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Preview: ADR1FT

By now, you’ve probably heard of the comfort issues that ADR1FT faces. With stick-based locomotion and zero gravity gameplay, Three One Zero’s Oculus Rift debut has more than earned the ‘Intense’ comfort rating given to it by Oculus VR itself. It’s one of a handful of launch titles for the Oculus Rift with this classification, settling in with company such as The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Omega Agent for launch next week.

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Let’s move past that for a moment, though. For the handful of VR enthusiasts that don’t suffer from the comfort issues, is ADR1FT actually going to be worth playing?

That’s a tough question to answer for any narrative-driven experience pre-launch, but this is certainly pointing in the right direction based on its dramatic intro sequence, immersive atmosphere, and visual prowess. ADR1FT opens in the middle of the accident on board a space station that leaves the player literally at the end of their rope. It’s an introduction that demands your attention, even if the comparisons to 2013’s Gravity are inescapable and more than likely undesired by the developer.

Once you’ve pulled yourself in you can get to grips with the title’s controls, although an extensive tutorial will try to ensure that you already have done. ADR1FT gives you plenty of options to play with when it comes to using the Xbox One gamepad, which is crucial to making the title as comfortable as possible.

Most importantly, though, you’re able to recentre the protagonist at any time with the click of a button. This is vital to remember when you’re lost in the series of ruined corridors and amongst the debris that drifts by. Without this option, actually playing ADR1FT could be a struggle even for the most experienced VR users, but if you familiarise yourself with the various rolls, pitches and thrusts you can make with the controller, it’s significantly easier to keep a cool head. For worst case scenarios, there’s even a button to restrict peripheral vision, which again goes some way to aiding illness. All that said, this is still only recommended for those that have overcome simulation sickness.

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Actually playing through ADR1FT attracts more half-hearted comparisons. You could argue that this is the Oculus Rift’s first walking simulator, for example, though the presence of a survival mechanic suggests otherwise. You have an O2 meter that you must keep filled, though in the early stages of the experience supplies are plentiful. ADR1FT could turn into a completely different videogame if Three One Zero ups the challenge later on, forcing players to make desperate dashes from one point to the next. That could definitely add to the claustrophobic, panicked feeling you can experience within the space suit that’s keeping you alive, but it will be tricky to balance that rush with keeping players from throwing up.

When it comes to plot, the developer has been light on dialogue in this opening segment, a sensible decision given the player’s isolation. Instead, the story is to be observed and absorbed. It’s told through the violent gaps in which the space station has broken apart, and the wreckage that peppers the course between the two. Developer Adam Orth has often explained that the narrative is a metaphor for his 2013 break up with former employer Microsoft and you can already speculate as to how. A massive disaster that leaves a protagonist stranded and gasping for air? Exploring the wreckage and trying to piece together what went wrong? There’s already an air of the exaggerated autobiographical to this story, and digging deeper into that is going to be the main hook here.

For now, though, ADR1FT proves that Oculus VR’s comfort ratings are not to be taken lightly. This may be a launch title for the Oculus Rift, but you might consider easing yourself in with some of the ‘Comfortable’ and ‘Moderate’ experiences before jumping into the deep end. That will be an understandably frustrating proposition for many fans, but if there were to be any ‘doctor’s orders’ about getting started with VR, it would be this.