Many of us who have been in the Gear VR game for a while are familiar with Robot Invader and I’m sure I’m not the only one who was pretty excited to see a new game from the studio show up in the store on Wednesday. In case you aren’t a member of this group, Robot Invader is the studio who made Dead Secret. If that still doesn’t ring a bell for you, then you need to stop reading this right now, go to the Oculus Store and purchase Dead Secret. It was one of the earlier games on the store and remains one of the best to this day. For the rest of you, the game I’m talking about here is Hex: Heavy Encounter EXOsuit.
As I said, I was elated to see a new game from them on Wednesday. Go back a few months when I had time to keep my ear to the ground and I may have known about this new game in advance, but since that my time allotment has gone from a few hours a day to a few hours a week the game was a complete and initially pleasant surprise. I am someone who, no matter how often I am burned or proven wrong, will judge a book (or a game in this case) by it’s cover (featured image here.) When a game has a good featured image my hopes go up. It makes it seem like the production value for the rest of the game will be as good. And, that is mostly the case here.
I was about to say that there are some issues that are largely easy to ignore, but there is only really one. And honestly, when you are in the heat of battle, you probably won’t be paying attention to it, but when you aren’t, or if your focus happens to switch to your gun, you will notice it and if you’re anything like me, it will kind of break your heart. The movement of the gun isn’t very smooth. It flickers as if it alone is having frame rate issues. I don’t know enough about game development to know it that’s something that is possible, but that is the symptom, whatever the cause. And, a rather significant caveat to this complaint is that it could very well be my phone that is the problem and not the game itself. It has been having some strange issues lately. But then again, no previous phone of mine has been through what this phone has. I’m nearing the end of my contract on it and I’ve sure put it through the wringer. If the problem doesn’t exist for you, please sound off in the comments and let me know what phone your using.
There is one more thing that I’m going to save for the end of the article. For some, it may turn out to be a selling point of the game. For me, it’s very possibly a deal breaker. I will have to let you know as I give the game a but more time. For now, I will tell you how the rest of the game is.
Hex it, at it’s core, a turret shooter. There is no free movement and you have guns strapped to your face as is the case in all other turret shooters. When I realized this I almost wrote the game off entirely. Honestly, I felt a little betrayed. How could Robot Invader do this to us? Was Dead Secret a fluke? Did it just not sell well and so they phoned this one in? Was this one made by the co-op students and interns? I had actually determined that I wasn’t even going to bother with it, but because of the respect I have for the studio after Dead Secret, I decided that I would load it back up, play a few levels and give it a real shot. I was glad that I did.
As with all turret shooters you turn your head to blast the enemies that are flying toward you. In this game the enemies seem to be mostly drones that look a bit like paper lanterns with propellers. They come in a variety of colours and types. There are unshielded, which take only one blast from your cannon to kill. There are yellow shielded ones that you have to kill with a charge beam, there are blue shielded ones who are invincible while their shield is up, but it goes down after a few seconds and there are green shielded drones who are invincible until you activate a green energy field that they fly though, removing their shield and leaving them open for attack. You can defeat the drones with a single shot, or you can use a charge shot which is good for stronger enemies and can also lock on to multiple enemies at once.
One of the reasons that Bandit Six Salvo was such a good game in my opinion despite being a turret shooter, was that you could move to different positions, and that is the case here as well. Except instead of instantly teleporting by swiping the track pad or hitting a button on your controller, you have to charge up a teleportation pad and then you drift over to it. As you do the FOV is significantly decreased and this should prevent any sim sickness in those prone to it. Or at least reduce it.
Sometimes the teleporters are hidden and you have to figure out how to reveal them. So far in my play time, this has always involved shooting multiple power switches at once. But how to do that is not immediately obvious in all cases. Sometimes they are hidden behind a wall which you can lower with a sort of energy crank, other times they are hidden in less obvious places. I don’t want to give spoilers, but it does add a puzzle element to the game. And though the puzzles aren’t too difficult to think through, you have to do them while at the same time not being shot, or while the floor beneath you is filling with lava.
This is the good stuff. This is the stuff that made me glad I didn’t just write it off. If you hate turret shooters like you hate poison then this may not be enough for you. But if you simply hate them because they are all to similar and boring, then this may be enough to win you over. Obviously then, if you are someone who likes turret shooters, this game may be a no brainer for you. May. Be.
Earlier I said that there was something in this game that may be a deal breaker for me. I’ve made a recording of my gameplay and if you watch it you will hear me on the verge of raging out at this game (actually I haven’t edited it yet so if there is something wrong with the recording you may not hear it.) The game structure appears to be three levels, then a boss fight. Repeat. I like the three levels, but I was dreading the boss fight because I hate boss fights. No, you don’t understand, I really, really hate boss fights. If I were king of video games, they would be banished from the land. The only boss fights that would be allowed to stay would be Mario boss fights. I’m also not a big fan of high difficulty. I play games to relax, not to put controller shaped holes in my wall. I realize I’m in the minority on this. But even if you like boss fights, you may not like this.
Editors Note: The following segment is a retelling from memory. For the exact scenario, see the video below. If there is no video below check back on the weekend or ignore this note, whichever you fancy.
So, I’m already dreading loading up the boss fight, but I have to do it. It’s there, it needs to be done. Kind of like the dishes or the dentist. I load up the level and enter that phase of uncertainty that I hate so much. How do I beat it? How many times will I die in the effort to learn the pattern and develop the skills to exploit the pattern? How much am I going to hate the repetition and stress? These are the things going through my mind as I’m watching the cut scene intro. Thankfully I notice a glowing blue spot on the rooster’s chest and my gun locks onto it. That didn’t take long to figure out, so I start blasting it. It’s health bar drains some, and then I’m dead. What the fart?
Okay, let’s watch the cut scene again. I notice that one of those rocket firing tanks is there with the chicken, as well as a bunch of drones. So I kill them first. The Rooster fires about a quintillion rockets at me. One more than I can lock on to. I try to shoot it, but it gets me. Dead.
Cut scene. Kill drones. Kill tank. Kill missiles. Drain most of life from Rooster. He is coming toward me so I try to teleport out. Just as I’m about to charge the pad, the rooster cuts of my line of sight to the teleporter, breathes fire on me, and I’m dead.
Repeat until I kill the rooster. Good! Done. Next level!
Wait. What the fart is this? The next level is the chicken again. But it has a shield this time. Several lives later, kill the chicken again. Now I’m pissed. Why would they do that? I already feel like boss fights are just a way to pad the game and make it seem longer, but fighting the boss twice? In a row no less? How is that acceptable?
Well, guess what, you don’t fight it twice. You fight it at least three times! I say at least because I wasn’t able to defeat him the third time to find out if there was a fourth. Was it because I gave up? No, though I might have soon. It was because of a problem that we all know only too well. My phone overheated. Now, I haven’t loaded the game up again yet, but I suspect that when I do I will be starting from the beginning of the boss fight again. And if that happens, I suspect that I will be immediately turning the game off and not returning to it.
As I say, if you love boss fights, if you’re like (I’m imagining Cartman’s voice here) “Shadow of the Colossus was the best game ever because they did away with all that game crap and only included boss fights!” then you may have found your killer VR app. But if you only put up with boss fights or worse, if you hate them, then you probably want to stay away from this game. It’s good for the turret shooter, but in my opinion it’s not good enough to get away with this. Not for someone who loathes boss battles anyway.
That’s my opinion so far. If I play more and it changes I will be sure to update, but I believe I’ve played enough to know how I feel about the game. Have you played it? If so what were your thoughts? Do you love boss battles and have some fighting words for me? Post them in the comments below. Or on Reddit. Whatever. I’m not picky. And I’m already out of time to get the video up tonight so I will try to have it on the weekend. Good night!