Los Angeles based Stress Level Zero made waves at the launch of the HTC Vive last year with Hover Junkers, a multiplayer first-person shooter (FPS) videogame designed to take advantage of the many unique attributes of the hardware. The studio’s next title, Duck Season, seems to have the team looking backwards opposed to forward.
Quite obviously a modern recreation of Nintendo’s classic Duck Hunt, Duck Season is a more realistic simulation of duck hunting. ‘Realistic’ in terms of the arsenal that the player is equipped with but less so in that of the ducks themselves. A single barrel shotgun was the only weapon available in the version available to VRFocus at Gamescom 2017, Cologne, and its use required the loading of shells and pumping after each shot to eject the spent casing. The use of the two-handed weapon felt impressive in its empowering nature, and demanded a great deal of consideration on behalf of the player to aim with accuracy.
Accuracy is incredibly important, as the shotgun can only hold a small number of rounds and the reload time can result in missing entire waves of ducks. The movement of the ducks is borrowed liberally from the aforementioned Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) classic, though a much faster pace is applied from the very beginning. The ducks will approach and invisible wall and immediately turn in the opposite direction. However, they will only do so once or twice, meaning the player must take them out very quickly with the above limitations on ammunition in order to be successful.
Exactly what Duck Season will offer beyond this small initial gameplay loop is not currently known. It’s a very simple experience that will surely struggle to gain much attention when positioned amongst the many wave shooters currently available for virtual reality (VR) formats, and trading on nostalgia alone is not enough to warrant the attention Stress Level Zero will need to bring to the videogame in order to follow the success of Hover Junkers.
Visually, Duck Season is a welcoming presentation but hardly striking. The opening sequence paints a darker side to the duck hunting of the videogame, but no further evidence of something deeper was showcased during VRFocus’ time with Duck Season. So this raises the question; who exactly is Duck Season designed for? Perhaps only more time with the videogame will provide an answer prior to its official release