'Arktika.1' For Oculus Rift, Hands-On: Cover To Cover (Updated)

The makers of the Metro series are dipping their hands into VR development with Arktika.1, a first-person shooter for the Oculus Rift that's set in a world where global warming has taken its toll on the environment. As the member of a security team, your job is to protect the Arktika community from outside threats that range from mechanical foes to humans.

There are some issues with a lack of navigational freedom in the game, but even so, there are parts of the game that make it worth your while.

Basic Training

After a lengthy in-game car ride that introduced you to the story, you're finally able to move around. However, 4A Games, the team developing the game, took a more conservative route in terms of player movement. In fact, you don't move at all, in a sense. Instead, you teleport to pre-selected points throughout the area. Most of these points have more than enough cover that you're well protected, but there are also other places that required you to exert some sort of effort, such as kneeling, in order to completely avoid gunfire.

The game featured a numerous firearms, including a revolver, a pulse rifle of sorts, a shield, and more. Regardless of your choice, in the end you can carry only two firearms into battle. As an added bonus, you can also attach specific mods to some of the weapons. (It's possible you can change those later, but in the lengthy demo we played through, there was no opportunity to change or upgrade the weapons.) I chose a traditional pistol and a laser gun that could “curve” its bullet trajectory around an obstacle when it locked onto an enemy target. Before heading out into the unknown lands, I made sure to equip the pistol with a thermal scope, which provided a better visual on enemies during combat. 

In a rare meta moment in virtual reality, the game’s tutorial showed the basics of hiding behind cover. However, the tutorial took place inside virtual reality. While I was wearing an Oculus Rift HMD, my in-game instructor handed me a virtual copy of the HMD and had me "put it on" to learn how to shoot and use cover. Needless to say, it gave me a chuckle.

Fighting Behind Cover

After the training session, I was told to go out and scout the nearby abandoned airport. I restored power to an abandoned plane in order to open another door. However, two rogue soldiers were waiting just behind it; I had no choice but to take them out or perish. As soon as I teleported to one of the game’s designated cover points, the enemies started shooting at me. Luckily, I crouched down just in time and used the metal box as cover. One interesting thing about the box was that I could actually grab it and extend a portion of it, giving me additional cover. This way, I could stand upright without the risk of taking damage.

Using weapons in a real combat situation was hectic compared to the firing range at the beginning of the game. The laser pistol was difficult to use against moving targets, as it required me to lock on to an enemy before I could fire a pulse. My main weapon for most of these fights was the pistol, because of its thermal sight. I could easily find enemies and use the scope’s crosshairs to land a perfect headshot.

In later enemy encounters, I became more comfortable using the laser pistol, though. It was quite a sight to see the laser projectile shoot out from the gun and take a drastic turn as it angled towards an enemy that was behind cover.

In the midst of all the chaos that erupted in most gunfights, I found it difficult to switch between different cover points in the area. I was patient enough that I would wait for an enemy soldier or drone to peek out from cover and then take them out. However, I know that some would prefer to continuously switch between the cover points in order to get every available advantage. Therein lies the problem: The game doesn’t do much to tell you about the other available points that you can teleport to and find cover. You have to actually see them when you look around the area, but with a tunnel-vision focus on killing enemies, there isn’t much time to look around and admire the scenery.

The demo ended as I encountered a large drone that EMP'd my weapons.

Move Around Freely

Arktika.1's levels were beautifully created, and the combat scenarios were intense. I even learned to appreciate the multi-point navigation system. However, part of me wishes that I could roam freely throughout the map. There was so much detail to admire, but I couldn’t look any closer due to the limitations of where I could go.

At some point, I hope the studio allows users to switch between free roam and teleporting to and from only designated spots. For now, the current system seems to work well enough for the game’s action scenes. At the very least, it’s an appropriate way to provide an action-packed experience without giving the player a feeling of nausea.

Update, 3/1/2017, 7:15 pm PST: Corrected the name of the game in the headline.

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