Survios is a studio that quickly made a name for itself with the early Oculus Rift development kit technical demonstration Zombies on the Holodeck, an inspired first-person shooter (FPS) that saw the player overwhelmed with undead aggressors. This was nearly three years ago however, and in that time Survios has been busy raising funding for their first commercial release: Raw Data.
$4 million USD can go a long way, and Survios has used this capital to continue developing with the lessons learned through developing their earlier prototype. Raw Data is an FPS experience designed for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift (with Oculus Touch). Wholly intended for co-operative gameplay, two players stand side-by-side as they fend off waves of robot enemies in a science-fiction setting.
The players are positions in the centre of the virtual experimentation lab, given a small area to call their own. Enemies will spawn from the 180-degrees ahead of the player and rarely venture behind, presumably an effort to minimise the potential loss of tracking with the Oculus Touch controllers (though the version played by VRFocus was using the HTC Vive). The players are equipped with both firearms and a katana, and have the simple object of taking out the enemies before they themselves are overcome.
Throughout the first wave the only gun players have access to is a pistol. Combat works as expected: align your shot and pull the trigger. Enemies are fast moving, but rather dull-witted. Rarely will they provide any intimidation beyond numbers. Although they are also armed and fire back upon the players, their aim and the speed of their return fire typically means quick movements side-to-side is enough to get through unscathed. The players are able to deflect bullets using their katana, but in the preview build presented to VRFocus there was never the need to even consider attempting anything more technical than a sidestep, let alone ducking and weaving in the hope of finding cover.
The katana as a whole was relatively redundant in this build as enemies never got close enough to engage in melee combat, even when left to their own devices long after the bulk of the wave had been taken out. After each wave the player has the option to gain a new weapon from the console ahead of where they stand, with a shotgun being the visual highlight but the visceral letdown. Bulking and futuristic looking, the excitement of preparing to take down enemies with a scattershot in this clustered environment was the highpoint of Raw Data‘s preview build. However, in reality the shotgun was woefully underpowered and uninteresting to fire, resulting in a quick disposal and return to the much more satisfying pistol.
The co-operative element of Raw Data is its most interesting asset, but this is hugely dependant on the partner the videogame is experience with. Verbal communication as well as visual is essential for creating a sense of teamwork and imminent failure, as Raw Data doesn’t have any designs to force either of these qualities upon the players directly. Without player communication Raw Data is simply a soulless recreation of Epic Games’ Bullet Train technical demonstration with an anonymous entity standing beside – and often getting in your way – the player.
Raw Data is a videogame that will definitely benefit from having a like-minded player by your side. The lifeless enemy units and variety of weapon options do little to provide atmosphere or tension by themselves; it’s clearly the relationship between players that will grant Raw Data the bulk of it’s appeal. Whether Survios should be congratulated for producing a blank canvas for players to project their own bond on to or chastised for failing to produce any engagement of their own will wholly depend on your perspective.