Damaged Core for Oculus Rift: Where story and VR gameplay blend together as one
If you've played much first-gen VR, then you probably won't drop what you're doing on news that there's a new first-person shooter that uses a teleportation system for movement. Been there, done that – about 297 times over. But High Voltage's new game Damaged Core puts a clever twist on these well-worn early VR gaming tricks. It also happens to be loads of fun, and one of the best ways to spend your VR dollars.
Damaged Core is not only one of the most AAA-like and polished Oculus Rift games, it also justifies one of the most common VR gaming tricks in a way that other developers haven't bothered with.
First let's rewind a bit: Teleporting is all over the place in early VR games because using a controller stick to move around in first-person games can make you feel like you're going to get a second look at your lunch. Zapping from one point to another is an ideal locomotion solution because not only does it steer you clear of motion sickness, it also makes you feel like quite the badass.
On the other hand, teleporting strikes us as more of a short-term stopgap than the long-term solution to wider-scale movement in VR. It's one thing if you're playing the role of a Gandalf-like wizard, set in a faraway fantasy land, but for more pedestrian settings and characters, how do you justify the fact that you can instantly jump from one spot to another? Why can all-too-human characters suddenly blink around like Nightcrawler without explanation? And how do you deal with something so unpredictable and impossible to defend against in multiplayer games?
We often say VR is "magical," but an over-abundance of magical teleporting characters will quickly start to come off as hokey and repetitive.
Damaged Core relies on teleporting too, but the difference is it intertwines it into the game's world in such a fundamental way that it makes you forget it's a practical gameplay trick and not just a natural byproduct of the story. In the game, you step into the shoes (or, uh, 1s and 0s?) of an artificial intelligence entity. You aren't tethered to one physical machine or body, so you can scan the area for machines, cameras and robots, and find one to transfer your consciousness into.
On a gameplay level, it's nearly the same teleporting mechanic you see in countless other first-person titles, but weaving it into the roots of the story, from the ground up, makes the game feel more like a complete product and less like a tech demo. While teleporting in other titles is simply a way to move around, here it becomes a core strategy. Which enemy robot do I possess next?
We're just getting started playing the final version of Damaged Core, but apart from the game's skillful and thoughtful handling of the most common movement trick, it's also an absolute blast to play. The pacing is often frenetic, with quick decisions determining your survival at least as much as how well you can aim your next shot. By building VR's challenges into the core game, High Voltage created a shooter that's a little different from any FPS you've played before. In a video game world that's been saturated with shooters since the 90s pioneering days of Doom and Quake (which both happened to have been made by a fellow who now works for Oculus), that's saying something.
Damaged Core is available now for US$29.99 from the Oculus Store and, if you own a Rift, is well worth checking out. If you want to hear more about it straight from the lead developer's mouth, you can hit up our interview with High Voltage's Eric Nofsinger from earlier this year.