For Crytek, VR is a new avenue to explore more variety in its games. Instead of the run-and-gun gameplay akin to the Crysis series, the company behind the famous CryEngine recently showed off tech demos such as the two Back To Dinosaur Island vignettes, which put you in the nest of a Tyrannosaurus Rex or have you scale a cliff face full of pterodactyls.
Another project, The Climb, was introduced in December, which allowed players to free-climb cliffs around the world. At Oculus’ Launch Preview event, as well as Crytek’s booth at GDC, I was able to play two levels from the upcoming game.
Just like most of the games at the event, The Climb utilized the Xbox One controller. The left and right trigger buttons control the grip of your virtual hands. If you have both hands on a ledge, you can rest for a bit and take a look around. However, if you have one hand on the ledge, it will have a stamina bar. If you don’t manage to find another handhold for your other hand in time, you’ll lose your grip and fall. You can temporarily increase your stamina by chalking up your hands with a press of a button.
As you climb, there might be times when you lose sight of the next handhold. With the press of a button, you can take a look at the intended route. However, you don’t necessarily have to take that specific path, as there are various ways to reach the next major stop in the climb.
The direction of your ascent is mostly based on where you look. If you want to grab a ledge above you, you look up and grab it by pressing one of the trigger buttons. You can even crane your neck to grab a ledge that is slightly out of reach.
Ledge By Ledge
I was able to play on two locations, The Alps and The Bay (the latter is apparently located in Vietnam). Each level is split into a series of stages, which are marked by a flat wooden ledge and a large banner. It’s a place to catch your breath before the next leg of the climb. As you go higher, the risk of falling will rise as well, so you’ll have to manage your route carefully if you want to make it to the top.
However, it doesn’t always work as intended. There was one scenario where I had to transition from the cliff face and cross a gap with the help of a fallen ladder (think of it like a set of monkey bars). It took multiple tries to actually reach the bars from my current position, and the problem was more of the head-tracking accuracy issue rather than a matter of pressing the button at the right time.
Despite this one incident, the rest of the climb was a breeze. Overall, it took only a few minutes to get used to the controls, and then I began to climb faster.
Perhaps the most terrifying part of The Climb is its jumping sections. Certain handholds are so far out of reach that you have to jump in its direction and quickly grab it. Obviously, this is easier said than done. Even in the virtual world, I had a rush of adrenaline every time I jumped, and it was simulated perfectly in the game -- virtual sweat even appeared on the screen.
As fun as the experience was, the levels themselves are also quite beautiful. As you move along, you’ll notice some of the local flora and fauna. I even stayed on a ledge for a few minutes to admire the view behind me. Crytek went out of its way to not only provide an exciting experience, but also place it on the backdrop of exotic scenes that we might never get to visit in real life.
To The Top
For the game’s final version, executive producer Elijah Freeman told me that there will be three locations in the game. I already played The Bay and The Alps stages, but the final location is still under wraps. In terms of difficulty, the ascent is much more difficult at certain times of the day. You can play in the morning for the easiest climbing experience, or you can challenge yourself with a night climb.
Overall, the game should take about four to five hours to finish, so it’s not a particularly long play. However, it offers something that can’t be replicated on traditional gaming mediums.
I enjoyed the rhythm of moving from ledge to ledge, and it was an exciting challenge to plan my routes as I climbed along. There were moments of intensity that were challenging, and it definitely added some excitement. Freeman mentioned that the company developed for VR to “see what’s available for the medium,” and it seems that the company struck gold with its latest project. The Climb is a unique experience that everyone should try, and the best (and only) way to experience it is in virtual reality.