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Under Cover

Under Cover

Written by Joseph Moorer on 2/23/2024 for QW2  
More On: Under Cover

So here's the skinny. This is the first time I've experienced a full VR game. Yes, in 2024 I'll admit that I have not played through a full in-home VR experience ever. I mean sure, I've played the Sandbox VR at the facility, and done the whole sit-in-the-seat-and-strap-on-the-glasses Arcade thing, but that is the length of my VR prowess. I even shelled out cold hard cash for the Meta Quest 2, which came with Resident Evil 4, and Beat Saber. I created my avatar. I downloaded Rec Room. I watched Across the Spiderverse in my VR theater. I played Beat Saber twice, for a few minutes. I was about to sell the thing, until Sigtrap, Coatsink, and Thunderful gave me the fix I didn't know I needed. Under Cover is fantastic. I've finally found what I have VR for. At least for me. 

Under Cover doesn't hide under cover with it's ambitions. It's clear what this is, and it's one big fat perfume-sprayed love letter to Time Crisis. Time Crisis was an arcade rail shooter released in 1995. The stand up cabinet came with a pedal. You had to push this pedal to fire at the bad guys, who were everywhere on the screen. You could shoot at exploding barrels and the like to destroy everyone on it. You also used this pedal to reload, and took cover by releasing it. Then, because Namco loves me, they released a home version of the game, packaged with a light gun called the GunCon. It was amazing. More Time Crisis games followed in the arcades, and at home. The first game was rendered obsolete if you have a flat screen TV, as it will not let you play them without a CRT. Rats. 

In Time Crisis, you played a secret agent infiltrating a base to stop a hostile terrorist organization. Under Cover is also a  rail shooter, as you and your partner infiltrate a secret organization to stop an evil CEO from using mind control technology. Already, I'm hooked. Let's go. The game engulfs you in an immersive polygonal world, and this time around, you take cover by either ducking down, or pushing a button on the controller. You have the option to play this sitting down with the buttons, or standing, and taking cover. You can interact with most things, and a brief tutorial familiarizes you if you've played games like this, or easily teaches you if you haven't. Shooting things with the controller is amazingly accurate. You know how games can sometimes be too nostalgic. This ain't it. This game was in the right place at the right time. 

When the game first comes on, you are placed within an arcade, in front of the virtual Under Cover cabinet. Then you are taken to the main screen and you select your character. At first, I didn't know the difference, seeing as Red Eye and Magnum can both use the "classic" weapon. But then there's the option of switching these weapons. Red has a mini machine gun, and Magnum has a...Magnum. Red Eye's gun shoots a burst of bullets towards enemies, while Magnum's gun is good for those head shots. I have to say the sound is satisfying to the ear. This is a light gun game, so you can see the gun you're holding, as well as how many bullets you have left before you reload. You can even use both hands if you want to shoot with the right or left. You just have to pull the trigger to put the gun in the corresponding hand. If you want even more accuracy, you can "hold" your shooting hand with your other hand. And yes, you can do the "kill shot", or as I like to call it, the "break yo self".

As mentioned, you can play this game sitting down or standing up. This is how you'll reload, and avoid enemy fire. This felt good standing up for the first few levels, but I'm out of shape, so the game felt a little heavy. You can change this setting at anytime during the game which is cool. And you don't necessarily have to duck all the way down. There's a sweet spot, and your gun will make the sound it needs to reload. Also, when avoiding enemy fire, you can stay down as long as you want. There's no timer, unless you're speed running, I suppose. Generally, both options here felt just as good. If there is fatigue, I feel like this is just a side effect of holding two controllers, and whipping around shooting guys with a device on your head. 

Now, this is not a low level grunt game. As soon as the narrator says "Action", you are in. You are already shooting at enemies. The blue guys have Stormtrooper aim. They will rarely hit you, but they will get you on occasion. The yellow guys are more accurate, but still not so good. They will get in your face more often than the blue guys. The red guys though? Insanely accurate. They will smack you down to size. As the game progresses, more enemies are added to frustrate you, such as Rocket Launcher Guy, who can hit you with rockets even if you're ducked down. There's also TV-Head-Knife-Throwing guy, who you can shoot his attack out the air, or duck down and look up to make sure it went past you. You want names? I don't have them. They're minions. Henchmen. Grunts. Pawns. Slime. You get it. 

You get a multiplier, which is an indicator on the side of the gun. The more bad guys you kill without being hit, the higher the multiplier goes. The maximum is 9x, and you get more of a bonus if you just keep blasting them. At the end of certain sections, you'll get a grade. I was kind of down about getting a D instead of a C or B on that first playthrough, but during that second, I got an A and even a S. So I'll take it. Shoot everyone and everything. At the end of the level, these grades are combined with your overall accuracy, and quantity of critical shots. Don't let them win! Take 'em out. And yes, headshots work, and even get you more points. You love points. 

Luckily, the UI warns you every time these enemies are about to hit you, both audibly and visually. There's a red ring that will appear around the enemy attacking you. Once that circle reaches the inner most part of the weapon, the attack is coming straight for your face. You have a life bar with about 6HP, so taking bullets from Machine-Gun-Robot Dude will put you under a cover. This isn't a think fast kind of thing, but it is a beware of your surroundings kind of thing. You haven't cleared a room until the game tells you, so if you think it's over, it's not. Red Guy is above you, and you're dead. Enemies hide behind chairs, trees, benches, walls, and boxes. They do not always take cover well. They're not pros like you. You can shoot them if you can see them, but you're gonna work a little for it. The environments aren't fully destructible, but destructible enough for you to take out a guy waiting for you to put your gun down. Stay vigilant. 

All that to say, there are parts of the level you can use to take out multiple enemies. You can shoot red barrels, or electronic equipment, or even Rocket Launcher Guys to do maximum damage, and get a cool slow motion action scene. The only qualm I had with this is, sometimes the slow motion happens, and it also slows down incoming bullets. I duck down right as I hit a barrel, and get blasted in the face because I popped out too quick. I don't think this is the fault of the game, but I wanted to point it out, because it will happen to you too. Sometimes there will be life refills too. The first time, it's right there under your nose. The next few times, you're going to have to invite yourself to a one person search party. You can also destroy boxes, which may or may not contain the best part about the game. More weapons!

Around each level, there are floating boxes carrying various weapons, like machine guns, dual pistols, and even a ball pit gun. These weapons are timed, yet powerful, and you can smash through a series of enemies with the quickness. You have to shoot the box, and then the weapon inside to activate them. The weird transition is if you're using the two handed accuracy, and you unlock a dual weapon, it's hard to go back to the holding hand accuracy. Save yourself the trouble, and just get used to being flexible. You're going to do a lot here, but you're going to have a blast doing it. All the guns have aim down sights, by the way. Use them. You don't even need to push a special button. They're actually super cool. 

There are four missions, with three levels a piece. There's a small subplot within the main story that I won't ruin here, but it's all about comradery and taking down a terrible, good-for-nothing trash heap. Each level will take you about 12-15 minutes, except for the third which is always a boss. I have to knock some points off here a little, because the bosses are all very similar to each other, with the exception of a mid level boss. All that to say, these bosses are not pushovers, and again, you feel like you're actually playing a light gun game from the 90s, and I can't stress enough, it felt good. You're not going to want to beat it in one sitting, but you totally can, if being in the VR headset for 3-5 hours is your thing. The game isn't easy, though. You have two continues per level. If you fail the mission, it's start over. But it's only start over from the beginning of the level, not the mission. Under Cover auto saves too, so once you complete a stage, you can turn it off, come back to it, and the next level will be saving all it's love for you.

So, in Time Crisis 2, there are two players. But if you don't have a friend, the second player is in the game anyway. I don't know why. It's the same way here. This game wants two players so bad, it kind of kills the vibe. If you choose single player, the other character is still in the game. Shooting guys with you, and taking out guys you can't see. The enemies are shooting at them but there are no stakes or penalties for letting your partner get hit. I'm not saving this other character from a rocket headed straight for the face. It's a little off putting. I do think it would be a blast with 2 player online co-op, and that is here, but no one was online, so I had no one to test it with. The most frustrating part is, sometimes there's a guy hiding and shooting at the CPU partner, and you can't reach that particular enemy based on the angle, so you have to wait until the AI takes them out.

I wish there was just a straight up single player experience. There's also the option to choose the route you want to go, as both players take different sides, heights, and positions throughout the game. I didn't see the point in this except for replay value, and I'm not necessarily here for the story. I'm here to shoot things and chew bubble gum. And I can't chew bubble gum and VR at the same time. 

My first full home VR experience was a great one. It was cool to see this whole thing at work. It was nice to be able to pause the game anytime I want, and address people in the room via passthrough. The game isn't too loud, the story is entertaining, and I didn't get sick. I also love the other nods they gave to Time Crisis. Some of the guys say "shucks" for no reason, and I laughed extremely loud the first time I heard it. The game kind of sticks with you. I would love to see some DLC, or even a sequel. This game was super cool, and it made me feel like this could be a thing. Call Sega. Let's get us a light gun pack. 

Under Cover is a love letter to light gun games. There is no question here what niche group it's reaching for. For the price, and the nostalgia, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it, even though time wasn't against me in any way shape or form. The mechanics feel good and familiar, and the challenge is just right. More please, and thank you.

Rating: 8 Good

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

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About Author

Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming! 

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