Developer: three one zero LLC
Publisher: 505 Games
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Score: A (90%)
If you’re one who normally plays games on a smaller screen laptop or monitor, ADR1FT is most likely going to make you want a bigger screen as soon as possible. Of course, I’m saying this as someone whose first introduction to the experience was back when it was running on another engine and 505 Games premiered an early console and PC VR demo in a movie theater where on the big screen the scope was quite impressive indeed. That scale is far more thrilling with the complete overhaul/upgrade to the Unreal 4 Engine, but it works best on the biggest display you can get even if it means popping over to a friend’s place to show off the finished product.
Forget the “walking simulator” labels the game is getting from the limited vocabulary crowd, throw out your science degrees or overly critical eye for complete accuracy (it’s a videogame, NOT a NASA sim), strap yourself in and prepare for a quietly wild ride. ADR1FT is less of a straight adventure game and more of a deliberately paced and tension filled trip into space where survival is key if only to discover how it all ends. The game works as both a visual treat for the eyes as well as a great example of the promise of virtual reality as a viable entertainment option (provided you currently own or plan to buy one of the VR headsets being hard marketed this year).
As Commander Alex Oshima, your task is to survive and find a way home after the space station you’re in is destroyed while above the earth. With a damaged space suit that requires her to find a constant supply of air until working repair stations are found, the game also tasks you with optionally locating personal logs and other effects of the deceased crew members, some of which make for poignant reading matter.
Yes, there are a number of similarities to the film Gravity that can’t be ignored. But it’s more a case of the game’s creators having the idea for their game and its setting seemingly not knowing a film with similar thematic elements was also in production. There’s actually more of a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe in terms of the visual style that takes Kubrick’s attention to detail and makes it an interactive experience. Playing ADR1FT will take about two to three times longer than both films and as it goes in an entirely different direction (despite there being no set up or down in space, ha!), it’s best to avoid direct comparisons to either.
There’s a brief EVA Training tutorial that’s worth replaying a few times if you’ve more used to games where traditional ground-based movement with normal gravity. Fortunately the game supports traditional WASD + mouse commands as well as the Xbox 360 controller, although both control methods will have their pluses and minuses to some players. For the record, BOTH work exceptionally well and as there’s nothing to shoot, pinpoint accuracy shouldn’t be much of a problem for most gamers. Alex interacts with objects when you hold down the interact button or key, but you need to be aware that she’ll sometimes miss an item if you’re moving too quickly. Initially, air canisters are your major thing to grab, but as noted, repair stations and personal objects of the crew can also be picked up. The game’s major grab and interact mechanics show up soon enough in the form of getting information cards to certain computers throughout the station wreckage in order to power up certain important systems.
There’s a mapping system that highlights important objects you can interact with and its your job to figure out the best way to get from point A to B and beyond. The disorientation from the lack of gravity is something you need to deal with at first and eventually get used to because every second matters. Running out of air is of course, not a good thing. Thankfully, the generous checkpoint system never leaves you too far back and in fact, retrying a failed room or area can often reveal an item you might have missed in a panic to grab an air canister. Since the game was released, a few patches have added features with one update allowing players to go back and replay levels with unlimited air and explore at their leisure. While it’s a nice touch, it takes all the tension out of the game. Thankfully it’s not accessible from the start, but it is a great way to get someone not into games to try one out for the stunning visuals.
As noted (and as you can see from the screens here), this is one mighty gorgeous game and it’s quite well optimized overall. The minimum frame rate is 60fps and all users can swing that up a bit by disabling VSYNC and adjusting a slider on the options screen. While I don’t currently own a VR headset, my time with a few demo builds in the past made me see that the game is a perfect entry point for anyone curious about the tech who wants a game that looks great and is a bit unconventional. As far as the music goes, there’s a haunting piano score and a bit of classical music to add mood (which means some really picky gamers despise the soundtrack). Sound effects are seemingly minimalist; Alex’s breathing and other noises she makes, her suit gently to violently bumping into things while boosting, the assorted voices on audio logs and so forth and so on. But taken as a whole the sound design is excellent, conveying a proper feeling of loneliness, panic and yes, the stunning beauty of the earth as seen from that wrecked station.
Complaints are minimal on this end, although the community has seen fit to voice all sorts of gripes, a few of which have been addressed via patches while others are getting ignored because they’re flat out nonsensical. Bitching about a game having a double shot of DRM to prevent piracy isn’t a legitimate complaint (yes, it’s the old “If I can’t steal your game NOW, how can I BUY it later?” argument, something that’s always bugged me to no end). Sure, a brief demo of some sort would have been nice, but there’s been MORE than enough press about the game that even the most eye-patchy pro piracy wag should have read about the game months ago and made up his or her mind. That and the game is short enough that a demo might spoil things (unless it was just the EVA training part extended into about a half-hour experience). Yeah, that’s a whole can of worms of an article to do in the future, but I’m more interested in playing good games than dealing with people who never buy games because they get them all for free and think it’s absolutely fine if they do.
Amusingly enough, this review was done with a Steam code courtesy 505 Games, but I’m not any sort of hypocrite as this is what I do on a daily basis. That and I’d have bought this game anyway even if I didn’t get a code thanks to those older builds and what I’ve seen and read about the game elsewhere. Anyway, I’m not here to debate semantics, I’m here to say ADR1FT is a spectacular game experience that will linger in your mind well after you’ve completed it.