Robo Recall

Dec. 4th, 2018 10:15 pm
davidn: (Default)
[personal profile] davidn
On Black Friday, I walked into a surprisingly calm and non-apocalyptic Best Buy (if we ignore the fact it was 7:30am) and got the last Oculus Rift off the shelf. I'd wanted to try out games and development for VR for a long time, and the experience didn't disappoint - once you've got your room set up, they have you go through an introductory scenario with a friendly little Wall-E type robot and summoning things by picking up and inserting disks, and the feeling of actually being there is truly uncanny.

I had been interested in building environments in VR through GZDoom, but the VR version of that isn't quite in a playable place yet. I had a look around for official first-person shooters for it instead and saw one by the name of Robo Recall that I could download for free because I had the Oculus Touch package. Thinking that it would be a simple sort of demo game due to its title and free status, I gave it a try. I couldn't have been more wrong about it.

To describe the feeling of playing this game is really very difficult - now that I attempt it, I don't think I can adequately convey the feeling of 2018-era VR and how different it makes things from anything I'd played before. The game opens with you standing in a scene on a futuristic city street opposite an electronics shop window, with shiny faceless servant robots milling around on various errands. A group of robots begins to gather around you as the news on the big television in the window reports gradually escalating violence among the robots and eventually the announcement of a recall. It's suddenly interrupted by a burst of images and QR codes that make the robots twitch and stutter in obvious distress, slump for a moment, and then SWIVEL TO STARE RIGHT AT YOU! It's impossible to describe the moment adequately - it sounds like such a little movement, but having it happen in 3D is so stunningly more intense than seeing it on a screen, and it got a massive scream out of me.

You're then put into the shoes of a Robo-Ready recaller hired to fix the situation and introduced to your state-of-the-art office, which is a damp basement - the game has a bit of a Portal/Five Nights at Freddy's/The IT Crowd feel to it as you wander around and go through the tutorial on how to move around. The Oculus Rift is really pretty good at tracking you if you walk around in your physical space, but for covering large distances, you teleport around with a flick of the analogue stick. You're shown how to use weapons, by grabbing a pair of pistols from your hips then pointing and shooting at some targets - and then you're teleported to a tutorial level.

This is where the game really started to defy expectations for me. You're put into the city and have to shoot waves of robots that run or fly in in a Time Crisis-style arrangement, then teleport yourself over to their location to scavenge the microchips from them. But other facets of the controls start to emerge quickly, almost by accident - during the tutorial, it's mentioned that you can also grab things. I hadn't given this much thought until by instinct I put a hand up to defend myself against a spider robot that had thrown itself at my face, and I caught it at arm's length. Then another one leapt at me as the first wriggled in protest, and I whirled it around like a shield to make them both explode in front of my face. A robot jumps down from a tall building, and you hit it with a pistol shot before it lands, juggling it in midair. Maybe you'll see another one approach out of the corner of your eye and swing your left hand around to aim at it instead, keeping them both stunned as you shoot at two of them simultaneously. After a couple of streets the game asks you to reach over your shoulders, and you grab and come back holding a pair of shotguns.

From then on, you get to star in your own futuristic remake of Devil May Cry. Your duty as a "recaller" is to blast the malfunctioning robots to pieces in as creative ways as you can imagine - you can use the pistols to take them out at a distance, shotguns if they get too close, or grab robots by their chest, head or limbs and tear them apart with your bare hands. Maybe you want to try a combination - reach out for a robot that's come up behind you, fling it in the air, pull out a shotgun and juggle it while drawing another pistol from your hip and finishing off a flying drone that has a laser pointed at you. With your ammunition for the shotgun exhausted, the recently earthbound robot makes a crunching noise as it returns to the pavement and in desperation you throw the weapon at the other assailant, hitting it and making it spin out of control, bursting in an explosion as you catch the gun on the rebound (now fully reloaded, as a bonus for scoring a hit) and whirl around to blast another wave of spider droids. Behind those, there's a pair of robots with their pistols pointed at you - as they aim, you lunge forwards towards one, grab it, tear its arm off, discard it and whack the other across the face with the stray component. And that entire paragraph has taken about two seconds in real-time. I have never felt as awesome as this while playing a game, or indeed in my entire life - the incredible stylized approach to combat makes even people of limited agility like me feel like they're Neo in The Matrix. As you might imagine, it's also absolutely exhausting, and is probably doing wonders in terms of how much exercise I'm getting.

It's made by Epic Games and the soundtrack is also fantastic - I'm not sure it's deliberate, but the electronic/metal sound is definitely evocative of their other famous robot-based title One Must Fall.

I haven't been genuinely excited about playing a game like I am with this in about three decades - the jump to VR over a game played with a mouse and keyboard is finally equal to the exciting leaps in technology that games made between the NES and SNES and then to the Playstation. It's so hugely different from anything that I've ever experienced in games before, and has brought my expectations of VR as a platform to a new level.

Date: 2018-12-05 04:09 am (UTC)
kjorteo: Screenshot of the snake from Snake, Rattle & Roll looking excited, with the caption "Hooray for video games!" (Hooray for video games!)
From: [personal profile] kjorteo
The last time I played around with VR was back in the days I got my mom to drive me into town to go to some special arcade-like building and pay admission for an X-minute session of Dactyl Nightmare.

This... I mean, obviously technology has advanced in the two decades since then but... this sounds incredible. This isn't even my genre, but you still managed to convey a level of sheer awesome that makes me kind of want to get in on this now. :D Someday..!

Date: 2018-12-05 04:21 am (UTC)
xyzzysqrl: A moogle sqrlhead! (Default)
From: [personal profile] xyzzysqrl
Oh THAT game.

THIS game.

Yeah this is the main thing I've seen that's got me actually caring about VR even a little.

Date: 2018-12-05 04:58 am (UTC)
xaq_the_aereon: I caught what? (Default)
From: [personal profile] xaq_the_aereon
Great, now I need a new console AND a truckload of Dramamine. XP

Date: 2018-12-12 05:56 pm (UTC)
tamakun: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tamakun
I got myself a Windows Mixed Reality set for Black Friday as well -- from what I've played (First Contact, Bullet Train) it definitely feels like the next jump in gameplay :D

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