Freedom. In 2020 the word and its meaning are more powerful than ever considering what’s happened so far this year. Virtual reality (VR) is no different. It’s about having the tools to explore amazing digital worlds however you wish, and in comfort; not always easy in VR. Stormland is a good example of being given the chance to freely wander a place with few impediments in the way, albeit with several sci-fi enhancements. For something a bit more human, then Joy Way’s upcoming parkour experience Stride has all the makings of a VR title that wants to give players freedom to move.
Stride is a free-running videogame most easily comparable to EA’s Mirror’s Edge, where you could explore a seemingly utopian cityscape full of very clean buildings. However, with Stride being a VR title you’re far more connected to the endeavours and skills of the parkour character you now embody. So you get that elation when pulling off a smooth sequence of moves but then utter frustration when the next ledge is just out of reach and the only way is down.
This means that Stride is all about movement, leaping from platform to platform, grabbing hold of the next ledge and a lot of arm swinging. Firstly there’s no teleportation whatsoever as it purely wouldn’t work in this type of videogame. So what’s left is a hybrid continuous locomotion system where the directional stick will walk you about and then to speed things up simply start swinging those arms. It works well enough for gaining speed for those wider gaps yet its possibly trying to be too realistic. There’s a slight judder during the arm swings as if to simulate each one which can get a little distracting when trying to perfectly time a big leap.
Also, at the moment there is an inconsistency with the jump mechanic where an easy jump doesn’t always work. Complex sequences crossing two or three thin ledges by hopping between them worked fine, you’d expect it the other way around. Hence why Stride is still in beta as the jump is a crucial factor to get right, jumping between buildings is dangerous after all.
What was very pleasing to encounter was the overall comfort of Stride. Always a personal subject, from what’s been shown of the title so far not once was there a single hint of discomfort. Even when mucking things up and falling – which is a sure fire way of inducing nausea – time after time, there was no issue which was nice; and testament to Joy Way’s development. For such a plain experience there can be a lot going on, continually having to plan a route whilst overcoming the present obstacle which could’ve been jarring.
For the beta Joy Way only allowed access to the ‘Endless Mode’, a procedurally generated area much like endless runner videogames where you try to get as far as possible. With a very clean ‘hospital hallway’ aesthetic the mode gave a good look at Stride’s various mechanics whilst providing suitable variance in the level to keep gameplay interesting. The main repetition easily spotted came with enemies, as they appeared in the same spot in certain areas. Yes, Stride isn’t just about death defying leaps you also have bad guys to kill, with a pistol on each hip which can only be accessed via the opposite controller. Not too much of an issue, it just felt somewhat odd after playing so many shooters where the pistol is next to the main hand. At this stage there weren’t really any options apart from altering gameplay aspects like switching the enemies off, hopefully one will be added for pistol selection.
It’s always the case with an early beta preview that you expect to find a few bugs and glitches whilst looking for that diamond in the rough. With Stride there were a few bumps but nothing too major. After playing this snippet and the fact that there are more game modes as well as a full campaign to come makes for an enticing prospect. It could quite easily put Joy Way on the VR developer map should all the additional features create a nice cohesive whole.