We saw several different types of games at the Oculus Content Showcase at GDC, including a tower defense-style title and a third-person adventure, but I was hungry to try out a first-person shooter, too. FPS is one of the more obviously attractive types of games for virtual reality, and High Voltage Software is attempting its own virtual reality take at the genre with Damaged Core. You play as a lengthy section of computer code, and you have the ability to kill your robotic enemies by taking over their bodies and using their weapons to eliminate other foes around you.
The game’s tutorial provides an example of the mechanic in action. You enter a large and spherical camera, which serves as a safe spot for the player, as it’s constantly located high above the action. If you’re taking too much gunfire and need to take a break from the fight, you can take over a camera, watch the action from above and plan your next move.
When you need to take part in the fight, you can simply look at an enemy robot and take over its body. You can then use its weapons against other foes. However, your robot isn’t invincible and will eventually die from taking too many shots, so you have to eventually pick another enemy to possess. The entire game functions around this mechanic of continuously hopping from unit to unit to take out as many enemies as possible.
Testing It Out
The short demo showed two major firefights. In each setting, a small fleet of camera units were lined up in the air on the side of the battlefield. From this vantage point, I could see the wave of enemies arriving to destroy a plane attempting to take off. Slowly but surely, I would take over multiple bodies and kill as many enemies as possible. If I was accurate enough, I could even zoom in on a target and aim (with my head) for a one-shot kill.
To keep the combat interesting, there were variations of enemy robots. There were faster units with shotguns and tougher foes that you couldn’t possess as they had some type of jamming device with their system. There was even a massive “boss” that appeared. Before you could take over its functions, you had to destroy certain parts of its armor. After that, you could use its suite of bombs and lasers to easily wipe out enemy forces.
At some point, the action can get very intense, and you can’t pay attention to your own health bar. The amount of damage is displayed as a series of red circles will light up around you. Take too much fire, and you’ll die as you hear the sound similar to a computer shutdown while the screen fades to black. Throughout the demo it became too difficult to even notice my depleting health because I was so busy killing all of the enemies around me. By the time I wanted to return to a camera and survey the field, I was already dead.
More Like A Turret
One of the many characteristics of a first-person shooter is the constant need to move around the area to avoid gunfire. You can sprint, slide and take cover to gain the advantage in the firefight. Damaged Core also features movement, but it’s a strange variation compared to the usual run-and-gun tactics. Once you take over a robot, you’re stuck in a fixed position and you try to eliminate as many enemies around you before moving to another location. In this regard, it feels more like a turret-based game instead of a first person shooter. In that regard, the game has some traditional elements from the shooter genre, but it's still a far cry from the Call of Duty or Battlefield series.
In a way, then, the game is a perfect fit for VR. Many developers, including High Voltage Software, are still in the process of learning the best method for games in virtual reality. There are some elements that wouldn’t have the same effect on PC and console platforms, and what Damaged Core has to offer could only be possible in the world of virtual reality.