Down and Out is an open sandbox streetfighting sim finally coming to PlayStation’s VR systems. The India-based developer Zatun has shifted their focus to more VR experiences in the last few games, with this title being their latest endeavour.
I’ve not played prior Zatun titles, but after checking out the trailer, I thought it could be a playful time. The playfulness and time spent were abundantly minimal, as I rolled credits in just under an hour and I wasn’t exactly speedrunning the game. So with that said, what did go down before I was abruptly out? Let’s get into it.
Out of Control
You spawn outside the Police station and immediately go through a tutorial. L1, R1 close your fists and is the single important control for the whole game. You punch a road sign to start the game and I was instantly met with the turning controls to be static frame changes, and not the smooth motion shown off in the trailers. So what do I do? Try to go to the settings to potentially change, but there’s no pause menu. I didn’t want to close the game so I just kept the settings as it is. Maybe you can change it, but I didn’t manage to during my gameplay.
After that, you walk out onto the side streets of what looks like Yakuza’s Kamurocho, just without any of the neon signs and, well, liveliness. The tutorial continues as I walk towards an alley and now have to throw a bottle at an innocent bystander. Picking up items is fine enough, but I couldn’t for the life of me throw this bottle at the person to continue the tutorial until my breath was on his neck. Thus commencing the fight. You raise your hands to block, you swing your fists to punch and that is the basics of the game.
During the fight, you fill up a flame meter, which when full you can press L3 and R3 to go super saiyan and deal ultimate damage. During my whole play time, however, that bar never got full so the only time I saw it was at the tutorial. I knock the guy out, limbs turning into paper, extending to the far reaches of the alleyway until they crumple lifeless on the floor in slow-mo, disappearing completely.
Not A Knock Out
Thus concludes the tutorial and I go on my merry way through Kamuro-no AKA Grande City. The first thing I come across is an alleyway that has a minigame where you throw rubbish into one of those big wheelie bins. This is where the cracks quickly reared their janky face, as the same motion per throw was not how the item would go. For some items I would do a Superman throw, launching it out of the stratosphere. Others wouldn’t go past my feet and it felt like there was no rhyme or reason to my failures.
I moved on, frustrated and a homeless person had it out for me and picked a fight with me. Here proceeds the same animation to wind up an attack and me punching them to disrupt their attack and repeat. The victory was mine, but at what cost? Next, I found a little person with straight-up offensive proportions asking me to play a mini-game where I had to find a wallet amongst some trash. 7 seconds go by and I found it, woohoo, money and rep are mine.
Then I rode a bike and hit a pizza delivery driver – who was also on a bike – with a bat until they gave up the pizza. Another success and I think we get the picture now without going into everything there is to offer in Down and Out. There are probably three/four more minigames to encounter after that and doing each of them is giving you money and rep.
All The Way Down
In the midst of all this mild chaos, I came across the final boss randomly and died. I don’t think they were the final boss at that point, just a random encounter but I failed miserably to fight them. I respawned in and from then I didn’t have a health bar, an obvious glitch and I don’t know if it meant infinite health or just never knowing how much I had. Anyway, I got enough rep to encounter the final boss and then credits began to roll once he was down – about 40 minutes from starting.
I wasn’t rushing anything, just checking out everything there is to do and experiencing Down and Out. The minigames have no real score to beat, but a tedious run time, making minigames that require you to hold out for the timer an absolute drag. It artificially inflates the amount of game you’re playing by just making you do the same thing for longer. The ultimate sin, however, is making the fighting absolutely boring.
Enemies are slow to react to anything, they can also block, so all of my time fighting was waiting for their slow animation to wind up to punch me and just punch them first. Health pools are ridiculously high and there’s honestly no real variety on how the enemies fight, I was just frankly bored. Jank is a product of games from smaller studios, it is often easy to look past, but tedium is a choice. Turn up the levels and make things harder or quicker. So what if it adds to the jankiness, just make it entertaining.
Over And Out
You can buy gloves to wear at the shop, as well as health items or dog food for the one dog in town. But there isn’t much else to do but play the minigames which more often than not insult your time by doing the same thing for too long. I came in thinking Down and Out would be a silly sandbox to mess around with, but instead, I got a snoozefest to contend with.
Oh, you can do graffiti on the walls, but your Mona Lisa will disappear three seconds after spraying, so you can’t really do anything but draw a line and watch it fade. The police can come after you if you’re doing this or robbing the shop, it just forces you back at the start point without penalty. More often than not I’d get started on by an NPC and the police would just watch, which I guess is the closest thing to reality Down and Out has got going for itself. This isn’t really worth your hour of playtime, which is a shame as there was definitely potential.
Down and Out is the knockout for all the wrong reasons and you’ll be happy to stay down instead of persevere. Poor inconsistent controls coupled with terribly monotonous fighting and an asset-flip world just make for an overall poor experience that not even VR can save.
Down and Out is available September 14th for PSVR2 (review platform), PSVR, Oculus Quest 1 & 2 and available now for Oculus Rift and Meta Quest via Steam.
Developer: Parallel Studio
Publisher: Quantic Dream
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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