By any measure, Virtual Reality is still very low on the maturity S-curve, at least with regards to VR gaming. Developers are for the most part still working out what types of games are going to fit well within this new environment. As such, a relatively small collection of differing game types have emerged as being truly far superior in the immersive VR technology than in the 2D outside-looking-in environment. Flight and auto racing sims were, naturally, obvious candidates for VR. There are a few designers that think room escape puzzles seem to be enhanced with VR, but having played a few, I disagree. Other than the “hey cool, I’m in VR!” factor, which tends to erode within a few weeks of first starting with VR, they play pretty much the same as they always have.
I’m noticing another trend that seems to be a lot more engaging in VR than not, and that is the wave shooter. In fact, you could probably say that we’re seeing a wave of wave shooters, but you probably shouldn’t. It makes you look like you’re trying too hard. Fact is, one of my earliest experiences in VR, and one that I often use when demonstrating VR to someone that has never experienced it, was a wave shooter called Robo Recall. I have yet to see a person playing that game not leap back when a robot gets all up in his/her face, and only a couple that haven’t totally freaked out when a swarm of attacking robots inevitably overwhelms them. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that reaction from someone sitting in front of a monitor.
That brings us to Guns'n'Stories: Bulletproof VR. I know you’re all sitting there holding your breath waiting for the big reveal, the moment when I tell you just what kind of game it is - ah, who am I kidding? This is going to be as obvious as the ending of a Hallmark Channel movie is before it even rolls: it’s a wave shooter! That said, it is a wave shooter with a number of differentiators from the wave of wave shooters.
First, it’s $10. Today, anyway - it’s still early access. There are no guarantees on where it goes from there, and as of today it only includes two out of what appears to be three planned chapters. There seems to be a tendency in the VR market to charge a lot more than what a comparable game would cost, to the degree that VR games are comparable to [need a word here - Antique? Classic? Old? Obsolete? Help me out here, folks!] games in general.
Second, and I applaud this as fervently as humanly possible, there’s no clunky reload operation required for the guns. Wrist-flicking, even more convoluted arm motions, etc. all serve only to frustrate players. Bulletproof skips all of that - you just keep on shooting and shooting and shooting. Of course, not having to suffer reloads makes the game a bit easier, but there’s an easy fix for that: just send more and more and more things to shoot at!
Third, the background story isn’t gruesome, dark, frightening, shocking, or in any way depressing or disturbing. It’s actually clever, funny, and at times, corny. At its very essence, the story is a real time “tall tale” that grandpa is sharing with his young grandson. It’s done in a way that makes it obvious that grandpa is inventing pretty much everything in the story as he goes, but that is used as a clever way to introduce newer and more outlandish weapons as the waves of opponents get tougher. The voice acting is pretty good, although the grandson sounds kind of forced and stilted at times, but only a jerk would mention something like that, much less criticize it. (Wrote a jerk.)
The pace of the game can be pretty frantic, but you do get breaks now and then while more dialog covers the introduction of a new weapon. Those breaks can either be godsends or irritants depending on how much you enjoy periods of non-stop stress. On the plus side, nothing ever gets completely behind you - you only have to worry about a 180° arc horizontally. Vertically is a different story: once the drones start coming after you, you have to look high and low too.
With the current amount of content and the difficulty set at far less than ‘Excruciating’ mode (my description, not theirs), I was through the game in about half an hour. That will seem short, but there are two things to remember: there is probably more content coming, and with the story dialog turned off (there is a choice for this when you launch a chapter) it has a lot of replayability. If nothing else, it can be a good cardiac workout if you make use of your shooter’s ability to knock aside incoming bullets by flailing your arms around like a lunatic. Well, I’m told that’s what I look like while playing it, anyway.
Being as VR is still not best known for photo-realistic graphics, and for very good reason, artists need to work a lot differently than they do in the creation of obsolete [yeah, I went there] games. Small fonts: nope. Tiny targets: nope, nope, NOPE! Details need to be big and bold, almost cartoonish, but without necessarily looking cartoonish. Some do it well, some do not. Whoever did the art for Bullets did it just right. It imparted the Old West flavor perfectly, although the opponent's characters were, of a necessity in my opinion, still cartoonish. Please note that I say that the enemy characters needed to drawn be that way because they fit the nature of the story better, not because VR demands it. They aren’t bad, they’re just drawn that way. (Said Jessica Rabbit.)
On a final note, and I hope this is not considered a spoiler, I was very frustrated when I first launched Bullets. I couldn’t find the menu to start the game! I’ll just say this: it’s VR - you’re expected to pick things up and play with them.
While it was short, I enjoyed Bulletproof quite a bit. Once past the initial start menu, it’s completely intuitive and at the easier levels, rank beginners will be able to survive at least through the first few waves. Not having to master the actions required to select or reload weapons removes the majority of frustrations new players will have, and veteran players aren’t going to miss those things either - it's a game mechanic I myself would like to see evaporate. It is for primarily for this reason that Guns'n'Stories: Bulletproof VR has replaced Robo Recall as my selection for VR 101 when uninitiated people come to visit.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.
My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.
While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.
My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.