Preview: Budget Cuts
Budget Cuts demands patience, planning and a bit more optimisation.
If you work in a stereotypical cubical farm-like office environment, you may have occasional entertained fantasies about dramatically sneaking out, doing Batman-style stealth takedowns along the way. Budget Cuts is the virtual reality (VR) videogame that fulfils that fantasy, and then some.
The office environment of Budget Cuts would appear, at first glance, to be a slightly exaggerated and cartoonish take on the typical office of the modern world, but, strangely, it is staffed almost entirely by robots. It seems that your boss, called Rex, is determined to remove the human factor from his business entirely, so you need to escape before you are next on his list.
Your guide on this journey through the office world is Winta, who communicates with you through fax machine messages and who provides you with your main weapons, several sharp knives and a ‘translocator gun’ which acts much like the Portal gun from Portal.
Mastering the translocator gun quickly becomes critical to your success. You can use a ‘preview portal’ as a window to check the coast is clear, but you must be careful as your portals are visible to the gun-toting security robots who seem to be around every corner.
The graphics are great, a faux-cheery facade that overlays something much darker and more sinister provides a satisfying level of dissonance as it is all too easy to imagine this as any office you have ever worked in.
The story becomes surprisingly engaging with impressive speed, mostly thanks to the quirky storytelling and the well-performed voice-overs. You become absorbed in trying to unravel what is really going on in this business staffed with androids.
The tools and menu system take some getting used to, and it is worth taking the time as Budget Cuts is unforgiving of mistakes. Players will need to cultivate a great deal of patience, memorise layouts and patrol routes and carefully plan a course of action, along with a Plan B and Plan C in case things go awry, which they often will. This is by no means a title where you can just bull rush your way through.
Playing on the Oculus Rift, there are a few notable problems, there are some frame-rate dips that slow things to a near crawl at times, and there is some inexplicable jitter on some of the text which can make it all but unreadable, causing significant problems in some areas. The loading is also something of an issue, it seems to take forever to reload after you failed, which is another source of frustration.
Though teleport movement is not popular among many VR users at the moment, Budget Cuts make excellent use of it as a core gameplay element rather than it being a simple and cheap way to avoid motion sickness.
Budget Cuts is a great title, with substantial story and meaty, challenging gameplay, and an entertaining style, but it does suffer from some significant performance problems that do detract from the experience. Budget Cuts could be elevated from good to utterly brilliant if it is given a little more time in the oven to bake in and correct the issues.