Preview: Budget Cuts – A Neatly Packaged Spy Adventure

It’s always nice when a promising looking title disappears then remerges bigger and better than before, but that’s exactly what Neat Corporation has done with stealthy, spy inspired experience Budget Cuts. First announced way back in 2016, the studio released a teasing demo for HTC Vive owners on Steam. It’s only been during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2018 that Budget Cuts has returned with new screenshots and an actual release date. VRFocus managed to get some hands-on time with the HTC Vive version of the virtual reality (VR) title and its shaping up to be one of the indie hits of 2018.

VR has its fair share of action oriented titles, letting players march around shooting things until they turn to mulch. Budget Cuts is different, being all about creeping around, trying not to get spotted. Playing a spy, the object of the campaign is to sneak into rival companies and steal secrets using a variety of high tech gadgetry.

The main device on hand is a teleportation gun. While movement in VR has certainly moved on since 2016, with teleportation no longer the defacto choice for comfortable travel in VR, in the case of Budget Cuts the system is neatly woven into the gameplay design, enhancing the stealthy approach. It’s not quite like any other teleportation seen in other VR experiences as it tends not to be instant. Instead the gun fires a ball which can be bounced through holes, around corners, basically anywhere where there’s a gap. Upon this blue ball landing you’re given a magic mirror of sorts, a viewing panel that lets you inspect the area before teleporting, ideal for scoping out enemies before making the decision to move.

As mentioned this is ideal for sneaking into difficult or tight areas, being able to squeeze into vents or maintenance rooms. This is another part of Budget Cuts’ charm, you need to be prepared to get limber. If your trying to teleport into a vent and you’re standing up then it’s not going to work, requiring a hands and knee approach just like a normal super spy.

Budget Cuts 2In the section VRFocus played there was no hand holding or linear gameplay. Given free access to wander around just about anywhere – some doors were locked/didn’t open –  it was all about learning the surroundings, finding out what led where until a route presented itself. This inevitably turned into find a key card to unlock a particular door, rudimentary stuff which is likely to get more complex as the levels progress.

With no actual guns or weaponry to hand finding the first security robot then required evasive manoeuvring until some sort of implement presented itself. This turned out to be a pair of scissors that could be flung like a throwing knife. This kind of thinking on the fly rather than having an inventory full of items did make for a far more intense and enjoyable experience – you can obviously store items should you come across a deadly stapler.

Budget Cuts has lost none of its charm over the last two years, and with an estimated run time of around 7 – 8 hours should provide a decently sized, novel experience. VRFocus has enjoyed what it’s seen so far, we’re keenly awaiting Neat Corporation’s VR launch in a couple of months time.