By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)
I forget where, but not long ago I read an article suggesting that VR was in its “‘80s phase” compared to non-VR gaming. The ‘80s was definitely a time of experimental games and the growth of an industry. The ‘80s saw the emergence of the “Official Nintendo Seal of Quality”, which essentially meant that a game had been thoroughly tested and was free of bugs.
The ‘80s was also a time when gaming was largely single player or local multiplayer/co-op. Granted, part of this was because the internet was in its early infancy, but it’s important to recognize that there weren’t many people with the technology necessary for online gaming (even as MUDs emerged).
Fast forward to 2019. VR is still a fringe technology in the world of gaming, and relative to other platforms just hasn’t reached peak popularity. It’s growing, certainly, thanks to breakout titles such as Beat Saber, Skyrim/Fallout VR, Gorn, and others, but to be quite frank, it’s a market flooded with games, but few users to play them.
The point to all of this: VR games with a heavy multiplayer focus are putting the cart before the horse. One unfortunate example is the VR shooter, Telefrag. Telefrag actually has quite a bit going for it. The graphics are good, if not great. The audio quality creates an immersive VR environment. Telefrag does a good job of managing the motion sickness inherent in fast paced VR titles. The weapons are, if not entirely innovative, uniquely implemented.
And yet, it’s just not very fun.
Here you can see one of the few times I died while playing Telefrag, and this only because the game bugged out and gave me the wrong weapons after the warm up period. When I switch to plasma rifle and rocket launcher, it’s a different story.
The story behind Telefrag is that you’re a gladiator in an alternate timeline where Rome never fell. Instead, it seems to have evolved into a super-empire, possibly with global control. It’s hard to say, as there’s no real story in the game – only on the Steam page. I’m not sure if that even really counts. If I have to go looking outside of the game to find any hint of a story, then the game doesn’t have any story to speak of.
Outside of tutorials, and a shooting gallery that lets you learn about the weapons, there’s only one main gameplay mode. You and a single opponent run around one of five arenas. The problem is, that single opponent is likely to be an AI controlled bot. Every match is just a 1v1 deathmatch, with the winner being the first to achieve three kills.
Scattered about the level are armor and health boosts, each with one of three different values. Like similar games, the buffs can actually allow you to go over the starting 100% health and armor values. Also found in each arena are three colors of portals. Blue portals are entry portals, and orange are their respective exits. The fuschia portals are two way.
Mind you, the arenas themselves are pretty cool. Each of them is a reality bending set of platforms, where gravity is relative and teleporting onto the ceiling will flip your view. Unsurprisingly with a name like Telefrag, teleportation is a prime mode of movement in the game. The titular telefrag actually happens when you teleport into the location where an enemy is standing, which kills them instantly.
Here I’m using the Laser Pistol, with the invisibility cloak, and the shotgun style flak cannon with the teleport beacon. Note: the black circles on the edge of the screen are the game’s method of dealing with motion sickness, and for the most part it works.
Each of the game’s five weapons has its own method of teleportation, as well as two different fire modes. Before each match, you are allowed to choose two weapons, one for each hand. The same weapon can be chosen for both hands, or you can use different weapons in each. Choice of armaments include: plasma rifle, laser pistol, flak cannon (essentially a shotgun), rocket launcher, and particle cannon. Each has specific ranges, two fire modes, and a teleport option except the laser pistol, which has an invisibility function instead of a teleport. It also has an extremely accurate long range attack.
And that’s… really all there is to the game. There are no challenge modes to speak of. Nothing to do except run around and try to frag the enemy. There are only two skins, one male and one female, for the player to use. There is a selector below the gender, but it just says “base” and there doesn’t seem to be any way to unlock additional skins.
That’s it. Male and female in red gladiator armor. It’s COOL armor, but it’s still only 2 models. I asked on the Telefrag Discord channel if there was more intended, or more content, but the developers declined to answer (though they did answer other people’s questions after mine was asked).
Asking $24.99 for this game feels like nothing short of highway robbery. It could be fun, if there were enough people to play it, but without a pre-established playerbase, engaging and challenging bots, or any sort of valid single player mode, the game just fails to offer anything to make it worth playing. The fact that there are only 24 reviews on Steam should give at least a loose indication of exactly how small the player base is, even if those reviews are in the majority positive.
With its Quake-like ambiance and pacing, Telefrag had a fair amount of potential. As a 1v1 title where you the player will likely only ever interact with an AI opponent (other players can jump in mid-match if you allow it when starting a bout), there’s just not enough here to keep me interested. I’m giving it 2 out of 5 pew-pews.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.