By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Gunheart is hub-based mission runner that allows for up to three person co-op. Players connect to a unified hub station where they can socialize or find partners for missions, buy new upgrades or weapons, study enemies, and – of course – accept missions. The game features superb graphics, an immersive atmosphere, and a break from the standard VR wave shooter. As with most VR games, Gunheart is in Early Access, meaning that the game is subject to frequent change. That being said, let’s jump head first into the Gunheart Early Access Review.
As always, please keep in mind that this is an Early Access game. The information in this review may not be accurate when you read this, so please take the time to see what updates have been done to the game. Also, the other thing to keep in mind that these are screenshots from VR. By their nature they will show up lower quality than they appear in the game.
Gunheart, being an Early Access game, has a bare minimum of customization options. There are a decent number of options for a game that just became available, however. On top of that, there is obvious framework for prolific customization of both your frame and stats, as well as your weapons. With what is currently available in the game, I have high hopes that Gunheart will turn out to be a game with a plethora of customization options.
Right now, you can choose between two currently available frames and do some basic cosmetic customization such as your face, cape, and hat. You can also upgrade certain stats, such as your overall damage output and the efficiency of your shields. There are also weapon unlocks that will do things such as increase firerate, or eliminate the need for reloading by allowing your guns to automatically regenerate ammo. All of these are unlocked using the in-game currency, of course.
Gunheart is one of the better looking VR games I’ve played. The models are detailed, the textures are high quality, and the effects look superb. I honestly can’t find anything with the graphics to complain about, and have nothing but praise for them. The map design – including the hub – are top-notch, too. I can’t really think of a developed-for-VR game that has better map design, actually.
I’m not sure if it was just me, but I felt like the controls weren’t as responsive as I would like. I’ll get into some of that in the ‘Locomotion’ section of the review. An example was reloading. I had a difficult time figuring out how I had actually reloaded my gun and I felt like almost every other time I pressed the button to eject my current magazine, it just didn’t work and I would have to press the button one or two more times. Perhaps adding more of a noticeable audio cue would make this better. Other than that, the controls weren’t bad.
Right now, Gunheart has a small community. This is mostly due to lack of content – there is only so much you can do in the game right now. As the developers add more content and more re-playability, there should be a significant spike in the playerbase. The community in the game is what you would expect from Steam, however there is more a leaning towards maturity than you might expect. The barrier to entry for VR is still a decent investment for most people, meaning that there aren’t many kids playing and the ones that are tend to be decent. Of course, you get the occasional bad apple.
Virtual Reality is still a fledgling medium, with not much in the way of actual games. Most titles are bare-bones, or incredibly simple by nature. For example, The Lab – the first introduction to room scale VR for many people – is a collection of simple tech demos, meant to show off what could be done with virtual reality without making an actual game out of any of the mechanics shown. Onward, VR’s premier First-Person Shooter, is still in development but could be considered an actual game, despite how simple the mechanics of it are. There are other titles that you could consider full-fledged games, similar to what you expect to get from a typical game… but they’re incredibly few and far between. Which is why Gunheart is such a treat, despite it being in Early Access.
Gunheart has an interesting world, somewhat similar to Borderlands in that there are over zealous corporations and zany characters. You find yourself a mercenary – or bounty hunter – on a space station of sorts, set up as a bar and community center. In this bar – the Bent Horizon – you’ll find other players floating around, talking, making plans, interacting using the fun social features such as the balloon or block generators. Almost like a simplified version of Rec Rooms lobby.
Right now, the things you can do in the hub are few. You can upgrade and customize your frame at one ‘shop,’ buy and upgrade weapons in another, view holographic representations of some of the enemies you’ll come across in another spot, and explore nooks and crannies of The Bent Horizon. Besides that, there’s a couple of ‘Easter Eggs’ to find and interact with, but nothing major. I would really like it if more social features were put in, like mini-games or more ways to interact with other players than the balloon and block guns.
Combat is intense, but could use some more polish. My favorite weapon to use are dual machine pistols. However, they don’t ‘feel’ that great when compared to firing weapons in other VR titles. Some weapons do have excellent feel, however. For example, the bow ‘combo’ weapon feels and looks fantastic.
You choose a weapon for each hand, the default being pistols. You’re free to mix and match as you like, but I personally prefer having two of the same weapon. By using the currency you get from completing missions you can unlock new weapons, although the selection is fairly small so far. On top of choosing primary weapons, you can also choose a ‘combo’ weapon. This is a really awesome system in which you press your two primary weapons together and they combine to form a more powerful weapon, such as a minigun or sniper bow.
Your frame has a built-in shield that starts out fairly weak but can be improved. Early on, your shield is weak enough that you’ll have to actively work to avoid getting hit, because one or two good hits from an enemy will knock it out. After a while, it’s not such a big deal if you get hit. Partially because your weapons will destroy the enemies in waves, and partially because you’ll have activated enough upgrades to make yourself quite strong.
Speaking of the enemies, though, they’re currently hit-or-miss. Besides the poor feeling when firing most weapons, the AI breaking is probably the biggest negative in the game in its current state. When it works, however, AI is awesome. The base units will charge you in waves, the higher-end rifle-wielding enemies will (usually) try to distance themselves and hide behind cover, and generally the AI makes sense. When it works. It feels like at least half the time the AI breaks and does incredibly stupid things that make them easy to kill. Not that the AI has to be too brilliant, though, as the game is still a wave/dungeon shooter.
The missions are interesting, with a mixture of story missions that help progress the plot of the game and missions designs to be a bit dynamic so they’re interesting each time you run them. Recently weekly missions were added, too. Map design is fantastic and if you’re the type of person who enjoys the mission-running style of games like Destiny, Warframe, or Phantasy Star Online, you’ll enjoy the gameplay in Gunheart. There is also a fledgling PVP mode available, which I honestly wasn’t impressed with. The game needs more balance and fleshing out before PVP will be fun, I feel.
The story for the game is that weird mixture of absurdity and seriousness that reminds me of Borderlands. Obviously, the gameplay isn’t really similar, but I get the feeling the developers took a lot of inspiration for their setting from Borderlands. One of the earliest missions you encounter has you being threatened with termination from your position at an outpost facility. Of course, in Gunheart, your termination from this position will also result in your death. Wacky over-the-top corporations that will only keep you alive if they’re making money off you are just one small part of the budding lore in Gunheart.
Probably one of the biggest things when it comes to VR games is locomotion. Gunheart uses motion tracked controllers (ie the Vive wands or Oculus Touch) to aim weapons and interact with the world. To get around, you have two options. Either teleportation or teleportation + trackpad movement. Teleportation works as well as you could hope it would, but the trackpad movement could use some work, I feel. Namely, it would be nice if we could get around the map with trackpad movement without having to use teleporation to climb up obstacles. I’m not sure how it would work out – I guess the developers would have to implement some sort of climbing mechanic similar to Art of Fight – but it’s something I feel would help take the game to the next level of immersion.
Balance between the two locomotion options isn’t that great. Teleportation is a lot faster than trackpad movement. On top of that, I often feel like the trackpad movement isn’t as responsive as it could be. The ends up with me using mostly teleportation despite it not being my preferred locomotion method. However, this is Early Access and I’m sure the developers will continue to add more locomotion options and refine the current ones.
Gunheart is the type of Virtual Reality game I’ve been waiting for. Unfortunately, while it’s still in this stage of Early Access there isn’t much content that will have you coming back over and over again. You can probably get a solid ten or more hours of gameplay out of it right now though, before you even start to get bored. The developers have made it clear that they plan to add a lot more to the game in the coming weeks and months. If you’re OK with investing in the potential of the game, I would say you should certainly buy the Early Access version of Gunheart, otherwise you should wait until the official release to get into the game. Keep in mind, however, that the price is likely to go higher as more content is added.
- Features: 3/5 – The framework is there, but there needs to be more.
- Customization: 3/5 – Again, the framework is there, but right now it’s sparse.
- Graphics: 4/5 – Definitely one of the better looking VR titles.
- Controls: 3/5 – Could use some work, especially with Locomotion.
- Community: 3/5 – Small, but hopefully not for long.
Overall: 4/5 – Gunheart looks fantastic and has more potential than most VR games on Steam right now. Now or later, you’ll definitely want to pick this title up!