GameCentral reviews Oculus Quest’s Star Wars exclusive and its other top games, including Robo Recall and SUPERHOT VR.
Since the Oculus Quest is essentially a brand new video game format – a self-contained VR headset that doesn’t need to attach to a console or PC – that means it has to start from scratch with its games collection. Just because a game is available on Oculus Rift, or PlayStation VR, doesn’t mean it will work on the less powerful Quest, and yet it’s launch line-up of games is extremely impressive.
We reviewed the hardware itself last week and found that thanks to being completely wireless, roomscale tracking that can be set-up in seconds, and two very accurate Touch controllers, it more than compensates for its lack of graphical horsepower. That will still limit what games can be released on it, but from this initial wave of titles that barely seems a problem.
You can find a full list of all the launch games and apps here but these are the most interesting ones we’ve played so far, most of which have at least some point of interest that makes Oculus Quest’s future seem very promising indeed.
Vader Immortal: Episode I, £7.99 (Disney)
The jewel in Oculus Quest’s launch line-up isn’t available on any other headset, but it isn’t a full game. Instead, it’s the start of an episodic series, the first of which offers barely 40 minutes of story gameplay. But what a 40 minutes that is.
Created by a division of ILM, rather than a traditional game developer, the game is a stunning experience from the first second, as you play the role of a smuggler who unexpectedly finds themselves a captive of Darth Vader. It turns out you’re part of a bloodline that can unlock an ancient artefact on Mustafar (the lava planet from Revenge Of The Sith and Rogue One) that grants immortality.
The sense of scale is extraordinary, as you stare up through your spaceship’s cockpit as a Star Destroyer looms into view or fly down to enter a giant underground city. The Quest’s lack of power is clearly visible in some very low resolution textures and yet the overall effect is still stunning, with some very impressive virtual characters that feel believably solid and real.
The ability to walk around the virtual sets is a huge benefit of using Quest but the fact that the controllers are so accurate even more so. Soon enough you get to wield a lightsabre and you’re transported into a Star Wars fan’s wet dream. Not only can you deflect laser bolts but the lightsabre fights finally offer the kind of motion-controlled combat fans have been denied for years.
The combat’s secretly quite simple, relying almost solely on parrying in one of two directions, but the ability for enemies to crowd around, so you have to keep checking every direction for attackers, neatly disguises the fact. The pacing of the fights feels right too, with tense seconds waiting for an attack and then a flurry of action.
Speaking from a Star Wars nerd’s perspective the only thing we didn’t like was the sassy droid, who talks and acts only like a regular human, but the portrayal of Vader actually has some nuance to it, with some surprising moments of dialogue.
The story may be short but there’s also a multi-stage challenge mode where you have to fight remotes (which, again, is so much like the movies it almost made us weak at the knees with wish fulfilment) and other increasingly dangerous opponents. It’s actually quite hard, and has its own minor unlockables, which further justifies the already perfectly reasonable asking price.
Dead And Buried II, £14.99 (Oculus Studios)
Oculus themselves are the publisher for a number of their games, including this key multiplayer title. We’ve never heard of Dead And Buried I, but the sequel is a rather scrappy mix of cover-based and standard deathmatch multiplayer. The options are very limited – the whole game feels like it’s some sort of early access release rather than a full game – but in the simplest mode you and your team-mates are situated at one end of a saloon and have to shoot it out with a rival team at the other end.
You can’t move in terms of game controls but you can physically duck and move within the scope of the roomscale tracking, which is actually a great demonstration of the technology as you crawl behind the virtual furniture and pop up for a surprise attack when an opponent seems distracted.
The other mode does allow full freedom of movement and is essentially a standard Deathmatch, which is a far less satisfying experience unless everyone happens to be of exactly the same experience in terms of the controls and VR nausea. The Quest has to start somewhere with online multiplayer though and this is as good a place as any.
Beat Saber, £22.99 (Beat Games)
It’s not a coincidence that two of Oculus Quest’s best games both involve lightsabres, although only one of them officially so. The PlayStation VR version of Beat Saber was let down to a degree by its unreliable controls, but the Quest controllers are much more precise, and together with the lack of cables transforms this from a good game to a truly great one.
Some will still quibble over the music choices but no matter what your usual taste the joy of playing along to a track by bashing little coloured blocks with twin lightsabres overcomes everything. The idea is very simple, in that you hit the blocks as they reach you in whatever direction they indicate – not dissimilar to most Guitar Hero-derived music games.
There are various complications, including bombs and walls that have to be ducked out of the way of, with the latter also working much better with Quest because of the lack of wires and freedom of movement. Which in turn also make this the perfect game to play with friends, given how easy it is to pass the headset around for someone else to play.
Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes, £10.99 (Steel Crate Games)
We’re glad this is an Oculus Quest launch title because we never had the chance to review it when it first came out on PC and PlayStation 4, but it’s easily the most entertaining VR multiplayer game – multiplayer in the sense that you get to play it with other people not wearing a headset.
The idea is that the player with the headset is trying to defuse a bomb, except they have no idea what they’re doing and the other players have to shout out the instructions by reading a manual on the game’s website.
The solutions are randomised each time, so you can’t just learn what to do by rote and the manual is often purposefully obscure to make sure nobody’s job is too easy. It’s a shame the manual readers don’t get to see what’s going on, but that’s not because of the Quest’s lack of connection to the TV as there was never the option in the PlayStation VR version either. That oddity aside this is as social as VR gaming gets at the moment, especially as you can easily pass the headset around so everyone gets a go.
Moss, £22.99 (Polyarc)
One of our very favourite VR games, the only problem with Moss is that we still haven’t heard anything about a follow-up. This Quest version does feature the newly released Twilight Garden content (before any of the other versions, where it’ll be a free update) but it’s not that long and definitely not a full sequel.
The game is still an absolute must-have though and was one of the first to prove that third person titles can be at least as enthralling as first person games when it comes to VR. You control a little mouse called Quill who has to fight and puzzle her way across a fantasy world overrun by mechanical bugs.
You control Quill in the normal fashion via the joysticks and buttons but ‘you’ are actually a mysterious spirt that can also reach into the game world to help move blocks, pull levers, and help with both combat and puzzle-solving. It’s an utterly charming experience whose only fault is that you’re always left wanting more.
Robo Recall: Unplugged, £22.99 (Oculus Studios)
Another of Quest’s most important launch titles, this has long been championed as one of the best first person shooters for VR headsets. At heart it’s a fairly simple wave-based shooter, in some ways a modern day interpretation of dual-stick shooters such as Robotron: 2084 and Smash T.V. You’ve got two pistols and a heavy weapon and have to mow down hordes of malfunctioning robots, but somehow it’s a lot stranger than you’d imagine.
For starters you can’t reload your guns, you either just throw them away and have new ones teleported into your holsters or you throw them at an enemy and reload them that way – catching them on the rebound. That’s just as cool as it sounds, as is dodging bullets in slow motion, just like The Matrix, and even plucking them out of thin air and throwing them back at whoever fired them at you.
You can also grab nearby robots too, ripping them apart with your bare hands, although that’s a little more difficult than it should be as long distance movement only uses the teleport system and it’s often unclear whether you should be trying to keep on the move all the time or just stand your ground. You do quickly get used to the game’s weird logic though and this is definitely the best straight shooter on the system.
Shadow Point, £14.99 (Oculus Studios)
Having Patrick Stewart as your narrator is quite the selling point, but he seems oddly wasted here, in this otherwise fairly low budget, portal-filled puzzler. Before you get too excited this is really nothing like Valve’s classic and a much more slow-paced, story-based affair. You play an explorer looking for a missing girl in the Scottish mountains, which leads to the discovery of portals to another world.
Most of the puzzles revolve around using objects to cast shadows, in order to match up with an existing outline – an idea that was used a couple of times in Resident Evil 7 but here is the basis for the whole game. To Shadow Point’s credit it does try to add layers to the concept with each new world, with one having two versions of the same area you can switch between and another involving you swapping objects with your other portal self.
Not all the ideas work though, and the gravity-based ones are very frustrating. It’s also worrying to see the Quest struggle with the visuals sometimes, despite the simplistic graphics. The ability to rotate and manipulate the objects works well with the controllers, but in the end we were glad that it’s not much more than three hours long.
SUPERHOT VR, £18.99 (SUPERHOT Team)
We were never big fans of SUPERHOT when it was first released and still didn’t like it as much as most others when it came to VR, in large part thanks to the PlayStation VR’s finicky and imprecise controls. Those problems have gone away with Oculus Quest though and that makes it much easier to appreciate the game’s better qualities.
The idea is certainly unique, and perfectly summarised by its tagline: ‘Time moves only when you move’. In practice this works by time being paused by default, and only moving forward as you do. So while you’re standing still enemies and bullets will be suspended in space. And while that gives you an obvious advantage, you have to bear in mind that everything else will start moving the moment you do.
We still have a problem in the game not evolving past its initial set of ideas, and resting on its laurels long before it gets to the end of its short running time, but this is definitely the most we’ve ever enjoyed it. It’s also another game where Oculus Quest’s superior controls and roomscale tracking makes all the difference.
Thumper, £14.99 (Drool)
Even without VR, Thumper is one of the best music games of recent years – in fact it’s one of the best games of any kind this generation. Described by its own creators as a ‘rhythm violence’ game, the mechanics are similar to Beat Saber and any related music game, where you react to different icons as they speed down a path towards you.
Except the path in Thumper seems to be the road to (or, more optimistically, from) Hell, as you’re menaced by Lovecraftian monsters and a terrifyingly good drum-based soundtrack. Although there’s no horror elements more extreme than a big monster face the whole experience is wonderfully, tortuously tense as it feels your very soul depends on hitting every beat at just the right time.
On a flat screen Thumper already seems like a near perfect video game experience but in VR it becomes its own reality, one that’s thrilling and unnerving in equal measure.
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