Robo Recall does so many things right they become nearly invisible. The intimidating amount of design work that goes into making a VR game work this well disappears; for the player it just feels natural.
Robo Recall is an Oculus Rift exclusive that was released today for free, but don’t take it for granted. It’s a full-scale shooter from Epic Games where you teleport around spacious levels, murder robots in new and fun ways while chasing your own high score and crawling up the leader boards. Each level has different ways to earn stars which are used to upgrade your weapons, which then make it easier to get higher scores.
But your basic weapons are just part of the story, you can also grab an enemy robot, shoot it in the head at close range, rip its arm off and take its gun. Certain enemies become guns when you grab them. The more creative you get with your kills, the easier it becomes to run up your multiplier which, again, helps your score. But the amount of fun you’ll have with the game’s various systems becomes its own reward, even if you don’t care about your ranking.
The key to keeping this sort of arcade game fun is the number of options you have to deal with common situations. Let’s say a robot fires a gun at you, do you:
- Physically take a step to the right or left to avoid the bullet
- Deflect the bullet with your gun, and potentially hit another target as it ricochets away
- Drop your gun, grab the bullet out of the air and throw it back at the enemy
- Teleport behind the robot, avoiding the bullet and putting yourself in a situation where you can blow it apart with your shotguns
Each option sets you up for different combos, or may put you in a worse tactical position or lead to an outcome you didn’t see coming at all. And remember even the simplest actions require you to aim your weapons accurately or move your body around your play space while interacting with the madness around you. This is combined with a setting and writing that is part funny, part groan-inducing but luckily never gets so bad it grates on your nerves.
Robo Recall is a brutal parade of death and robot murder, but the scoring system and tone keep things from feeling too heavy, which kind of has its own scary implications. But it’s just as fun to watch as it is to play; the monitor shows you what the person inside sees alongside the scoreboard, so you can track how they stack up against everyone else online.
Even the menu system is tuned for VR. When you select your pistol from the upgrade menu, a virtual version floats in front of you, and you can use a virtual laser pointer attached to your hand to select options like laser sights or a larger magazine. Or you can grab the gun itself and grab the components and put it together yourself. The game puts targets in front of you automatically once the gun is in your hand so you can test how it feels with each addition or subtraction. You then place it in one of four slots to your left or right to adjust your loadout.
You don’t have to learn how to do any of this; it just feels natural and “right.”
You don’t even have to reload, you just let go of your guns when they’re dry and grab new ones from your hips or from behind your back. You can also throw the gun at a robot and, if it hits one and bounces off, it’s instantly reloaded and you can grab it out of the air again and keep shooting with a nice score reward for being so smooth. This is the John Wick game we’ve been waiting for, and the slow-motion system that kicks in at just the right time goes a long way toward making you feel like a total badass.
The game isn’t expansive in scope — there are three areas and three missions per area — but the scoring system, leader boards and weapon upgrade systems combine with the creativity you’re given in dispatching the enemies to make sure you want to play each mission multiple times.