Virtual Reality was not supposed to take this long to happen. Movies in the 80’s said it was right around the corner. Then when the first 3D games came out in the 90’s everyone thought it would be the obvious next step. Any way you cut it 2016 is way too late, VR effectively missed it’s own hype train.
Epic games, or for the purposes of this review I feel I should refer to them by their 90’s name, Epic Megagames, is pretending this never happened.
Robo Recall is an absolute blast from the past. The synth and high flying guitar soundtrack is Epic. The hypercolor smashcut opening screen is Epic. The menus, high scores, and DJ voice over eschew the seriousness of modern games in favor of high speed high color 90’s video arcade fun.
Robo Recall: Truly Emergent Gameplay
Everything in Robo Recall is remarkably intuitive, you never need to think of what to do next. This does not mean the gameplay is shallow, in fact it has enough depth to allow for some truly emergent gameplay. Out of ammo? Throw you gun at the nearest bot, he dropped his gun as a result? Grab it, use it to smash him over the head then spend the remaining ammo to taking out the one behind him. You can use your guns to deflect bullets, or chuck your guns and grab those bullets right out of the air and throw them back. You can grab onto the back of bots while they scream “Why, why do we have handles!?” and tear them limb from limb, then use those limbs to assail more bots, the choices are endless.
It’s also laugh out loud funny, the combo bonuses, the bosses, even the friendly AI in your ear all feature the same brilliant tongue in cheek humor. I died a few times just shaking my head at the ridiculous boss dialog. Destroying bots is referred to as ‘recalling’ while on other missions you have to collect bots by hurling them into a vacuum vortex while their clueless little AI minds try to contemplate what is happening. Bonuses are awarded for nearly everything, juggling enemies in the air with gunfire, long range head shots and melee kills are all rewarded highly. And everything charges a score multiplier encouraging you keep the pace up at all times.
Teleportation and Movement
The movement system is of the teleportation variety but here if feels a lot more natural and a lot less restrictive. There are no node points you have to teleport to and the levels have a lot of verticality, car roofs, awnings even building tops nothing is out of reach. Teleporting also has a cool down forcing you to be strategic, at least until you get some upgrades. If you still don’t want to teleport then fear not, Epic are officially supporting mods and there is already a full locomotion mod. Weapons are also very upgradable with everything from laser sights to exploding teleport reloading like the awesome Tedior weapons from Borderlands.
Game and Campaign Duration
The length is rather good for a VR game, I knocked over the main campaign in about 8 hours, but that being said my save file is only 26% complete. Each level has a stack of cool achievements and unlocking all the upgrades will no doubt take some serious playtime. Even without these incentives re-playability is very high, the free form emergent game play is completely engrossing, I had to tear myself away just to write this. All I can think about right now is going back in to attempt a complete melee only run.
Epic are the creators of the Unreal engine and it is on full display here. Weapons, enemies, and scenery all have a stunning level of detail. On high settings nothing has loss of focus, everything from distant skyscrapers to trashcans are rendered with the same amount of care, and the depth perception particularly of distant objects is better than any other VR game I have played. Shaders make the metal bodies of the robos glimmer in the sunlight and particle effects constantly fill the air around you with sparks and debris. If you though the tech demos leading up to Robo Recall, Showdown and Bullet Train looked good, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
If I could level and criticism at all it would be at the limited locations. Almost the entire game takes place in three similar looking city areas. These areas are filled with nooks and crannies and finding all the vantage points is fun enough but it would have been nice to have a change of scenery, even once. Hopefully the modding community steps in to fill the gap. Similarly there are only a handful of weapons, though they can be customized enough to change the way you use them. Minor criticisms really, because when gameplay is this perfect you rarely ever notice or care, you are always just thinking of new and creative ways to ‘recall’ the next bot.
So does Robo Recall deserve the status of ‘First Triple-A VR game’ claimed by it’s developer? Yes, and then some. Only time will tell if this is the one game that will convert non-believers, but it’s hard to imagine going back to an ‘old school’ shooter after my weekend in Robo City. Even simple things like not having to reach for a holster are starting to seem primitive. Call of Duty and Battlefield are great, but they will never compare to the sensation of actually holding a weapon or physically dodging bullets. If you friends come over to try VR, have them try this first.
Final Score 10/10 – The definitive VR experience.
- The good
• Exhilarating gameplay
• Mod support
- The Bad
• Limited locations
• Oculus exclusive
• You haven’t played it yet?