Climax Studios’ Bandit Six has been one of the best selling titles on the Gear VR Innovator Edition throughout its relatively short lifespan, leading the UK studio to prepare a sequel in time for the consumer launch of the device. Yet, as a gallery shooter, Bandit Six is amongst plentiful company competing in the same genre on this first step into modern virtual reality (VR), so what makes it stand out?
Bandit Six casts the player as a tail gunner aboard a small two-man plane. Enemies approach from the rear and the player is solely responsible for taking them out. A 180 degree view is available, though the gun is next flexible enough to pivot this full width and has a limited range, so the player must use the openness of their view to evaluate the most immediate threats before taking them down. Health is limited and your gun tends to overheat, so caution is almost always the best tactic.
The difficulty ramps up dramatically as the player progresses. Each mission demand a set number of enemy units be taken down, though there’s often vastly greater numbers in the skies around you. While they may be little more than sitting ducks to begin with the player will soon find them taking on board evasive tactics and aggression through the use of stronger forces. As stated above, Bandit Six is just as much about evaluation as it is execution.
To aid with this the player can purchase power-ups on the mission selection screen with currency earned in-game. Some of these are permanent – increasing the fire rate or damage of your weapon, for example – but you can also purchase temporary power-ups to aid you with a specific mission. You may earn some of these in-game by taking down supply craft and shooting the crate they’ll leave behind, but there’s no guarantee the power-up you’ll receive will patch the weak link in your combat strategy.
A lengthy campaign is featured in Bandit Six, with a star requirement placed on each mission. Up to 3 stars can be earned in a mission based on performance – damage taken and completion time most notably – and with the 30th and final mission demanding 64 stars for access, the player must obtain an average rating of 2 stars across the entire campaign to ensure victory. This will certainly call for some missions to be replayed before the final one can be tackled, even if the player manages to avoid failing a mission altogether on their first time through.
Bandit Six features a well presented by sparse visual design. The menu screen are swathed in character, deeply believable and pleasing in the rough-around-the-edges depiction of a World War II hanger workshop. The in-game visuals maintain a high standard but are clearly limited for the sake of performance over clutter. The sound quality is also high, with the in-game sound bites being surprisingly varied and delivered with greater accuracy than many AAA titles.
A well delivered take on a surprisingly popular genre for the Gear VR, Bandit Six has earned the right to be one of the most highly praised titles on the Gear VR to date. Offering one of the most enduring campaigns and hectic, tactical gameplay, Bandit Six showcases what early interest in a new medium from a talented team can accomplish. Its sequel, Bandit Six: Salvo, has a great deal to live up to in order to knock Bandit Six from its perch.