When you consider an open world videogame adventure what do you imagine? Sprawling countryside maybe? Or how about something a little more metropolitan, a bustling cityscape that’s alive with the sounds of people going about their everyday lives, cars whizzing about, possibly the odd siren or two. For most this will conjurer up images of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto (GTA) for example, with plenty to see and do. For virtual reality (VR) players there’s U24 Solutions Early Access title Wild Downtown, unfortunately this is not what you might expect.
While Wild Downtown might be billed as an open world city where you can run amok, driving cars and shooting up the place like some mad gangster, the truth is you’ll probably get bored or confused quite quickly.
There’s no storyline, goals or objectives to speak of in this small cityscape, you’re free to wander as you please, jumping into cars or onto bikes to explore what is essentially an oval of buildings. Littered around are several venues to pop inside, including a bank, casino, café, and the apartment in which the experience starts. Yet from the word go Wild Downtown is just bizarre, and not in a good way.
Movement is purely direct locomotion, yet it’s painfully slow. While items can be picked up, very few actually have any use. And then the experience does this weird thing where if you lean into something to take a look you’ll automatically be pushed backwards like there’s an invisible wall in front of everything, and that’s before you leave the apartment.
Driving a vehicle is a necessity as walking anywhere would take forever, yet the steering is so twitchy that this becomes a lesson in perseverance – the bikes are even worse. Once you get to these other locations interactive elements are somewhat thin on the ground. The casino has several slot machines to spend some coin in, whilst the café was completely devoid of life. In fact at points so was the city, stepping out of one area onto the street it felt like there should be some tumbleweed rolling along as there was literally no traffic or people to speak of. When there were, pedestrians would amble along in an orderly queue, following the same pre-set path over and over again.
There’s supposedly a gun element to Wild Downtown allowing you to shoot up the place, massacring everyone in sight. To be honest, VRFocus didn’t get this far – or actually find it – yet it couldn’t have made much of a difference as while guns can be fun in VR, the general implementation of items in the experience is poor.
Even as an Early Access title Wild Downtown still has some way to go before it should even be considered. While the internal location graphics are of a high quality, the city is not, with the actual characters looking strange, as if the proportions are askew. If U24 Solutions can increase the size and scope of the experience then there might be hope, currently a lot of polishing is still needed.