During Oculus Connect 4 (OC4) renown developer Respawn Entertainment revealed that it was entering virtual reality (VR) development, following that with a tease in 2018 stating work on a ‘AAA shooter’. It was Oculus’ new VP of Content Mike Verdu who then made the big reveal during OC6, that the Oculus Rift exclusive videogame would be Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond.
While there have been many, many WWII first-person shooters (FPS) for PC and console, there haven’t been that many in VR – Front Defense comes to mind. It’s always a boon for VR when a well-known developer enters the fray but even more so when they feel a notable franchise like Medal of Honor is worth the VR treatment.
In all honesty, when the first images of Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond appeared during the keynote announcement they didn’t appear to be that impressive. The graphics seemed a little plain and scaled-down, lacking the detail and destruction of the European battlefields. Plus, there was the worry that the title would be another generic WWII shooter with some VR-style elements.
So VRFocus is happy to report that those fears were soon allayed as the demo for Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond turned out to be a lot of fun. Respawn Entertainment had certainly ensured that its first VR reveal was going to be something special, offering too much content to get through in the limited time window. There were three levels available, one inside a hotel fighting the Gestapo, another fighting troops in a French village, while the third was a snowy mountain level designed for sniping. Plus, there was a training level to get acquainted with the controls.
Plumping for the first two locations, Respawn Entertainment has gone straight in for full immersion, no messing whatsoever. No auto reloads mean expelling the empty clip, pulling another from your belt and cocking the weapon. Grenades are attached to your chest and pins can be pulled by hand (or with your teeth), and if your health is low syringes on your left wrist need to be plunged into your chest with your right hand. All very hands-on aiding that feeling you’re in a warzone.
The first level in the hotel is very much an action sequence fighting your way through the deadly troops of the secret police. The gun handling felt solid with distance aiming proving not to be a problem. You can hold each gun – pistol, machinegun, rifle) with both hands to give yourself a ‘stability bonus’ which for some reason pops up in big white letters, ruining the immersion somewhat. It’s strange that the studio did this when the rest of the design is HUD free, giving a nice clean look. Should you get stuck with what to do next – other than killing Nazi’s – your right wrist as the mission objectives, which is handy.
The enemy AI also seemed to be a little erratic at times. In some instances, it performed well with hostiles taking cover, popping back and forth to take shots. Then in other moments caution was thrown to the wind. Some troops just charged headfirst towards the dangerous end of the gun, almost tripping over as a bullet went through their face. At other points, they just stood out in the open as if they believed they were impervious, making for very easy kills.
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond isn’t purely some mindless WWII FPS. As shown in the second demo level, Respawn Entertainment has employed some light puzzle-solving to mix up the pace, needing open a secret room with a specific piano note combination. It was nice to have some other interactive elements other than purely shooting, helping to build that sense of presence in the world. Additionally, there are lots of other items to pick up and be inventive with. This included finding a silver spoon lying around which VRFocus used to beat a Gestapo officer into submission.
From what’s been shown so far Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond will be one of the biggest VR titles to look forward to in 2020 for Oculus Rift owners. The experience wasn’t necessarily doing anything new or inventive, simply taking what’s been learnt over the last few years of VR development and combining it into one cohesive whole. VRFocus can’t wait to see how this one turns out.