4A Games’ recent teasing of their Oculus Rift exclusive title culminated in the reveal of Arktika.1 at Oculus Connect 3, San Jose, this week. A first-person shooter (FPS) with more than a passing resemblance to the studios’ Metro franchise, Arktika.1 is a brand new intellectual property (IP) developed exclusively for virtual reality (VR). This is a tantalising prospect for sure, but in reality Arktika.1 feels outdated before it’s even launched.
The VR industry is moving fast. First it was rapid iteration of hardware, now it’s software. What felt fresh and exciting a year ago feels old hat now, and despite 4A Games’ depth in environment design and a wonderfully intriguing backdrop to the action, the gameplay itself feels stuck in a rut that AAA VR has since moved on from.
The demonstration build of Arktika.1 began in a home base of some sort. A safe haven which through its decaying mise-en-scène told the tale of a world outside that was most definitely not safe. A female companion enters and informs you of your mission (along with a little backstory) before you experience the first of the two gameplay mechanics that comprised the entirety of Arktika.1’s demonstration version: teleportation. In Arktika.1 each area will feature a small number of silhouettes, either blue or yellow representing the amount of cover and range to the enemy – blue being safer, yellow less so – and the player can instantly teleportation to these locations. Arktika.1 is not freeform in teleportation as with Robo Recall, nor does it automatically orientate the player towards the action as with Arizona Sunshine. You can quite easily teleport ahead of the enemy and find yourself being fired upon from behind.
Of course, the gunplay is the second mechanic. A shooting range offers a taste of a selection of weapons which can be customised both visually and with varying attachments, such as scopes. The player can choose only two of these weapons to take into combat, which can be holstered by reaching over your shoulder. Reloading is simply a case of lowering the weapon which, when coupled with the static teleportation locations, makes Arktika.1 feel more like a VR version of Time Crisis or Virtua Cop than a true VR FPS.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. Arktika.1 has already showcased some wonderfully imaginative weaponry, from automatic shotgun-esque pistols to lock-on weapons that can bend the trajectory of their bullets around corners. Furthermore the environment design is top-notch – littered with debris and incidental detail – while the character models are of a very high graphical standard. Sadly, the time in which being visually wowed in VR was in and of itself a reason to purchase a product has long since passed.
Despite a disappointing first outing there’s still hope that Arktika.1 will deliver an enjoyable FPS experience. Indeed, the likes of Edge of Nowhere and Dead & Buried were both very different at their debut to the product that was/is due to be released. There’s promise in Arktika.1, but in the face of such hefty competition within a genre that for VR few had faith in two years ago, it’s going to be an uphill struggle for 4A Games to prove there’s value beyond the visuals.