Downward Spiral: Horus Station (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 13.02.2019

Review for Downward Spiral: Horus Station  on PlayStation 4

Back in 2017, a game was released to Steam entitled Downward Spiral Prologue. It felt, like many other VR titles of the time, like something of a tech demo - an introduction to a multiplayer space adventure. An '80s vision of futuristic space station that has gone offline, and the inhabitants trying to get it back online. It was impressive. But it was also about 20-minutes long. Now 3rd Eye Studios are bringing the final product to PSVR.

As with Downward Spiral Prologue, Downward Spiral Horus Station gives the same premise. Floating on a Space Station; trying to get each of the vital systems back online; and fighting against a multitude of mechanical menaces that are dedicated to ensuring the nameless astronaut does not succeed. There's a mission to undertake, objectives to complete, but no real story to speak of, just a series of "Acts" as each part of the station is restored. That is, if combat is selected, as there are a number of ways to play. Not only can the whole thing be played with VR enabled or not, but the whole campaign can also be played through entirely in either single player or co-operative mode.

Screenshot for Downward Spiral: Horus Station  on PlayStation 4

For those who just want to experience the exploration aspects without taking on the combat challenges, that's an option too. Upon starting, the game exploration mode can be selected which removes the enemies and weapons. Something that may be preferable to some, considering the combat is likely the weakest aspect. Not that it's particularly bad. There's a handful of different weapons and enemies, but in VR it's a bit tricky to aim. This uses the headset as opposed to, say, the right analogue to aim the reticule, making for an awkward combat experience.

The combat may be weak, but the strength in Horus Station comes from the environment and the exploration. A few VR titles have already used the same sort of environment as Downward Spiral Horus Station - because it works so well. The zero gravity experience means that getting around doesn't have to rely on a teleportation or clunky movement system. Instead, the focus is on grabbing onto walls and releasing, using the inertia to propel from place to place. It works just as well here as in others, as it feels really natural to grip from wall to wall. It's a system that's easy to pick up and it's complemented by a tether gun. This can fire out a line, dig itself into a wall and pull the astronaut towards it as the line is reeled in. Later on, a device that propels is even better, giving a smooth, floaty, experience.

Screenshot for Downward Spiral: Horus Station  on PlayStation 4

The best VR games are the ones that can totally immerse their players - it's definitely the greatest strength of the platform. Downward Spiral Horus Station is wonderful at this, crafting an environment that is fully realised, with the station feeling like something developed by Weyland Yutani. At points, it's necessary to step outside the ship too, traverse from airlock to airlock. At others, there are scenes of wide environments. The whole experience of exploring the ship and these areas is truly wonderful, and enhanced by a deeply atmospheric soundtrack that comes courtesy of Ville Valo; the former frontman of gothic rockers HIM.

Screenshot for Downward Spiral: Horus Station  on PlayStation 4

But once the shine fades from that experience, the truth is there's a big issue with the game. The lack of a narrative can be ignored. It can be a storytelling decision to abstain from one, and it mostly works here. It doesn't need a convoluted explanation as to why the ship is damaged or the motivations of the engineer fixing it. What isn't forgivable is what needs to be done to fix it. There should be puzzles here, utilising the strengths of VR to solve them, instead, it's mostly fetch quests. Go to an area, grab a piece of tech or keycard, go back, repeat. It's a shame. It never really gets dull, mostly thanks to the three-hour campaign, but it feels like it could have been even better.

On top of the main campaign, there's a tacked on combat based online multiplayer. This consists of two modes: Deathmatch, and Horde. They're okay to mess around with briefly - that is if there are ever any other players randomly happening to be playing. So friends who own the game are pretty much a must to even experience the multiplayer, and even then, it's not much fun with just two or three. Also bundled onto the main menu are some developer diaries and trailers, a strange bonus, rarely found with games these days, and frankly, of little value.

Screenshot for Downward Spiral: Horus Station  on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

PSVR has expanded its catalogue year on year, going a long way in proving that the technology is here to stay, and not the gimmick many had thought. While Downward Spiral Horus Station isn't a groundbreaking VR title, thanks to the combat and lack of variety in the "puzzles" letting it down. It still delivers on crafting an immersive and atmospheric experience. Letting its audience step into the void of space. It's another to add to the catalogue of games to introduce non-VR gamers and non-gamers in general into the wonders of virtual reality.

Developer

3rd Eye Studios

Publisher

3rd Eye Studios

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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