Wales Interactive’s Infinity Runner joins the small collective of videogames that offer support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) long before a consumer version of the device is available. Jumping on the VR bandwagon so early is most certainly a double-edged sword: developers have room to experiment without the worry of being judged against bigger budget titles, but in that respect charging for a software product similar to that which many are putting out to consumers for free can have negative implications. Of course, in the end, it’s the quality of the product that determines whether or not it achieves it’s goals in this open field.
Before even beginning the videogame Infinity Runner screams ‘success!’ through the inclusion of one important factor: an Oculus Rift menu. Players need not worry about scrabbling around with their desktop display settings or a confusing array of shortcuts keys; everything you need is there, accessible from the main menu. The dream is that videogames will detect your HMD and automatically adjust – and this will come in time – but for now Infinity Runner makes a good play by putting the options upfront in a similar fashion to Strike Suit Zero.
Unfortunately the in-game experience hasn’t been tuned to VR play as well as the outward design. Infinity Runner is, as the name suggests, and endless runner videogame that works in a similar fashion to the likes of Temple Run and The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running, however here it is played form a first-person perspective. Conspiracy plots, aliens, guns, schlock sci-fi, werewolves in space; what’s not to love? The idea is clearly to mix the pace and aggression of Mirror’s Edge with the simplicity of the endless runner genre. On a standard proscenium arch display Infinity Runner is very successful, in VR however it’s a less than comfortable experience.
The Story Mode begins by awaking the player from their cryogenic prison and forcing them to the floor. In terms of story and character development this makes perfect sense; you’ve spent so long unconscious in deep space that controlling your limbs takes a moment to recall. However, in VR, this forced head movement is anything but enjoyable. Infinity Runner makes regular use of this technique throughout the videogame to add tension to situations; combat and story elements. Sadly, in VR, all it does is detract from the action and remind you that simulator sickness is a very real issue.
Infinity Runner features an Arcade Mode in addition to the Story Mode, with a great variety of customisation available to allow players to increase and decrease the challenge as they so wish. As a randomly generated level design comprised of sectors that are repeated from the Story Mode, Infinity Runner is certainly more appreciable as a VR experience here. On a traditional monitor Infinity Runner presents a keen argument for longevity and value for money in it’s Arcade Mode, but in VR it’s the main attraction that the videogame can offer as a comfortable experience. There’s a lesson being learned here: Infinity Runner is fun in VR, but more signposting would be required in order to convince gamers to persevere and find this mode. At what point was the decision not to create a ‘VR Mode’ using the Arcade Mode and a built-in VR options menu culled? As well designed as Infinity Runner‘s frontend is, such a immediate interface for VR gameplay would’ve made a great deal of difference to an audience still finding their VR feet.
The final gameplay mode Infinity Runner offers is multiplayer. Customisable gameplay modes and a basic but per functionary lobby system; this once again proves that – forced head-movement aside – Infinity Runner could be an enjoyable VR experience. It’s simply a few strokes short of modifying it’s design to suit VR at the expense of a traditional monitor set-up, which will always be a problem for titles aiming to perform well on both. Infinity Runner makes it’s play well, but it falls at too many hurdles to be a recommendation for those looking for an action-orientated VR experience.
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