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Red Matter 2

Red Matter 2

Written by Eric Hauter on 5/31/2023 for PSVR2  
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When asked about my favorite game on the original PS VR, I will invariably launch into a practiced rant about the wonders of Vertical Robot’s glorious puzzle/exploration title Red Matter. By the time Sony’s original VR headset ran out of steam, there were a ton of games released for the platform that had players investigating lost space stations and vagabond ships, with varying results. But Red Matter was something special, a narrative puzzle game with a killer story and the graphical prowess to stand out from the crowd. It was, quite simply, better than anything else on the platform.

Now, four and a half years later, I’ve just completed Red Matter 2 on PS VR2 – neither of which I would have ever expected to see back when I played the original game. And once again, I have to say it: Vertical Robot is the company to study if you are looking to create a VR game. Red Matter 2, like its predecessor, sets a new gold standard in the VR gaming space.

There is no real way to express how awesome this looks on the PS VR2 compared to this flat rendering. Booooo, VR screenshots!

Everything about this game is stellar. The control scheme is amazing and intuitive. The comfort options are robust, though the default tuning of the game is good enough that you likely won’t need them. The central mystery is intriguing. The visuals – near photo-realistic at times – are jaw dropping. The puzzles are just tough enough to make you feel smart when you power through them. The soundtrack (which might just be the same soundtrack from the first game) strikes the perfect chord between “wonder” and “terrifying”. If there were any justice in the world, Red Matter 2 would rocket pack to the top of the PS VR2 charts and stay there for a good long while.

Like the first game, players find themselves investigating a series of abandoned Volgravian space stations, which are built into the asteroids and moons orbiting the major planets of the solar system. Volgravia is Red Matter’s version of the Soviet Union; the conceit here is that the Soviet Union never fell, and the cold war never ended. Now the people’s state is building enormous brutalist structures in the rings of Saturn and conducting hinky science experiments on the edges of human exploration.

Speaking of experiments, I took this 3D printed eyeball all the way from Saturn to Neptune, where I finally had to ditch it so I could carry this stupid fuse. Sad times. 

What this means in practical terms is that the player is granted jaw dropping imagery, rendered by some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a VR game. Red Matter 2 uses scale like no other game on the market; picture an insanely huge Soviet-era structure built into the side of an asteroid with the rings of Saturn stretching as far as the eye can see in the background. At one point, I looked up at the planet Neptune and saw weather patterns dancing across its surface. That little bit of animation went a long way; I just stood there watching for a while, feeling insignificant and small. It is a stunning moment that transcends “video games”.

 Red Matter 2’s interiors are just as good as the exteriors, with sprawling, cavernous spaces carved into space rock, defying all logic and reason. Every ten to fifteen minutes, Red Matter 2 provides the player with some whiz-bang moments of visual majesty, but the minute-to-minute gameplay is just as compelling as the spectacular sights.

The controls are a refined version of those found in Red Matter, with the added bonus of being able to move around with the analog sticks. The new game retains a lot of the tools of the original; the claw hands, the cool translation/hacking gadget, the jet pack; all are present and accounted for. Everything about the game feels natural, from the way you slowly float to the ground after an extra-long rocket boost to the way you manipulate objects with your claws. It all feels great, without a hint of what I refer to as “VR jank”.

Art director who decided to put the Shining carpet on this chair cushion: I see you.

Vertical Robot sidesteps many of the usual issues I have with VR games. Like the first game, players can summon objects that are out of reach with a simple gesture, drawing them close with “the force”. Solid objects feel solid, and they react appropriately when you throw them around. Though you can’t specifically see your feet, a vague shape indicates where they would be so you can measure where you would land while you’re floating around. It’s super-smart design, and shows that real thought has been put into not just the player’s comfort and satisfaction, but also into making the world feel real and livable.  

Red Matter 2 has an increased focus on combat in the second half of the game. And by “increased focus”, I mean that the concept of combat is present in the game; it was entirely absent from the first Red Matter. While the shooting mechanics are fine, I didn’t find the combat to be anything to write home about. I was never killed by any of Red Matter 2’s enemy drones and considered them to be more of a barrier to slow down my progress than an actual worthy game mechanic. There’s a lot of ducking for cover and popping out and blasting robots a bunch of times until they explode. It’s fine, but if there’s ever a Red Matter 3, I would be cool if they dropped it.

There was a security guy that I didn't like. I took his precious medal, and I threw it in the toilet. Take that, party stooge!

The puzzles in Red Matter 2 are a great combination of standard “turn the knobs to create a circuit” puzzles (which are fine) and amazing environmental puzzles. I’m totally okay with the puzzles that have you manipulating levers and knobs to achieve the desired results, but it’s the moments when I stand there examining a room full of scientific equipment and it suddenly hits me what I need to do to proceed that I’m really here for. This is one of those games that makes you scream “Gadzooks!” when a light bulb suddenly goes off above your head.

The environmental puzzles range from “How on earth do I get from Point A to Point B” to more specific moments where you have to determine how to press a button that is behind a glass wall. There are word puzzles, mechanical puzzles, and Nathan Drake-style “move the cart so I can get through the window” puzzles. There are also enough red herrings laying around that you might spend a bit of time wondering how they come into play until you finally realize that – duh – they don’t.

Another completely spectacular environment, rendered into a muddy mess by this screenshot. Sigh. In HDR and 3D, this is bowel-shattering.

All of this comes together to deliver a fun science fiction story that doesn’t shy away from mind-blowing “It’s full of stars” moments. Red Matter 2 immediately clues the player into the fact that all is not as it seems, and the game regularly takes a moment to remind you that more is going on than meets the eye. Your radio-connected guide might be a bit too knowledgeable, and they might spend a bit too much time “analyzing the data” instead of telling you what’s really going on. Your hallucinations might not be hallucinations. Some of these areas you are exploring look like they haven’t seen any people in quite a while…

Red Matter 2 takes everything that was so well done in the stellar first game and does it better. This is top tier VR gaming, from a wildly talented team that is doing it better than just about anyone else. If you own a PS VR2, you owe it to yourself to check this out. And don’t worry, you won’t fall through that glass and into the atmosphere of Saturn, no matter how much you feel like you will. Go ahead and make that jump. You’ll be fine.

Red Matter 2 is an amazing follow-up to one of the best games on the original PS VR. With the best graphics on the PS VR2, incredible environmental puzzles and storytelling, and one of the most polished control schemes on the market, Vertical Robot again shows why it is among the very best VR developers. If you are at all interested in VR gaming, Red Matter 2 is a game not to be missed.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

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