Red Matter is an awesome little VR game, with retro aesthetics, a compelling story line, puzzles , and some great voice acting. I went in on the official website and downloaded the game for my HTC Vive .
“Red Matter”, a virtual reality game from the developer of “Farpoint”, is a space adventure where you have to protect the Earth from an alien invasion. The full-length game has you traveling to Mars and beyond, with new planets to explore and new enemies to fight.
Today was the day. On November 16th, ‘Red Matter’ was released to the public. The game is a story-driven adventure game that takes place in a cyberpunkish future, where Earth’s resources have been depleted, and humans have been forced to colonize the moon. But, before you can begin your colonizing mission, you have to first figure out who you are, how you ended up on the moon, and what “Red Matter” is.
Red Matter is a first-person puzzle adventure set in a strange and mysterious alternate universe that teases out old Cold War rivalries to an interesting logical conclusion: space bases, astronaut espionage, and a healthy dose of intrigue as you, a member of the Atlantic Union, infiltrate the Soviet-sounding Volgravians’ off-planet test facility. Red Matter, which is only available on Oculus Rift, has some excellent worldbuilding, a flair for refinement, and a compelling enough narrative to make it a single-sitting experience.
Red Matter, like other adventure games, focuses on conveying its narrative via discovered things such as notes, diaries, photographs, and a variety of other commonplace items. It just so happens that two-way communication is interrupted when you crash-land on the Volgravian outpost on Rhea, a moon of Saturn—but you still have your handy Volgravian-to-English translating module, so it’s a continuous exercise in interpreting the faux-Russian writing.
As a mute protagonist, your commander, who is pipped in to your space suit for the duration of the game, provides much of the story’s direction. I’m not a big fan of the ‘helpful robot’ cliche in VR games since it becomes irritating after a while, and I’ll confess the commander got on my nerves. I’d like to be able to contact him on my own time rather than being spoon-fed recommendations on what to look for and do next. In the game’s third act, the density of riddles and key narrative elements began to fill in the gaps, and he eventually died down. I won’t say much more about the plot since I don’t want to give anything away, but Red Matter is a classic sci-fi thriller, so anticipate some twists and turns along the road that make you rethink what seems to be a simple task on the surface.
The game’s many and diverse riddles begin the moment you reach the Volgravian facility, a testing ground overrun by a strange red liquid that can be found marked on walls, doors, and items everywhere. On your largely one-way journey through the towering, brutalist concrete foundation, you explore the whole complex from top to bottom, seldom needing to return to previously visited sections.
My goal isn’t to investigate the substance; rather, it’s to infiltrate the facility and transmit some classified documents back to home base; this is where the intrigue begins, as I learn about each of the facility’s employees, their relationships, and the power struggle that isn’t immediately apparent upon entering what appears to be a well-kept but deserted base.
Finding a code scribbled on a sheet of paper, matching a sequence of symbols to trigger a laser array, or turning a network of levers to restart a power station are all examples of puzzles. I didn’t find any of them particularly challenging, and I breezed through them at a typical speed with just a few hitches. I got stuck on two problems (excluding the most tough towards the finish) because I misjudged their complexity and discovered after a brief pause that they were really quite easy all along (eg. following instructions on a screen, translating them, and flipping the right levers).
Along the way through the game’s narrative, puzzles offer intriguing, although brief, breaks, which I found compelling enough to finish in one sitting – clocking in just over three hours of playtime. A average playtime should take between three and a half and four hours, according to Vertical Robot. It’s crucial to pay attention to the discovered objects, as I’m not sure I would have received the entire context without them as the drama builds. Near the conclusion, I found myself scratching my head as the speed increases up and it teeters dangerously into ‘B movie’ level sci-fi dramatic twists and turns, which detracts from the narrative’s gravity.
The degree of worldbuilding is high enough to pique my interest. Few things allude to you as the player as an outsider, and although this is an obvious disadvantage of playing as a character that is basically a blank slate, you gradually find yourself at the heart of the story—something I wish could have lasted longer so I could absorb more of the drama.
Red Matter is a visually beautiful demonstration of the team’s Unreal Engine skills. The game’s architecture is nothing short of breathtaking, and the textures are of exceptional quality. Despite having a Core i7-6700K, 16 GB of RAM, and a GTX 1080 in my test setup, I had no problems running the game. Most VR-capable systems should be able to handle it, since you can disable both dynamic and indirect shadows in the options, as well as modify shader quality using a slider.
Object interaction is also a lot of fun. Levers are heavy and sometimes need two hands to operate, creating the impression that you’re moving something. If you move your hands too fast, you’ll lose control of the lever, which triggers the portion of my brain that says, “This is real.” I can’t afford to screw it up.” There is no inventory, just a digital scanner that, in addition to its primary function as a translator, can also copy essential data and other important modules, removing the need for faffing with storage.
The only reason you have any hand presence is because you have two hand-controlled grabber claws that you can use to pick up and handle things, which I thought was a great idea. Although I often forget which direction to toggle my left controller’s stick, it’s a nice addition to be able to see your tools extract and retract.
There are a lot of ways to get about. Initially, the game included a variety of teleportation methods, including an on-rails point-to-point navigation system that relied on your boosters. Since our previous hands-on in our ’16 Minutes of Gameplay’ preview piece, Vertical Robot has added seamless movement. Smooth locomotion, on the other hand, takes a back seat to teleportation since it’s sluggish, forward-only, and assigned to the left controller’s grip button, while teleportation is linked to the right controller’s stick. Some sections of the game need teleportation or on-rails boosting, so there’s no denying that it was built with such mobility methods in mind initially. Finally, there is no option for smooth turning; only snap-turning is available.
Red Matter is one of the finest VR experiences I’ve seen since Lone Echo, and it left me with short periods of that indescribable sense of Presence (with a capital ‘P’) (2017). However, the absence of full ‘free’ mobility may be a turn-off for certain gamers when it comes to immersion. On-rails boosting seemed to me to be the best of both worlds, therefore I used it for the bulk of my session.
Red Matter is one of the most pleasant VR experiences you can have with artificial locomotion, thanks to a variety of locomotion choices, including blink teleportation with snap-turning (aka’VR comfort mode’). Using the on-rails booster, which is the game’s default method of traversing the facility, is also a fairly pleasant experience.
Red Matter also has a sitting mode that changes your in-game height so you can interact with and move around the game more easily when seated. I sat for the most of the game and only moved my chair back from my desk when items were just out of reach, so I didn’t inadvertently knock anything over.
Red Matter is one of the most interesting VR experiences I’ve had in a long while, and there’s some beautiful moments that I had never experienced before in a VR experience, and some that are so typical of the genre that I actually felt like I was walking through a VR production that’s already been done.
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