Consumer-ready virtual reality headsets have only been on the market for just over two years. Gaming on these devices could still be seen as experimental, with developers still breaking ground with what works and what doesn’t. There are no real boundaries, and no real hard and fast rules outside of general comfort and the users ability to accept the virtual reality they are immersed in.
With this in mind, each new foray into traditional game genres can be seen as either a hit or a miss. Battle X by Naviworks Co Ltd is an ambitious first-person shooter that unfortunately misses the mark.
Battle X, on paper, had me excited. It is a first-person shooter with a star-studded cast and award-winning scriptwriter. The protagonist is part of a World Projection League, hired by MODERN BioTech and tasked to retrieve a breakthrough in bio-mechanical machinery, built to break down DNA components to make a Super Soldier.
It’s a modern espionage plot that would make any Jason Bourne fan sit up in attention, so the prospect of exploring this world in virtual reality was genuinely exciting. Many virtual reality titles are heavy on concepts, yet lack narrative so I was eager to jump into this.
The initial tutorial was promising. It featured free-form movement and a small area to test your weaponry. Each weapon in Battle X features a red dot sight. Whilst this is a slight departure from reality, it assists the player with hip fire and general accuracy with virtual reality. Gun galleries are an extremely popular genre within virtual reality, so the inclusion of the mandatory red dot sight for all weapons was an interesting development choice, given that most virtual reality gamers would probably already be experienced with ‘Aim Down Sights’ mechanics by now. This choice felt far more arcade-like than what I assumed the single-player experience was to be.
The inclusion of a strong narrative in a virtual reality first-person shooter led me to believe that I would be interacting with my non-player characters directly. I was dismayed to learn that the pre and post mission dialogue was mainly audio only, with small character avatars in my periphery within each cutscene. These scenes also used external cameras rather than my direct line of sight, which felt confusing in virtual reality. This experience translates well on screen and with older RPG titles, but destroys the fourth wall in virtual reality instantly and did not translate well. It felt like a poor execution of what was billed as a strong narrative. I wanted to interact with characters directly and have them standing in front of me whilst delivering their lines.
The single player missions were, quite frankly, disappointing. Much to my surprise, it is a wave-based, on-rails shooter. The majority of the action happens within your 180 peripheral before you and the initial missions were over once a certain number of wooden ‘run at you until they die’ enemies were killed. I was expecting a virtual reality call of duty experience with a strong storyline and engaging cut scenes. The ‘stand still and shoot at anything that moved’ game play was a disappointment.
The enemy AI is, unfortunately, non existent. They will advance with no skill about them and literally stand in front of you until they are dispatched. Whilst the mechanics of shooting, health regeneration and reloading work well in virtual reality, my expectations far outweighed the on-rails shooter experience on offer.
My hopes were dashed yet again when attempting to play the co-op or multiplayer modes; I simply couldn’t find any other players on any of the servers to play with. This is not a fault of the game itself, as VR multiplayer games across the board have this inherent issue, especially with our ANZ time zones and small VR gamer base.
I am a fan of multiplayer shooters such as Onward VR and I am hoping that the PvP 8v8 game mode features free-form movement more akin to the game tutorial than the single-player mode. I’ll revisit and update this review once I am able to log time with this game mode.
Virtual Reality gaming allows us to get completely immersed in new worlds and experiences. The lack of animated, physical non-player characters and truly immersive cutscenes does not do the story justice, as the narrative quickly falls into skippable pre mission fluff. It is a shame, as it is the titles major selling point outside of the multiplayer experience.