In 1976, Douglas Trumbull unleashed upon the world his groundbreaking work, ‘BLADE RUNNER’, a classic sci-fi masterpiece that took many people by surprise and made them consider the possibility of creating a future in which technology could surpass the human mind. ‘Vertigo’ was his follow up, and it was the first virtual reality film which brought audiences into a simulation of a famous New York City street, where they were able to imagine themselves as they were watching the movie.
When I first wrote about ‘Vertigo Remastered’ on my blog in 2017, I had no idea that I would ever write a full review. Then, when I began the process of updating the blog, I figured it would be a great opportunity for me to document my experience with the game. So throughout this process, I’ve occasionally updated this blog post with new content and impressions.
This article is a review of the experimental virtual reality game and it’s first official full-release. Created in 1996 by the French game development studio and software company, ARTiGO, the first virtual reality game, ‘Vertigo’, was a hit, selling 1 million copies and making it one of the first to be played on VR headsets such as the Sony PlayStation VR. But although VR is seen more and more often in movies and TV shows, it hasn’t really had a breakthrough title that made it a household name yet.
Vertigo (2016) was an ambitious room-scale VR project that, back in 2016, pioneered the medium with the finest of them. Vertigo Remastered (2020) ostensibly overhauls the VR shooter’s ragged low-poly look with a richer, more immersive graphic style that, among other apparent tweaks, gives this plucky indie title a new coat of paint. At its core, it’s still a fun and interesting VR game that, flaws and all, appears to have aged nicely.
You’ve been whisked away to another dimension, where you find yourself deep beneath the surface of a planet in a large science facility filled with robots, aliens, and a few handy gadgets to assist you on your trek back to the surface. The enormously massive complex, run by Planck Interdimensional Energy Solutions, holds a quantum reactor, which no probably triggered your departure from your reality in the first place. It also features a solid mix of combat, puzzles, and exploration, all of which is beautifully framed by a tongue-in-cheek, Portal-esque, Half-Life-alike ambiance.
It seems to make up for its lack of depth and elegance with pacing, mood, and variation.
Vertigo Remastered, like the original, has plenty of arcade-style shooting gameplay, which in this instance implies no ammo or health pickups, both of which auto-regenerate. This establishes the tone for the entire game: you’re on a one-way trip that you’ll finally accomplish. Granted, you should anticipate when your laser pistol is about to run dry so you don’t have to reload during a crucial point, as well as how your health ‘feels’ considering how colorful the landscape is still. You’ll be thrown back to your last auto-checkpoint if the screen becomes completely black and white.
There are only a few weapons in the game, including a baton and three guns. When you take up a new gun, it effectively renders the previous one obsolete. Instead of looking for new weapons, you focus your teleportation wand on sucking up energy globules.
Why? In effect, exploring the entire game rewards the player by allowing them to unlock numerous exciting items in the game’s tech tree, such as faster shooting, reloading, teleporting, gun improvements, and so on.
Oh, and aside from traversing large gaps or other non-continuous walking paths, you can pretty much forget about the teleport wand. In any case, it’s not like it assists in a combat. The inventory UI isn’t the quickest way to access weapons/tools either, so if you’re going to use it, lock it to your non-dominant hand while you use your dominant hand for something more helpful.
The opponent development in Vertigo Remastered is classic, with new varieties appearing one by one until you have to face them all in various admixtures. I would have preferred more variety in foes, as the game just offers up a half-dozen varieties that all operate as the samey bullet sponges on all three difficulty levels. You’re basically just collecting a target, shooting, reloading, rinse and repeat without any meaningful indication of whether they’ve taken critical damage or not before exploding. I don’t think I would be nearly as enamored with Vertigo Remastered if it weren’t for the diverse boss fights, which serve as enjoyable and fascinating intermissions to the overall lackluster shooting experience.
In any case, boss fights are a highlight of the game, as you use one-of-a-kind equipment and mechanics to beat the larger-than-life foes.
It includes a wonderful mix of puzzles in addition to its main emphasis on shooting. Although there is no true skill progression, the four hours it took me to beat it were well spent. When it came to puzzles, I never felt like I was doing the same thing twice, which is exactly how a shooter-adventure should be.
The whimsical transitions to vastly different regions of the facility are one of my favorite aspects about Vertigo. You may find yourself onboard an enemy dropship only to break through the glass of a geodesic biodome, landing in the next section of the facility rather than on the surface as you had anticipated. Maybe you think you’re being clever by avoiding the metal detectors and hiding in the baggage carousel to get to the next area, only to be detected by the automatic “oversized baggage” protocol, which shrinks you down to the size of a kumquat and forces you to sally forth to exterminate an alien pest that was previously just an underfoot annoyance. You’re never sure what’s going to happen next, which makes me forgive some of the game’s grunt work in the shooting department.
The misery of the human employees, who have all inexplicably vanished, is woven into this chaotic and amusing tone with a thin thread of severity. It generally remains nicely within its own as a comic, light-hearted journey as long as you don’t read too much into the auto-playing employee reports sprinkled throughout. After all, if fiction has taught us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t give a damn about anyone in another reality.
Overall, the game is entertaining and engaging, although it suffers from a lack of immersion and comfort. Continue reading to learn why.
It adamantly provides the user a physics-based gaming experience that can at times entirely flip out in bizarre and surprising ways, just like its 2016 forerunner. Shooting and puzzle solving can be a fairly trouble-free experience when the stars align and physics craziness doesn’t intrude in, but that isn’t always the case with Vertigo Remastered.
Grasping anything solid and moving away, for example, can instantaneously transform you into Stretch Armstrong. While travelling in elevators, you’ll magically lose items that are locked in your hand. Because the key is fiddly and appears to require expert instruction to find its place, you’ll curse as you drop a keycard on the ground for the third time and press it into the scanner panel. It doesn’t ruin the game, but it does ruin the experience.
Concentrating on the problem: most of the time, object interaction is just shaky. You can either bend over and pick something up, which isn’t fun in VR, or you can enable crouch by moving your joystick down, which is doubly not fun in VR because it’s too easy to activate on Touch and is just about the more gamey, non-immersive way of achieving the singular goal of picking something up from the ground. Force grabbing would have been much more welcome here, and it’s something I’m looking for in Vertigo 2’s future sequel. It appears that there is no method to disable crouch, which is unfortunate.
Despite all of these flaws, I’m still rooting for Vertigo Remastered. It’s more good than bad, more enjoyable than annoying, and it accomplishes it all in a package that I still can’t believe was made by a small, independent studio, once you get past the physics oddities and even some of the comfort issues noted below. Even when things go wrong and foolish things occur, it’s still enjoyable and fulfilling. Even when it’s obvious that the developer has no idea how to get you from point A to point B, you appreciate the developer’s genuine concern that its consumers aren’t bored. We must be entertained, and I was thoroughly entertained.
While the game has received a complete graphical upgrade, several of the 2016 VR concepts that were included in Vertigo Remastered have remained in the previous edition.
You’ll be taken on a wild cart ride of various manufacturers several times throughout the game, which can create nausea in people who hate VR rollercoasters. These passages are graphically polished in the remaster, but they are still presented in their full, herky-jerky grandeur. When the world becomes topsy-turvy and I can’t control it, I’m the type of person who needs to look down or close my eyes completely.
Smooth locomotion with variable snap-turning is offered, which helps keep the user comfortable in many, but not all, scenarios. There is relative smooth forward mobility available for both the head and the hands. In both seated and standing mode, Vertigo Remastered is playable.
When it comes to smooth locomotion (read: not smooth turning), you’ll most likely immediately revert to the tried and true FPS tactic of strafing and blindly moving backwards when the conflict gets intense. You usually dodge with your joystick rather than your physical motions. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you’ll want to keep an eye on how much you move around in-game, or you might end up feeling a little green in the gills.
After a long absence, a certain indie VR game was resurrected to much fanfare. It was a pioneer of the genre, one that many people still credit as being the “first VR game for the masses”. Now, a new update that was released recently is bringing this game to a new platform, one that will allow it to be played by more people than ever before.
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