High Voltage Software released its Oculus Rift exclusive action shooter for the VR crowd making it a stand out product in a sea of variety where getting a shooter fix isn’t as forthcoming as you would expect. Offering some hours of play and a unique teleport plot device, is this worth the £23 asking price. Take a look at our Damaged Core review for the full picture.
Damaged Core VR Review:
Today we’re taking a look at High Voltage Software’s Damaged Core which released on the Oculus Rift and offers a first person shooting experience unlike anything you might have seen before on the platform. The premise is pretty simple. You play as an AI which can hack into electronics or in this case a robot army of various guises and take control of them, except there’s a catch. Once a host is found it shuts down its movement parameters leaving you glued to the spot with the only option to open fire and see how long your host lasts before moving on to the next one, and so on for the majority of the 6 hour plus story.
It’s actually quite an intuitive mechanic allowing you to sneak around from host to host, getting the drop on groups of attacking robots before jumping back out to safety via a number of strategically placed cameras – which are hidden from the enemy. You’ll control a whole number of robotic forces ranging from standard troops armed with assault rifles and shotguns, to more glamorous opposition such as massive turrets, tanks and flying craft. As the story unfolds you become more powerful enabling you to hack into the better robots.
Combat is often fast and furious with the various weaponry each host carries, though it comes with a rather unimaginative race against the clock in one form or another whether this be an actual timer or the defence of the human friendlies you work alongside where if they die it’s game over and a checkpoint restart which often is the cause of some frustration. It’s a theme that rides through the entire game which is a shame although there are some variations on the theme with a touch of stealth and sniping thrown in for good measure. The stealth in particular could have been a little more fleshed out to add some much needed contrast.
You’ll be tasked with aiming with your gaze at enemies to take over their bodies and using it to move your crosshairs, the right trigger shoots and the left acts as a secondary function such as a scope for some robot types. The gaze mechanic actually works very well but it has to be said, the game is far better suited playing standing up. In fact, it’s a must. You might find some sections quite comfortable seated but then you’ll be thrown into a scenario where looking around you is a requirement lest you fall foul of a game over screen because the viewing angle wasn’t suited to your sitting position. You might even need to peek around a corner for a better view which is easier standing up. There are also times where you might take over a host in a tight spot, be killed and not see a way out before the screen quickly fades to black and you get another game over screen – having the option to quickly look around is a must and a chair or even swivel chair might not be quick enough. The death sequence is actually quite thrilling for the most part and is a major gameplay mechanic considering how briefly you stay in any particular host. It offers you one last chance to warp out of your host before it’s lights out.
Aside from hacking terminals, destroying generators, getting into skirmishes and utilizing the abilities of each robot class, you’ll encounter some narrative along the way which ties it all together. It feels well produced and fleshed out unlike a lot of VR experiences which is a good thing. Whilst the story itself lacks any depth, it’s an entertaining ride right up to its conclusion despite having a rather cliched set of resistance fighter characters and final boss who regurgitates phrases from the ultimate boss lines 101 handbook.
Visually, Damaged Core offers some satisfying gun play with solid animations when gunning down robotic scum. However, the lack of human enemies for a bit of variety is a shame. The battle grounds are quite varied ranging from tight interiors, a moving train and outdoor locations, although the overall quality is on the low side and this is with maximum settings being used. You’ll see some very low quality textures frequently and a complete lack of details in the locations, however, due to the speedy nature of the gameplay you’re not really encouraged to look at the finer details it’s just not that type of game. Those with more powerful hardware might feel a bit short changed when it comes to visuals but at least it’s a smooth operating game with a number of options to dial it back should performance be an issue.
In terms of length each mission can last 30 minutes or longer, some even hitting an hour depending on whether you’ve had to restart a section. Sometimes the game does feel a bit cheap when the AI team gets destroyed, but there’s a learning curve here and once you work out what targets to prioritize means missions aren’t impossible to beat after a few attempts. You’ll get around 6 hours playtime or more depending on how involved you become and if you want to extend that then there are leaderboards to compete with and a number of achievements to strive for. You can replay any completed mission and with a score breakdown at the end of each mission means you can improve your play.
Damaged Core is unlike any other VR game in the sense that rather than place players into a virtual world to look around and marvel at, you’re thrown into the thick of high intensity battles with no time to slow things down and take it all in. It’s a full-on fast paced experience that offers tight shooting action keeping you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The only negatives lie with the poor visual quality and lack of variety within the missions, but if you can overlook these then you’ll find a likeable offering that’s well worth checking out for its relatively low asking price.