By Chris Leebody 11.01.2017
"Guns. Lots of guns." This may be a quote from the sci-fi movie The Matrix, but it is a sentiment that applies quite naturally to the equally virtual landscape of VR gaming. Stepping into the shoes of a hero and actually being able to see a gun appear in direct view; the sensation becomes something more than a video game, it truly becomes an experience. VR Invaders is the first virtual experience for developer My.Com, who has a more than impressive back catalogue of titles and is a subsidy of a much larger Russian social media group. VR Invaders is something of a more core gameplay orientated title, a straightforward arcade shooter set inside a futuristic science fiction world obsessed with virtual reality. It's virtual in there, it's virtual in here. Stay inside or never go back. Let's find out.
In truth, although VR Invaders is at the cutting edge of the current technological trend, the inspiration for this title stretches back to the very dawn of mainstream gaming. The shadow of Space Invaders engulfs it, with a core gameplay loop based around shooting down swerving robot drones flying around a designated path. Sounds familiar, right? However, some might say that taking inspiration from such a classic staple of gaming culture and tradition is not the worst idea in the world. After all, the best ideas are the most obvious.
This is where VR Invaders sits; mainly because it gives a reason to keep the headset on for longer than most other VR games. Much of the criticism in these early days of VR centres on the very short, one-time playthrough shovelware, which does little to enhance the reputation of the fledgling medium.
Indeed, on starting this, it may initially look like a throwaway title, but there are some hidden depths. Now, let's be clear first of all, it boils down to holding a laser shield in one hand and a laser gun in the other and holding the trigger. However, the mistake many other developers of VR make is to forget the basic qualities that make a good arcade game.
This is definitely a decent arcade game. The differing enemy types, from the basic drone to the shielded drone or the faster speeder ship, all zip around the eight stages, which are well varied between large indoor facilities and outdoor space areas. It's probably wise that the protagonist stays stationary on a single platform during these levels to avoid the motion sickness problem. It is slightly sad that this world that is dying to be explored can only be viewed from the distance.
Of course, it wouldn't be an arcade shooter without some upgrades; the additional weapon upgrades help to even out odds and also provide an extra surge of enjoyment at wielding this power. Add in some map-based distractions, such as giant laser weapons, as well as boss entities that pop up, and there is definitely enough here to go beyond shovelware.
There is a story, but it is threadbare and suffers by having a very minimalistic presentation featuring some sort dialogue before each of the eight chapters. It isn't going to win any awards for writing or originality, albeit the voice actors do a decent job of at least being committed to the situation, and at times inject some humour and personality.
When exclusively console gamers read these reviews of VR games, it isn't hard to imagine a puzzled musing at any excitement over what could appear to be a bare cupboard of content. However, this is why VR Invaders becomes a much more solid title even despite what reads on paper to be far below the content some traditional gamers might expect. VR needs something that can be enjoyed timelessly, something that can be picked up and played for 30 minutes or an hour each day and provides some kind of unique fun each time. VR Invaders succeeds at this, with gameplay that is timeless, going back to the fundamental roots of the medium, but unfortunately with the same flaws, too.