Apex Construct hits PSVR. How is it? Let us explain. The Finger Guns Review;
When I first saw the trailer for Apex Construct I was tickled a bright shade of intrigued. What I saw was a first person, bow and arrow wielding warrior fighting machines. I had visions of Horizon: Zero Dawn in VR and hurriedly threw Finger Guns on the review waiting list. So how does this VR game stack up?
Well, not great I’m afraid. The story itself is decent enough. You’re the last hope of saving a doomed world, resurrected from the ‘void’ by an unknown voice in your head who goes by the name of Father (who brilliantly sounds like James Spader playing Ultron) It turns out that Mothr, an advanced A.I who has brought the world to its knees and of course you must help take her down. It’s an interesting enough concept but let down by a few factors, some out of the games controls and others because of the game mechanics.
I need to get this off my chest from the off. Sony, why on earth haven’t you implemented the other half of your Move Controllers, you know the one with an analogue stick? This is the first game I have played where I actually wish for a thumbstick because the movement mechanics in Apex Construct are awkward at best a problem that could have been easily solved by having access to an analogue stick. So to navigate you have to hold square and point to the area you want to go, a basic teleport method that has been used in many VR games and works well enough. Turning, however, requires you to hold Triangle and flick your wrist. This is bad. Sometimes the flick doesn’t register, and other times you end up turning full 180 degrees, which is what pressing triangle does on its own. It’s way too fiddly and counter-intuitive. It does get better the more you get used to it and isn’t so bad when you’re just ambling around the small levels. It does, however, get tiresome and the thought of exploring the small nooks and crannies gives brings out the dread sweats in case you get stuck somehwhere and can’t teleport out. But, It’s the combat which is ruined by this control method.
Early on in the game, you’re presented with the trusty bow and arrow. This is where I thought the game would shine. Admittedly there are moments of fun you can have with the bow, firing off your various arrows, doing Neo-like manoeuvres to dodge incoming fire. It works as you would expect, one hand will hold the bow while the other fires the arrow. Pulling the bow back aiming and firing feels just like it should. You can tell the developers spent a lot of time trying to perfect this as it is integral to the game. Unfortunately, the movements I was making on occasion didn’t translate to what was on screen, sometimes you didn’t even need to do the pull action, just lifting your hand up would put an arrow in place, or fire one off before you were ready. Again this is fine when you’re just exploring, but in combat, combined with the teleport movement and wrist flick turn motion left combat as an awful experience. Half the time you would just stand rooted to the spot in an attempt to shoot faster than the enemy and hope he dies before you do. It’s a shame really as I had high hopes for this.
(Addition: I’m not sure why but in my review copy I was unable to access a pause menu, by all accounts, there is a full locomotion option for movement which may have made combat much better. I assume you could swap movement styles in the menu but this wasn’t unavailable to me.)
Level objectives are a standard affair, simply a case of retrieving power cells and placing them in plugs to open doors or activate machines. If you’re not doing that then it’s variations on that theme. as for the levels, although this is a free roaming game the areas themselves are quite small so there’s not much to explore. However, the world itself is pretty imaginative with buildings, cars and city objects all strewn and warped to create a world that you recognize but is strangely eerie and unfamiliar. Perhaps this is the best aspect of the game.
Another problem I experienced was perhaps due to hardware constraints. If you have proper space to set up your PSVR (6ft or more I believe they recommend) then I’m sure it all works fine, but for the rest of us where 6ft is all the space you have to live, the PSVR just can’t handle it. Standing or sitting (the two options you’re given at the start of the game) movements fail to register, if you drop something, which is quite easy to do, then you can’t always bend down and pick it up without the dreaded “outside of play area” warning flashing up. This then, of course, negates that object from the game meaning you have to start again. I’m no expert, but I’m not entirely sure if this is due to the headset or the game itself but it can at times be a game-breaker
It’s not all terrible, if, on the rare occasion you get everything to work and work well you can have a lot of fun with Apex. The bow mechanics, the variety of arrow types and the combat with machines does give an air of Horizon: Zero Dawn and it’s these pockets of fun and standout moments that only go to highlight the game’s shortcomings.
I like the ideas that Apex Construct tries to achieve but none of them gel often enough to be a truly enjoyable experience. The story and the world (and Ultron) are the highlights and graphically it’s in the top tier of PSVR games. Should developers Fast Travel Games decide to do a sequel then there needs to be a lot of polishing to be done. I guess Apex Construct is a prime example of VR’s best and worst qualities.
On the flip side. Sony needs to address some basic issues with PSVR if they are to bring out a Mark 2. Make use of the Move’s controller sidekick. Have fewer wires to get in the way of free movement and, if possible, sort out the space needed to play PSVR games as they should be played.
Apex Construct is available now on PlayStation VR
Publisher: Fast Travel Games
Developer: Fast Travel Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we were provided with a review copy from the publishers. For our full review policy please go here.