VR enhances the things Adr1ft does well.
In my review of Adr1ft’s desktop version, I wasn’t wild about it. Here’s my verdict:
“Getting by on strong atmosphere (no pun intended), scenic views, and an intuitive means of controlling full three-dimensional movement, Adr1ft’s repetitive fix-it missions make its second half a chore to get through. Some strong pieces of voice acting would’ve been put to better use if the story weren’t so vague.”
Make sure to read or watch the full review to get my full thoughts on Adr1ft’s design. In this review, I’ll focus specifically on how it works as a VR game when played with the Oculus Rift headset and an Xbox One controller. This game is rated as “Intense” by the Oculus Store, which means Oculus’ testers have found it to potentially cause nausea in sensitive players.
It’s somewhat disappointing that, as one of the highest-profile launch games for the Rift, Adr1ft doesn’t make any elaborate use of virtual reality to create new gameplay mechanics. That’s likely due to it being designed to be playable on conventional gaming systems instead of being created exclusively for VR, and because of the Oculus Rift’s current lack of motion-tracked controllers.
That said, it does benefit in a big way from blocking out the entire world around you. This is a game about isolation, and when I was sealed into the Rift and couldn’t see familiar surroundings, I felt much more alone than I did when playing on a screen.
Plus, this premise is an ideal fit for the Rift’s current setup. We’re playing as a character who’s effectively sitting down in a space suit/rocket chair they’re piloting by manipulating controls while viewing the space around them through a helmet that limits their peripheral vision. In other words, there’s very little abstraction going on between what the in-game character is doing and what we’re doing.
Inside the helmet, the interface has been redesigned to look like a real heads-up display (HUD) within the glass. When you turn your head to look up, down, right, or left, the helmet doesn’t move with you – you need to use the controls to turn the suit to face the direction you want to see. So while this helmet defeats any effort to use looking as a means of control, it effectively reinforces the illusion of being trapped within a claustrophobic space coffin.
The one part of gameplay that was changed by the VR perspective was that I found I had to look down and to the left to see my directional radar, and down and to the right to see my oxygen meter. Not having my oxygen in view at all times did make me more nervous – I had to remember to look and check frequently, or risk being caught off guard and running out of air.
The only part that feels strange is the hand that reaches out to grab the oxygen canisters and voice recorders. That is most definitely not my hand. Those same unauthorized arms will, in a few places, hijack control of your movement as they reach out to grab ladders and pull you through certain openings when you get near. On the other hand, when those hands claw at the helmet as you die of asphyxiation, it adds to the feeling that you’re losing control of your body in your last moments.
As for comfort, as someone who is not prone to motion sickness, I experienced some slight uneasiness in my stomach when pulling extreme maneuvers like spinning over backwards in certain situations, but those were fairly rare.
Finally, be aware that this version of Adr1ft is sold exclusively through the Oculus Home store and is separate from the standard desktop version – buying one does not get you the other.