After the success of Eclipse: Edge of Light indie virtual reality (VR) developer White Elk Studios’ next title was far more ambitious, a pure co-op experience for Oculus Go and Gear VR called Covert. Mixing both mobile and VR gameplay together Covert was an entertaining videogame mainly hampered by the technology. So White Elk has gone back and updated the experience for PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift, enhancing the controls in the process. It works yet the constraints of mobile VR are still present.
Covert is first and foremost a cooperative VR videogame and in that regard, it’s a supremely fun experience. The basic storyline is that you and your mate are experts at stealing stuff, so you’re hired by some shady character to pull off several heists. In VR you play as the thief, having to run around, avoid guards and be proper sneaky. Your cohort who plays on a smartphone is the hacker, viewing the levels from an overhead viewpoint.
Both of your actions are intrinsically linked, the thief can’t progress without the hacker. This does make having someone to play with essential and it’s the teamwork which gels the experience together. The to-and-frow of information creates a joint sense of achievement when you sneak past guards or complete one of the other various puzzles. Moments where the hacker needs to manoeuvre a platform the thief is standing on help to ensure the mobile player isn’t just a button pusher but a viable second player.
That joint feeling of success is just as easily transferred when failure comes a calling. Communication is key and if that gets confused or messed up in any way it usually means death. These moments also proved to be the most amusing, left and rights getting confused meant walking directly into guards which have only one response, shoot. There’s no running in Covert either. Get spotted and you can hide depending on the environment and if you’re quick enough.
However, Covert can’t escape its roots, most notably in the control scheme. On PlayStation VR you have two choices, DualShock4 or PlayStation Move, both have their good and bad points with DualShock4 VRFocus’ preferred option. The reason for that is movement and interaction. When it comes to pressing buttons and pulling levers the PlayStation Move does offer two controllable hands, yet there’s no physical input. All you do is press the Move button to initiate said sequence thus hampering that immersion motion controls allow. Using the tech White Elk has done an admiral job combining movement with Move’s button layout but it lacks the smooth control a directional stick offers.
Covert’s stealthy gameplay really played into DualShock4’s wheelhouse, being able to nudge forward and look around corners or quickly duck in behind a box for cover. That did mean some odd-looking arms which tracked to the controller and occasional camera recentering to align the laser pointer, something the PlayStation Move didn’t suffer from.
The puzzles themselves weren’t overly complicated, with the hacker dispensing info on how to cut wires or distracting guards with TV’s to clear the way. Overall an initial playthrough takes around 5 or so hours, a decent amount of content for the type of experience Covert offers. There’s also the swapping factor to consider, do you play all the way through in VR then change or swap places every level to keep the gameplay dynamic?
If you’re after a co-op experience on PlayStation VR Covert certainly shines in this department, with some great team-based moments. It does still feel like an Oculus Go port, from the visuals to the interactions. As such, there is a noticeable difference when playing co-op titles like The Angry Birds Movie 2: VR Under Pressure which is tailored to the system. That being said, this is definitely the best version of Covert to showcase the power of VR co-op.