Review: STAR SOD
A lone developer with ambitions creates a surprisingly impressive VR shooting experience.
Making modern videogames is a large undertaking. Even with modern tools, most development teams number in the dozens, and sometimes even the hundreds. Virtual reality (VR) adds and extra layer of complexity, making it all the more impressive when a lone coder manager to turn in a polished product.
STAR SOD kicks off with the player having been kidnapped by the shadowy STAR group. After a short tutorial you are given the task of eliminating various targets within the Space Trading association. The motives behind this are unclear, but there are hints of something much larger at work.
The controls take some getting used to at first. Picking up objects such as ammo packs, guns and your portable scanner means that other held objects need to be held in your holster. This is a bit awkward and feels somewhat clumsy. Locomotion is handled by teleport movement, which seems acceptable in a title created entirely be one person.
The graphics look very good, and everything fits together well, with matching art styles. If pre-bought assets were used, they were carefully tweaked so they matched the rest of the environment. The animation is occasionally somewhat glitchy, with some of the enemy characters moving in stilted and unnatural ways.
The rooms and corridors you explore and fight in have a clean, bright futuristic look while still having the appearance that they are in use, and people live and work in them. This avoids the classic pitfall of shrouding everything in gloom and brown colour washes but still maintains a sense of being a real place.
Mechanically, everything works just as you would expect, shooting and grabbing objects handled by using the Oculus Touch triggers. There is one twist in the form of a ‘bullet time’ slow time feature, which can only be used when you are not currently firing your gun. As such, firefights become an exercise in timing as you judge when to use the slow time to doge incoming fire, and when to shoot back.
The sound design could use some work. Some of the music feels a little out-of-place, and at times the sound balance is off, with the music overwhelming the voices and sound effects. The ‘battle music’ piece also has a tendency to suddenly blare out at max volume, which can be a bit jarring.
The experience is somewhat short, ultimately feeling more like a prologue to a bigger story. The voice providing your instructions gives away details about the wider universe STAR SOD is part of, though those scraps of knowledge can be as frustrating as they are interesting, as they leave such gaps in understanding.
STAR SOD is a very worthy effort for a lone coder, and shows a great deal of promise, but at times feels a little unpolished for a supposedly finished title. There are hints that this could evolve into a larger series of videogames, and further development of the idea seems a worthy goal. At present, it is an excellent showcase of one developer’s talent, which is worth checking out.