With Virtual Reality slowly but surely making its way (once again, but new and improved – “this time for sure, presto!”) to gaming and other entertainment experiences, it’ll be the early games that will be the ones that make or break the format. Granted, common sense says new experiences aren’t going to be flawless and in terms of games, technical bumps and grinds are commonplace for first wave software. That said, VR needs to be as flawless as possible so any complaints are rendered mostly moot and allow developers to strut their stuff from the get-go as they start off with good games and make them better as time marches on.
Three One Zero Games’ ADR1FT is looking like it’ll be not only a go-to game for those dipping a toe into the VR pool, but also an experience non-VR using gamers looking for something impressive to play and show off should dive into. Since my last time with the both VR and non-VR enabled versions of the game way back in March, the dev team has made some major changes to the visuals and tightened up the gameplay even more. Thanks to Unreal Engine 4 and some mighty programming skills, the level of detail here is even more astounding. This is especially noticeable in the PC version, where using an Oculus Rift headset I spent about half an hour floating around and checking out as much of the destroyed space station as I could while keeping as close to air canisters and air supply points as possible.
The glorious view outside (which you’ll be seeing from in and out of the wreckage) has also undergone an overhaul, now showing a darker Earth that adds a slightly creepier tone to the exploration elements. Despite this not being a high adrenaline shooter or action game, there’s a definite sense of tension and urgency as you make your way through the ruins discovering bits and pieces of your crew’s possessions. The definite sense of finality blends with a bit of mystery with each recording, photo or other piece of the bigger puzzle revealed. The somewhat random nature of gravity and the assorted objects floating about sometimes getting away or being overlooked mean some players will miss items on that first play through. It’ll certainly be interesting to see videos and FAQs that point out where items are and what information they hold, but it’s also a given that survival will be the instinct that overtakes many who pick up that controller.
As for motion sickness? Nope, not a hair of it for this writer. I deliberately spent more time with those Rift goggles on just to see how long I could stand it and came away impressed. The sole caveat was having to slowly stand up and regain my footing after my weightless time because it truly does feel as if you’re off your feet in the game. The combination of no preset up, down or any other direction meant I had to rely on signage and the camera rotating to the “proper” position when interacting with air and repair units. Other than that, the game relies on your own sight and head tracking when using the Rift. The console and Rift-less versions play more traditionally but can still be accurately disorienting until you see the beauty of how replicating zero gravity works for what’s here. That said, I’ll let the science geeks tackle the fun dissection of the game after they get to play it. I know they’ll be all over anything they find inaccurate, but I’d bet a dime they’ll have fun while they’re fiddling with those slide rules.
The game was initially set for a September 2015 launch, but has been delayed until Q1 2016 in order to get if fully ready for Rift and/or HTC Vive users (and perhaps Sony’s Morpheus or whatever it’s going to be called). While no date on any of that VR hardware is 100% locked down, it’s clear from the demo that Three One Zero intends their first game to be a showpiece made to assure VR isn’t just a big expensive gimmick du jour. Probably the best thing about the game is its non-violent approach to problem solving means it’s suitable for just about anyone who can hold a controller. Well, provided they’re not afraid of heights, truly w-i-d-e open space(s) and the feeling of weightlessness provided by VR. It’s also a certainty that both VR proponents and adherents to less peripheral-enabled gameplay experiences will be debating which version of the game is “superior”. But let’s lay a bet that Three One Zero cares more that you’re buying their gorgeous work in any form it comes in.