If you're a regular reader here at Opium Pulses, you might remember a few series of game reviews we did following the release of the Oculus Quest, we reviewed a total of 70 games for the platform and intended to keep going! For this episode, we saved up some of our most anticipated titles to kick us off.
Now that the Oculus Quest 2 has been out for a few months we figured we'd pick one up ourselves and review games played exclusively on the new headset. Everything we review in this series will be played and tested on our brand new Quest 2, so all pros and cons should be considered.
Let’s start in alphabetical order, simply ‘cause it's prettier…
Blair Witch: Oculus Quest Edition
The Oculus Quest version of Blair Witch isn’t entirely the same game if you’ve played the PCVR version before, now a little more linear and focusing more on story-telling and your interaction with your canine friend ‘Bullet’. We won’t dive into big spoilers but the story starts with you joining the hunt for a missing child in a forest, finding clues and oddities along the way (for some reason completely alone). Before beginning you can choose the colour of your dog’s fur and collar, you’re with him right from the beginning and can pet him and give him basic commands. In the beginning, he will almost continuously bark to help guide your direction, which can be quite irritating if you’re trying to take your time and take in your surroundings by exploring a little. But this is less of a problem later in the game.
Before any of the really horrific experiences kick off the games teases you with what it’s capable of. Shaking and blurring your vision, killing your flashlight, separating you from your companion and the intensity of ambient sounds and music shooting your anxiety through the roof. Another really great way the game sets the atmosphere is by changing how your dog communicates, if something isn’t right Bullet will change his stance and whimper in anticipation. Having just got a puppy recently, I know exactly how my dog sounds and looks when he is nervous or anxious and they absolutely nailed that in Bullet. His animations can sometimes be a little janky on certain terrain but he is designed well enough to have a genuine character in-game, you certainly grow to appreciate and depend on his company over time, especially when things get rough.
The voice acting is decent enough that the characters are believable and easy to relate to, arguments actually sound torn and passionate and emails, texts and radio chatter fleshes out the overarching story, the in-game mobile phone is fully functioning and even has a playable version of Snake! Blair Witch is a truly terrifying experience that uses psychological methods of raising your heartbeat over visual ones and we think more horror games should take this approach. There’s much more to be scared of in the unknown and although it doesn’t quite match the realism or intensity of the original film, it does get pretty close. Our main downsides would be the graphics, which border on the terrible at times, with flat blankets of 2D foliage sprites swaying all around you, really breaking immersion. Aside from that, we believe more horror games need this type of world-building and storytelling, Blair Witch scares us into rating it a…
Espire 1: VR Operative
We looked this game up on Steam first to check out some videos and screenshots etc and were concerned to find the game had only mixed reviews. The game looked as though it could be great from what we saw and so we were hoping to have a different experience, and luckily, we did! Espire 1 can be described as having Metal Gear Solid and Hitman influences, with some strong Robocop/Terminator vibes. Your role as a Spy is to take control of a mechanical operative via Virtual Reality (yes, this is VR inside VR!) to traverse and complete objectives in various areas, all while either remaining fully undetected or by gunning down all the threats.
Movement in-game has been fine-tuned to reduce sickness, but for those with VR legs of steel, full locomotion is beautifully implemented. For those who have played classic Metal Gear Solid or to an extent, Hitman, will understand the stealth mechanics used instantly. Stay out of sight, remain quiet (literally), or face detection followed by a shower of incoming bullets raining down on you. You have the use of futuristic spy technology at your disposal and can tranquilise and drag enemies to darkened corridors to prevent guards from being alerted to your presence. It feels good to clear a space that was once swarming with guards and security without a single eye laying its, eye, on you.
What the game did leave us with was the sadness that it didn’t last all that long, if you’re good on your feet, can solve the odd puzzle and can aim a weapon pretty well, you’ll be done in just a number of hours. However, there are side objectives that you can complete by replaying missions and high scores to compete for that could easily increase the game’s length by at least a few more hours. Another positive is that the graphics are solid, easily some of the best the Quest has to offer, although texture-popping can be noticed at times. Generally, the game is a nice change of pace and a welcome addition to the Quest line-up and easily sneaks in a score of…
House Flipper VR
We had high expectations going into this one, the non-VR PC version is incredibly well-rated and loved and seemed like the natural choice for a virtual reality adaption. We’re saddened to say we were kind of disappointed with the outcome. The basic concept is that in order to earn enough cash to buy and sell houses, you need to do odd jobs for other people in their own homes. Cleaning up mess, watering plants, changing furniture, decorating, that sort of thing. It feels almost like the cross between The Sims build-mode and Viscera Cleanup Detail, if both those games were kind of lazily slapped together and not all that well-polished. Extra cleaning and decorating tools plus more items in the shop for you to place in houses are opened up as you progress, plus points to spend on upgrading your equipment.
The game can feel calming and almost therapeutic when you aren’t becoming frustrated with the controls or gameplay. This is highlighted by accidentally picking up furniture instead of opening a drawer, as the line between handle and object itself is so thin, unless you’re perfectly steady you’ll find yourself moving things around against your will. This coupled with incredibly slow snap turning, not being able to turn at all whilst holding certain objects and the tutorial telling you to teleport regardless of the control method you’re using can verge on meltdown-inducing. The cleaning, regardless of seated or standing modes can feel at times a little too much like real cleaning, lots of bending over and stretching to reach certain objects. There are no crouch or jump buttons that we could find?
It seems that after a lot of work, you can start to buy, renovate and sell houses – but nowhere near on the same scale as the non-VR version, a version which also sports MUCH higher texture quality, despite the Quest being capable of so much more. We think if you really enjoy turning cesspit houses into bright and welcoming homes, you may be able to look beyond the flaws and have an enjoyable time, it certainly seems to have enough content to keep you busy for some time – just don’t neglect your own home in the process! We feel bad rating House Flipper VR so low as it has so much potential to be a unique and enjoyable experience, but the lack of polish and generally poorly thought-out controls is just too much for us to ignore. House Flipper VR leaves some of the rooms in desperate need of love untouched and scores a…
I Expect You To Die
The developers named this game pretty honestly, you will die, a lot. But less in a frustrating way and more in an ‘okay, I now know what to do next time!’ sort of way. I Expect You To Die is a charming and humorous puzzle game in which you play the role of a secret agent, performing dangerous operations and nail-biting escapes. The graphics are stunning, each item is beautifully crafted to feel like a real-world object, almost everything is interactive and some of the puzzles even felt like they had multiple ways they could have been completed, plus side objectives to tick off your list if and when you decide to re-do any missions.
The game is punishingly hard but somehow you always seem to learn something important before you die, helping you to progress further and further each time until everything clicks in to place and you complete the level. The controls are so intuitive and nothing feels too clunky or complicated to interact with. The spoken dialogue is quirky and funny and really sets the stage for the atmosphere of each task. We’re not huge fans of puzzle games, but I Expect You To Die is so perfectly put together that it gives you just enough information and items to toy with for you to progressively work out what needs to be done, you feel great when it all comes together, even if you died ten times getting there!
Our biggest issue (which is saying something, considering how small it is) is that for a title focused on seated gameplay, there doesn’t seem to be an option for snap-turning, which we always find kind of sad when we think of how someone with a lower-body disability would play the game, or even just someone in a static chair (like us), sometimes reaching for items on the far edges of our view or trying to throw money into the street, is impossible without back-straddling your chair… don’t judge us! That along with the fact the game doesn’t feature a great deal of missions overall, holds it back a few points, but for the most part this is an incredible puzzle game that really sets the VR standard. I Expect You To Die solves most of the genre’s issues and sneaks in an impressive…
In Death: Unchained
What started as a PCVR title has now spawned a Quest version which sets the bar for realistic and ultra-hard rogue-likes. You’ll progress through procedurally generated levels of gothic stone castles and cathedrals restricted to bows and crossbows to defend yourself against various enemies, from zombies, castle knights, witches to hooded archers, so keeping a distance from enemies and honing your skills is important if you don’t want to become surrounded, you will, however, have the use of a shield to block upcoming attacks and projectiles. The graphics are some of the best you will find on the Quest and just show incredible care and attention to detail, although we would have liked to see some more organic locations such as forests and the like.
There’s the main campaign that will push you through longer and harder levels with increasing enemies to take on, using coins you’ve earned along the way to buy upgrades and health etc. Then there’s a tower-defence mode where you have to take down waves of enemies before they reach a gate. The bow mechanics are some of the best you can find in any VR game and really take some practice to perfect, but because this is your only option to defend yourself your arms can start to feel very tired, particularly if you aren’t a great shot, as you’ll need at least one of your arms extended to a point in order to keep firing arrows. This will likely be your weakest arm as arrows are shot with your main hand. It’s a shame there wasn’t a way swordplay or environment manipulation could be implemented to diversify the combat a little.
While most fans of archery or hardcore rogue-likes will find something to really appreciate in this game, there was one major factor that really held us back from properly enjoying ourselves… The movement, the game supports full locomotion and teleporting (via special arrows), however it's so slow that it verges on painful to play this way. With enough practice you could easily fly around the map via teleporting at crazy speeds, so we have no idea why people who prefer locomotion have been restricted in such a way. We can only believe that if locomotion was at the very least doubled in speed, this game would be an absolute blast to play and not feel like a pensioner’s medieval archery lesson. Because of that the overall score sadly takes a bit of a hit. In Death: Unchained draws, aims, fires and only just misses the bullseye, scoring a…
Right out of the gate people should know that Onward is an online military simulator and aims to realistically portray guns, equipment and combat. This is not just a Call of Duty or Battlefield game in VR, you will be thrown into the vicious deep end of shooter brutality earlier on, even in co-operative missions, the AI are merciless and if you don't think tactically or refuse to co-operative with your teammates, you will likely be one of the first to die. If this still sounds like your kind of thing then Onward is certainly a game to watch, with its cross-platform multiplayer and various solo, PVP and co-operative game modes there is more than enough here to justify your hard-earned money.
Now it should be noted that Onward, at least for the Quest, is in a form of early access, so many aspects of the game are lacking polish or refinement. We experienced many bugs and issues while playing, such as games not being able to be started, joining empty servers that no one would ever join, people dying as soon as the game starts and also noticeably rough edges to the game’s presentation; the walking animation is laughably bad, night time maps make it near impossible to see the difference between friend and foe and just graphically the game is pretty ugly and bland (the Quest is capable of so much more). Any number of these issues and more, however, could well be ironed out over time as the game progresses towards completion.
While not necessary the game’s fault, the community can also come across as very toxic at times, particularly to new or low skilled players, which is probably made more intense by the fact that hardcore military sim fans are being matched with more casual run-and-gunners, I heard at least a few arguments where this was for sure the route of the tension. If you have thick skin this might not be an issue. There is slowly starting to emerge more competition for the space this type of experience occupies on the Quest but having laid the groundwork this early, its entirely conceivable that Onward could absolutely dominate the genre and bring tactical shooters for VR into the limelight. It has a long way to go, but the stuff it does right it does incredibly well, for now, Onward scores itself a…
Virtual Reality isn’t yet known for being the ideal home for Battle Royale games, but Population: One might be paving the way for this. Each game starts with a maximum of six quads of three players (18 in total), each gliding or falling to their desired place on the map. The mapwill reduce in size every 30-60 seconds, giving small but gradual damage to anyone who remains outside of it. You need to gather guns, shields and item pickups before engaging in any fights but if you are killed before you’re able to stock up you can ghost walk to your squadmates who can revive you with defibrillators. Each game lasts roughly 10-15 minutes depending on how long the last few squads survive and you’re given the option to spectate or send friend request before leaving the game.
While Population: One does have anti-sickness features, the game is at its most fun when you can run and fly around with full locomotion, but this is hardcore stuff and will take a few sessions for new players to get to grips with. Once you do, however, it is more than worth it! Although the mechanics of climbing, flying, switching guns, manual reloading, eating and particularly defibrillating can be a little clumsy and overwhelming at first, once it all starts to click your sessions will become more and more enjoyable, especially if you’re able verbally to communicate with your squad and cover each other’s backs. Since the sessions are small, annoying people, children and trolls are out of your hair in good time and those that you enjoy the company of, can easily be sent friend and squad invites to play more with. It’s actually a lot more approachably social than some social-specific games are, as those tend to force you to engage with brats on a much more regular and lengthy basis.
Our negatives could probably be seen as pretty picky but we don’t think the game is perfect by a longshot and some real polish and patches could help the game feel a lot more fluid. The graphics are simply ugly in some areas, medium distant patches of grass just look like blurry green blobs and textures, in general, are pretty basic. The play area is pretty large and open so this might be a limitation of the Quest hardware, but any improvements in this area would help build immersion. We also feel climbing could be a little more streamlined, automating ladder climbing or adding a grappling hook might be a nice way to speed up traversing the map, manual climbing is a nice gimmick early on but soon grates on your patience, especially when being shot or escaping the collapsing zones. We’re also not massively keen on microtransactions in a paid-for (and fairly expensive) game, even if they are just for cosmetics. But, so far this is the best game of its type in VR and we hope to see it improve over time. Population: One battles its way to a score of…
Allow us to start off by saying there can and should be more than one major rhythm game to alone justify the existence of Virtual Reality. Everyone has heard of BeatSaber but Synth Riders in our opinion blows that game out of the water in almost every meaningful way. The simple description is your hands are represented by glowing metallic balls that you need to swing and drift to the rhythm of the music in correspondence with the orbs and lines coming towards you. It sounds painfully dull and overdone, but the polish and tight as all hell gameplay make you feel incredible as you slowly increase your rhythmic skillset.
The base game has over 50 songs from a variety of genres, and not the variety that a lot of rhythm games claim to have, when in reality they mean just 4 different types of EDM - No, Synth Riders features solid songs from dance, to disco, to heavy metal – yes, this rhythm game actually has the balls to put in aggressive and heavy rock tracks, that are actually enjoyable to “dance” along to. While at times the game can just feel like box-ticking in terms of hitting as many notes as possible, at times when you gain your confidence and can complete a track fluidly, the note-mapping is done well enough that you genuinely feel like you’re dancing, legs and all - and not just with the grandpa at a wedding moves you’ve been accustomed to!
It’s hard to explain what makes certain VR rhythm games work but just trust us, it doesn’t get much better than what is offered in Synth Riders. If you’re a die-hard BeatSaber fan, we’re still convinced you'll have room in your fanboy heart to let some Synth Riders in, you won’t be disappointed. The multiplayer, although simple, works just fine and the cross-platform scoreboards are a nice touch too; I just wish I could pin my Steam friends’ high-scores. Our only downside would be the janky way the game reacts when loading songs or between menu transitions, with graphical glitches and horribly distorted voice chat it just isn’t a pleasant experience, this part needs some serious polish. Synth Riders dances its way up the high-scores and lands itself a…
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
The Walking Dead franchise has not always had such a smooth road in its transition to video games, at least not outside of its Telltale Games debut in 2012. It was starting to feel like the license was cursed and I think in a way that is what has helped many appreciate Saints & Sinners all the more once it finally released. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a survival horror game down to the core, you’ll sneak, scavenge and fight your way tooth and nail through the zombie saturated city of New Orleans, interacting and making alliances (or enemies) with human NPCs along the way. Sometimes getting away by the skin of your teeth before the streets are awash with a sudden surge of groaning deadites.
The looting, scraping and crafting aspects of the game are perfectly implemented and give you the sense that every item has an important purpose, whether it be scrap to help craft your next milestone, or just supplies to help keep you alive from trip to trip. Each walker, while slow-moving and brain dead, feels like a genuine threat if encountered in the wrong place at the wrong time. Your weapons degrade and you’re tasked with constantly managing your equipment to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed. The weight and impact of the melee weapons are incredibly satisfying to use, force needs to be considered if you want to do more than just scratch walkers that are surrounding you and won’t leave the cavity of a decomposing head without some encouragement!
While we have games like Arizona Sunshine and Death Horizon on the Oculus Quest, these are much more casual and arcadey experiences, TWD: S&S, on the other hand, is a full and weighty campaign with impressive graphics and textures, full voice acting, a fleshed-out looting and crafting system and a dense and detailed world to explore. It’s a wonder the game can run on the Quest 2, least of all the original Quest - finally more than the wave shooters we’ve become used to. If you are a fan of horror survival games, want a VR game that is more than just a tech demo or you’re interested in finally seeing what a decent Walking Dead game can bring to the table, we can’t recommend The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners more highly. Sadly, it doesn’t have any multiplayer or co-op of any kind, which is a real missed opportunity. TWD: S&S loots enough points to earn itself a…
Until You Fall
Sorry guys, there’s no hard way to say this… Until You Fall, is awesome! A hack and slash, sword fighting game that has you progress through zones of enemies until you, well you die. At that point, you’re able to spend the points you earned to unlock and upgrade better weapons and secret attacks etc. Each battle is a flurry of blocking attacks and hitting with enough swing and force to inflict as much damage on each enemy as possible, all with a banging synth-wave soundtrack that puts most to shame. At the end of each short stage, you are offered multiple upgrades that you can choose from, often having you pick between instant rewards or shards that you can only spend once you’ve fallen.
The textures and graphics aren’t ground-breaking (in fact they’re pretty low quality), but the vibrancy, aesthetic and artistic design just makes each area a pleasure to absorb, plus your body and weapons are well-textured enough to not feel jarring when crossing your view. The combat takes a little getting used to but once you’re into the swing of it its exhilaratingly good fun! The various boss battles that tie up certain zones really put everything you’ve learned and the upgrades you’ve chosen to the test. And if you lose, well you just need to make sure you flood yourself with upgrades through gritted teeth until you can get back to show them their original win was a fluke!
You can tell right off the bat that the developers have worked incredibly hard to keep the gameplay and overall experience of Until You Fall equally fun and rewarding, regardless of whether you play standing or seated, not enough games cater so well to their seated players and we want to salute Schell Games for giving this option the attention it deserves. We’re genuinely struggling to come up with negatives here… oh! It’s not immediately clear you have to hold ‘continue’ when you first start the game. No, but in all seriousness, there’s a chance late-game that Until You Fall could start to feel like a one-trick pony, but we can’t help thinking of the one hell of a trick it is! This one’s easy…
Part 2 is on the way but for now, we'd like to hear peoples' thoughts on the new Oculus Quest 2 and what steps it takes both forwards and backwards for the world of virtual reality as a whole.
What is impressive for you about the headset and what turns you off it generally? Share your thought-spaghetti below!