VR is the only gaming platform I can think of that has games that seem weak on the surface but are forgiven because of the immersion that VR can bring. Some titles in VR are helped by this immersion and others suffer greatly for constantly finding ways to break it, but every so often, a VR title becomes more than the sum of its parts. While it’s hard to identify what kind of game Into the Radius is truly trying to be, it is admirable in its attempt to create a game in the vein of S.T.A.L.K.ER and the Metro series. While it doesn’t succeed with flying colors on all fronts, it does enough to warrant a playthrough of it if you can handle the tense and terrifying moments that the game brings.
I’m not sure why game developers still do this, but yet again in Into the Radius, we are subjected to a painfully long tutorial that lasted almost 30 minutes for me, and during this time I could barely find the will to continue playing it was so bad. Once you get past one of the worst tutorials I’ve ever experienced though, that is where Into the Radius’s magic takes place. This game does something very novel and instead of holding your hand, it chops its own arm off and says “go find it for me.” Instead of having the typical map that shows you where everything is, you actually get a map that you can hold in your hands and actually have to look around at your surroundings to see where you currently are. This is for all intents and purposes a survival game taking place in a post-cataclysmic event in Russia and the result is one of the most harrowing and intriguing experiences I’ve had in VR, even if the shortcomings do pop up to keep this title from truly being great.
What it feels like to play
The best way to describe the experience is what if Metro: Exodus and Death Stranding had a baby in VR? As bizarre of a combo as that may seem, there doesn’t appear to be anything more apt for comparison. As a VR title, Into the Radius stands alone in terms of atmosphere and visual storytelling. It’s very minimalistic in its approach though, so you have to be able to appreciate that type of nuance to get the most out of this experience. You’re armed with pretty much whatever you can find in this game and if you die, those items will now be gone, starting you from scratch. Your enemies, while not the most varied, are a particularly terrifying blend of ghostly specters and creatures pulled right out of PREY. The result is a disturbing and highly unsettling journey through a post-apocalyptic Russia that offers you little to no idea about what is going on while constantly throwing one creepy scenario at you after another. The physics system at play is undoubtedly the highlight here and it takes what seems to be a pretty janky experience at the start and adds some serious quality to the proceedings. You’ll be manually loading ammo, grabbing your backpack off your back with your own hands as well as vaulting over and climbing obstacles in front of you. Although it is not the most sophisticated, you will also have melee combat available here for when you run out of bullets, though this isn’t exactly a game built to excel in that area, so the resulting gameplay there is kind of dull. The best way to explain how I felt while playing Into the Radius was on a constant state of wonder in fear. Wondering what the hell is going on in this game and fear over the approaching sounds of otherworldly death the get louder around every corner that I turn.
What will keep you playing?
For me, it was the intrigue of the story and figuring out just what is happening in this cruel and terrifying world you’re in and what the meaning of it all was. Gameplay-wise, it is not the most thrilling thing out there by any stretch of the imagination. But the sounds and the mystery that plagues every scenario had me coming back to see what else is out there. Yes, the enemies are repetitive and the graphics are nowhere near something like a Half-Life: Alyx, but the mood of Into the Radius is something that it completely nails 100 percent and it is one of those titles that will have you thinking about it long after you put the controller down. The challenge is also pretty palpable and planning your routes and escapes requires a lot of careful tracking of your position and remembering the locations you have to get to as well and it all comes together to create an experience that might not be perfect, but it sure is memorable.
I found the play area needed for Into the Radius varied a decent amount and there while the exercise you’ll be doing during your playtime is generally not strenuous, you will still need to be vaulting over things, climbing, and ducking a good amount of the time as well, so have a decent space to play in if possible.
I recorded my 30-minute workout using a Fitbit and an Oculus Quest 2 Headset.
Calories burned: 126
Calories burned per minute: 3
Average Heart Rate: 98
Max Heart Rate: 120
Active Minutes: 30
Into the Radius is a terrifying experience most of the time and it does so in a way that isn’t filled with your typical jump scares or with cheap gore. Into the Radius creates its horror through the use of sound effects and dread and while the actual enemies you encounter are surely not the most horrible things you can encounter in VR, their movements and audio cues make them some of the most chilling encounters I’ve had in VR and although you won’t be sweating from fighting them, you definitely will be from trying to escape them.
You won’t be getting any great workout here in general, but your arms will most certainly be active during your time with Into the Radius and whether you’re reaching for items in a pinch over your shoulder, slashing at enemies like crazy with a melee weapon, or vaulting over and climbing obstacles, your arms have a surprisingly active role to play in this chilling wasteland and depending on your playstyle, you could find yourself in a constantly active role where you will eventually get a burn going in your arms or not much exercise at all if you play it cautiously instead.
It’s usually pretty tough to find a good leg workout in your VR games, but Into the Radius at least gives you the option to get them involved with a solid realistic crouching technique. Due to the nature of limited resources like health, ammo, and weapons in the game, it’s not surprising that stealth is a huge part of what makes Into the Radius tick and if you have the realistic crouching option on, then you basically control what height you are at all times. This is important because these enemies are extremely perceptive and ducking down in the middle of a huddle of enemies is necessary and creates some of the most memorable moments in a VR horror game since The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners.
Core/ Balance- 7/10
I found myself crouched and leaning around corners for an insane amount of time during my playthrough of Into the Radius and after a while, I felt my core muscles start to tighten up from being in the same position for too long. I don’t recommend getting as immersive as I ended up getting with this game, but if you are gripped into the moment and just will not accept being caught by the enemies no matter what, then get those abs prepared because there are tons of enemies that will make you crouch and crawl and duck out of their sight. The climbing aspect involved the core a bit too, though the mental part of climbing VR definitely had an impact on how much I thought I was getting out of the actual physical act needed.
Time Perception- 7/10
If this were a higher-tier quality game, the perception of time would be completely unnoticeable because, with the atmosphere created here, you’re not going to be worried about what time dinner is. You’re going to be focused on what items you have left in your backpack. Whether the bullets remaining in your gun will be enough to take out those shadowy beings nearby and whether your sprint will get you past them without one of the anomalies taking you out of the act first. The relatively easy nature of the game physically speaking also does a ton to keep the immersion full at all times and although it doesn’t have the most varied gameplay, it is certainly gripping.
With games like this, there is a ton of freedom available for you to approach combat scenarios in any way you want. Do you want to go in loud? Then you’ll be spending most of your time accumulating all the weapons you can find. If you are more of a stealthy player, then you won’t mind sneaking around most of the encounters and instead most of your time will be plotting out where to run and how to get to the objective as fast as you can. When you die in-game, you lose all of your items that were stored in your backpack. Because of this, there is a feeling of randomization each time you start a new because your path is most likely going to be different most times, so you could choose a different route if the first one ended in failure.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
In terms of how you can scale this workout to fit you better, there are not a ton of options. Where the options come in though, are largely based on your playstyle. If you play the game straight up like a horror title and stick to the most conventional paths there are, then the fitness aspect won’t be too taxing. However, if you get more creative, you can find yourself climbing towers, vaulting over obstacles as you run away from enemies or engaging with hand-to-hand combat and all of those will significantly increase your physical output here.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 7/10
The visuals in Into The Radius are not exactly pleasing to the eye, though they are smooth enough to never really cause any glitching or lag thankfully. My experience was a mixed bag in terms of dizziness as I felt the on-ground gameplay played pretty well. It was only when I started attempting to climb things and vault over obstacles where my stomach turned a bit. The issue here is that things get very glitchy when pulling off these maneuvers and you sometimes will see your arms morph to other sides of your body and other unsettling phenomena. I tried changing graphics settings, but it seems this is a built-in problem and while it may not affect most people, I found the experience to be particularly jarring.
Social Competition- 0/10
There is no multiplayer in Into the Radius and therefore we will not be adding it into our VR Fit Score.
VR Fit Score- 7.2/10
Game Score- 7.5/10
Into the Radius tries something completely different than anything I’ve seen in VR before. It brings a post-cataclysmic Russia as a backdrop for what can often be a terrifying experience and if you have been looking for an action title with some scares to boot since playing through Half-Life: Alyx for the 10th time, Into the Radius might just provide what you’ve been looking for. The difficulty of the game makes sure that you take its threats seriously and figuring out how to outmaneuver each of the enemies is a fun and challenging experience that leaves plenty of options open for how you want to approach a fight. The graphics, while not pretty, create an unsettling atmosphere that supports the ongoing eeriness surrounding every event in the game.
The tutorial for the game is simply maddening and some people might turn off the game before this bloated mess of boring how-to-do’s is over with. In terms of physics, Into the Radius tries to put itself up there with the titans of VR, but sadly just doesn’t seem to have the technology needed to pull off smooth transitions and everything feels like it takes a bit longer to make certain things happen than they should. While the enemies are creepy and fun to fight, the variety is lacking and after a while, it feels like you’ve seen all Into the Radius has to offer.
Into the Radius is available on Steam for $29.99 and playable on Oculus Quest 1/2 via link, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.