One of our favorite VR titles from Oculus Connect 3 was a spy puzzler called I Expect You To Die (IEYTD). The game is actually both a thinker and a heart-pounder, as you often find yourself up against a clock, and it’s a perfect vehicle for the Oculus Rift Touch controllers. Sony apparently thinks it will also be ideal for the PlayStation VR, because IEYTD is coming to the VR gaming console in December.
This is a bit of a surprise, because IEYTD is slated to be a Touch launch title; we expected a bit of exclusivity to come with that designation. So it goes.
You Want Tracked Hands
Although you can play IEYTD with an Xbox controller or mouse, you're going to want to play the game with a hand-tracked controller like Sony’s Move. So many elements in every scene are manipulable that you just want to grab-grab-grab and see what happens. Because it’s a seated experience, you do have to use an unnatural maneuver at times to grab things (point to an object, select it, tractor beam it into your hands). Points if you can resist shouting “Accio [item]!”
However, you don’t need too much in the way of granular controls; fundamentally, you select a Thing (say, a key) and then apply it to another Thing (say, a car’s ignition), but you don’t need fingertip control, for example. Still, the natural act of reaching for an object in a room as opposed to using a controller makes for a superior experience.
Living To Die, Dying To Live
The game itself is utterly charming and engrossing. The animation is slightly cartoonish; considering how often you die in IEYTD, that’s probably wise, psychologically.
Even the initial obligatory training session you have to endure to learn all the controls is fun. You’re sitting at a desk getting a briefing, and if you’re anything like me, the first thing you’ll do is ignore the prattling on screen and try to mess with everything in sight. You can throw things against the wall, grab things from across the room, interact with objects, and so on, and every action has consequences. Let’s just say that by the end of the short briefing, my desk was on fire.
In the demo we enjoyed at OC3, when the post-briefing scene faded in, I found myself in a car. You get little in the way of instructions, other than a vague sort of “get this car out of here” mission. (Did I mention you’re parked in the back of what looks like a C-130?) Although there are many different ways to accomplish the tasks at hand, you have to go through a progression. For example, you have to start the car before you can blow a hole through the side of the airplane.
One slightly frustrating aspect of IEYTD is that, um, you keep dying, and you have to start the scene over and over again, but that’s also part of the fun. You have to scratch your head and figure out why that bomb keeps blowing up in your face, for example; you followed the briefing instructions, right? Just when you’re about to say “screw it” and bail on the game, you suddenly realize that you’d been reversing two of the steps, finally defuse the bomb, and realize that you’re hooked again.
This was one of the games at OC3 that so engross me that I had no sense of the passage of time. A tap on the shoulder told me I’d been playing IEYTD for about 30 minutes; I could’ve sworn it had been only five.
We don’t want to reveal too much more about the specifics of what we experienced in IEYTD so as not to spoil anything. The less you know, the more fun it will be for you when you fire it up on your Rift or PSVR.
Development, In The True Sense Of The Word
The developers from Schell Games have been working on IEYTD for a long time--which is to say, they demo it, take feedback (both observed and via post-demo interviews), tweak the game, and repeat. For example, they’ll notice that many players will try to reach for something that isn’t there or attempt an action that isn’t available; then they’ll go back and build those things in.
They told me that in one instance there was an action that people kept falling back on (again, no spoilers) that was sort of a boring shortcut out of a given pickle. It distracted users from the more creative methods of solving that particular problem, so they took out the shortcut.
We got to see just a small part of the longer game at OC3, but we were hooked. IEYTD is going to be a fan favorite on the Oculus Rift and now, apparently, on the PSVR.