kick up dust and dump reinforcements into the fray. Each battle is concluded with the winning side shooting sparkling fireworks into the air to declare victory.
Don’t expect those fireworks to always be the color of your team, this is a hardcore game that requires quick thinking and strategic planning. You need to pick your targets wisely and chose the best angle of attack. You need to take cover often, wait for your troops to catch up and help them dig in. That new base will be overrun as quickly as it was acquired if you leave your men high and dry. There are also grenades to consider and the aforementioned Mech suits. These babies can be dropped in anywhere withing a certain range of you character and can turn the tide of war.
Each mech has a different load out, either complementing or simply enhancing the abilities of the character load out they are tied to. Plonk one right in the middle of an enemy base to crush a few goons then jump aboard and mop up the rest. They can also be deployed as a turret in certain locations, giving you a first person view and the ability to take down fliers. A wellcome change of perspective though somewhat under utilized in the campaign.
Each side has a set number of re-enforcements for each battle, if your character dies it costs 10 units to respawn and when the number of one side reaches 0 the battle is lost and that side retreats. Mission objectives are a bit different for each battle, besides the standard extermination or defense victory you will also need to hold positions in order to triangulate air strikes, capture sensitive data and return it to base and sabotage enemy installations.
Gamepad v. Touch Controller Play
As you might expect being a twin stick shooter, Landfall is a gamepad based game. You can use the joysticks and buttons on the touch controllers, but I don’t recommend it. It can be difficult to know which way your hands are pointed and aiming is not relative to the controllers position. The extra strong vibration of the Xbone controllers is also used well within the game. This might seem like a brave move for Force Field games but as immersive as motion control, it will never be right for every game.
The other features of VR have been used well. The ‘God’ viewpoint is rather unique among VR games and the sensation is hard to describe, but very satisfying. Many abilities like grenades and airstrikes are aimed by looking with the headset which adds another layer of freedom to the already flexible twin stick shooter gameplay. Running one way while shooting and throwing grenades in different directions can require a bit of concentration, but it works quite naturally and it’s great fun.
There are places where Landfall could have used a little more polish. The story feels under developed, it would have been nice to learn more about this world. The pre-mission area is a bit drab and static, the same can be said for the briefings you receive there. Something about about evil general so-and-so wanting to take all the unobtainium etc., go explode X and capture Y. And after the great intro video the simple credit roll at the end was a bit of a let down.
Really though, can’t recommend Landfall enough, I haven’t had so much fun in a top down view since MechCommander. Very few VR titles offer a fully fledged 15 hour story campaign and brilliant multiplayer. The ability to team up with others allows for some really awesome collaborative tactics and the 12 unique loadouts (with more on the way) give verses mode a great rock-paper-scissors style meta-game. While there’s not a terrible lot of meat to the story it does take place in a vividly realized and wholly unique world. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking Landfall because you can’t see your hands, not every VR game should be a first person wave shooter.
Final Score 9/10: The best gamepad VR game since Chronos.
- Unique perspective for VR
- Solid tactics with a steady learning curve
- The best explosions in VR
- Story’s a bit thin
- Some enemies are hard to counter (looking at you flamers)
- May not appeal to motion control die-hards