Written by Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
When I bought my VR headset, I never planned to actually play Virtual Reality titles outside of the simulation racing games I bought it for. But after trying out a few games made specifically for VR, I fell in love and craved more. Virtual Reality is still a bit of a new niche, a gimmick to have but not entirely up to par with current non-VR games. Every day more VR games of many shapes and forms are released, and many look promising, beyond the generic rail shooter where you stand still and the enemies come in waves at you. Archangel takes a different approach, one that reminds me of the many action packed shooting games you’d find at an arcade.
At the beginning of Archangel you are sitting in the train with your son, heading to work to surprise your son for his birthday. Straight away the story gets really intriguing, and I felt really immersed in this new virtual world. The closer you get to the destination, the more you figure out about the unknown world around you and why there are people working in the background. It reminds me of another successful game, many moons ago. When we arrived in the hangar I had a moment of awe, and even though it was a surprise for your son, the moment the doors went open and the train shifted from a wagon into some sort of box you buy pies in, I was absolutely amazed by the amazing scale of the huge mech waiting for you and its mission.
It doesn’t take long until you are loaded into the mech and get ready for your first training mission. Since the Mech is completely new technology to you and the people you work for, you get to test out how the Mech operates and fires its guns. Right away I had Pacific Rim vibes, a movie that was all about people operating Mechs and using them to defend people. When you get used to the Mech and have experienced the neural link connection with the on board systems, you are ready to go on a mission – until the base you are in is attacked, and a dramatic turn of events changes the whole situation. Now, you must get ready for battle.
Even though the game doesn’t need a good story to be fun and interesting, this turn of events slightly killed the immersion I had. I felt I had jumped into a very interesting story. I am a sucker for games with really good stories, it’s one of the few reasons I try to play every game just to check it out if the story is intriguing enough. I’ve come to an age where graphics aren’t super important: gameplay still can spark my interest, but the story gets me sticking around. But after this tutorial of getting to know your mech, the immersion of the story drastically changed, and the game suddenly changed into a generic shooter.
Virtual Reality games are played with special controllers, and since I usually don’t use the Oculus Rift Touch controllers, I had to get used to them a little. After the first mission I get why the technology isn’t quite there yet in terms of usability. The game reminds me of one of those action packed shooters you’ll find at the arcade, the ones where you get to use a plastic gun, and have to shoot at the screen like its some sort of Duck Hunt game on the NES. Archangel plays exactly the same: the Mech moves automatically on its own, and you get to control its fists and guns to shoot everything around you. This works as well as you’d think. It’s not super difficult, but the game throws challenges at you that make you wonder why you picked ‘normal difficulty’ because it still is quite difficult.
There isn’t exactly more to it than that. Archangel keeps throwing different challenges at you, different sort of obstacles to overcome and attack, but the game doesn’t really offer much excitement. I also had a lot of trouble getting immersed into the game itself. While the story at the beginning did a great start, the whole game doesn’t really let you feel like you are sitting in a Mech. You walk around endlessly around what used to be cities, but are now covered in sand as if they were just deserts, but the game never really immerses you what exactly is going on in the world. You know there are the good guys and bad guys, and you happen to be on the ‘good’ side for whatever reason that justifies it. The Mech itself is also somewhat of a disappointing, not in the sense of the fighting, but in that Archangel doesn’t make you feel like the Mech is actually real. The sounds are disappointing, the mech makes no sound whatsoever unless you take a few hits, or rockets fly from its rails, but the lacking sound of footsteps, or anything you do with your mech makes you feel like you are just sitting in some training simulator instead of doing the real thing.
The gameplay is simple; you point and click and have to deal with the many obstacles that fly or ride your way. Even though it is a great shooter to pass your time, I did find some annoyances that personally made me like the game less. Both your left and right arm are controlled with each one of the controllers you use for virtual reality. While this isn’t a big deal, both crosshairs are almost the same with the exact same color for ammunition, and occasionally I just lost the tracking, and I was missing shots because my mind thought I was shooting rockets to the left, while the crosshair for my rockets was actually on the right side of the screen and visa versa, and this in itself makes the game needlessly more difficult and makes you appreciate less of the game than you want.
Conclusion: Fair (2.5/5)
Archangel is an interesting game that immerses you in its story, throws you into a Mech with a bunch of very awesome tools, and then pulls the rug underneath you to leave you wondering what exactly is left. A shooter on rails with confusing controls, that lets you upgrade your Mech after each mission. Since Virtual Reality games are still very new, and the technology isn’t quite yet on par with normal games, I expect Virtual Reality games to blink out in one way or another. While the game play is interesting and reminds me of those arcade games, Virtual Reality games always come down to the question: “is it worth setting up my Virtual Reality, clearing the room of obstacles and sweating a ton from the warmth of the glasses and moving around?” And the answer for me and Archangel is ‘no’. The game right now is fun, but it bored me quickly and the immersion was almost completely lost once gameplay began. While the game isn’t priced at a full retail price, you still have to ask yourself if the price tag is worth the mindless shooting of this arcade style game.