Please seat your tray tables in their upright position; airplane-jumping espionage action game Defector is coming to your Oculus Rift before the end of 2018. Powered by the good folks at Twisted Pixel in accordance with Oculus Studios, this first-party spy thriller for Oculus Rift seeks to fill the 007-shaped hole in many VR gamers’ hearts.

Last week, I received the privilege of giving Defector a spin at Oculus Connect 5.

If the teaser wasn’t enough for you, here are the key features of Defector to look out for:

Multiple Pathways

When I ran through the demo with my travel buddy Logan, we were both given two opposite ways to reach the primary objective of the demo.

The goal I’d been given was to extract a VIP from a classy jumbo jet and escape. I had the choice to go in loud and shoot through waves of suited up bad guys wearing sunglasses indoors, or do the sleuthy spy thing and climb up the side of the aircraft with Mission: Impossible magnet gloves.

I chose to dive in, guns blazing, while Logan opted to sneak up the side in his own playthrough.

The game still landed at the same common point at the end of the demo, but our journey there was wildly different. That said, it’s unclear if there’s going to be a decision-based metagame with branching narrative pathways. But the different possible approaches to gameplay will positively make Defector worth replaying.

Inventory System

I’ve always believed that VR is the perfect platform for immersive sim and roguelite gameplay mechanics ala Prey 2017, Bioshock or Deus Ex.

What makes that kind of game special is that it acts like a perpetual Easter Egg hunt, filled to the brim with hidden treasure that gives you an edge. Finding a certain item or ability buried deep inside the nooks and crannies of the game environment, then testing it out to see how it affects gameplay, is the chocolate creme filling at the center of this figurative egg.

Yes, I can reference chocolate in my anecdote because dark chocolate isn’t terrible for you.

Anyway, I have no clue if the rest of Defector will actually try to emulate the classic Fahrenheit 451-style immersive sim experience. From what I saw, the game is paced a lot more like Call of Duty than Bioshock. But I did, however, get to dig into the interactive inventory system and poke around at its GUI. And to my pleasure, I found a few cool gadgets laying around for me to pick up — like a weaponized ring that shocks enemies. That’s a step in the right direction.

AAA Graphics

The attention to detail here is outstanding for a VR game. Sparks, explosions, fully animated characters, big weapons, chic gadgets, destructible scenery, consistent art direction. It’s all there. And it’s all top-notch industry-grade stuff.

Of course, no VR game will come near the level of photorealism that exists in the flat screen AAA gaming scene right now. But I firmly believe that it’s the quality and quantity of the art assets that count. As they say in Hollywood, “The money is on the screen.”

Gunplay and Melee Combat

Since I didn’t choose stealth, I’m not sure what it feels like to play stealthy in Defector. Looking over Logan’s shoulder, it seemed like stealth was significantly more involved as I watched him (physically) grapple his way up the side of the aircraft like he was completing a level of The Climb.

I, on the other hand, started shooting as soon as I got my mitts on the Touch controllers. I did it for you, my readers, knowing that most of you will probably take the same path on your first playthrough. Don’t act like it isn’t true!

During the combat sequences, I felt like the shooting was perfectly competent for a VR game, though it didn’t quite carry the same excitement as a skirmish in SUPERHOT. I walked through each room while shooting enemies, and they shot back until either one of us died.

Fisticuffs at the ‘Defector’ booth.

I didn’t once feel like the game was unfairly unbalanced, however, or that I couldn’t fight each enemy with the single pistol I’d started the demo with.

Instead of holding a sidearm with two hands, you hold it with a single hand and only have to deal with minimal recoil. Reloading is only two steps: drop your existing clip or mag, and put the new one in. No sliding anything back.

You can also pull a syringe from your inventory in the middle of combat and inject yourself for health if you get too torn-up. It’s a nice little feature that’s reminiscent, yet again, of the immersive sim classics.

And finally, there’s the melee combat. “Forget everything you’ve learned” is right. The fighting happens through a minigame that takes you out of the pacing of the rest of the game, with a timed series of events that you have to react to along with some visual prompts. For some, this might be a better way to go about it, as fully-simulated melee combat in VR can be both a stressful activity and difficult to implement.

But, generally speaking, I can already tell that melee won’t be the centerpiece of Defector’s allure.

High-Octane Action

I really enjoyed the action-movie flare that Defector brought to the table. From driving a car out of a plane and landing it in another plane, to hooking up a parachute and getting sucked out the door while shooting down other attacking planes with a rifle, Defector is the true first of its kind that I’ve experienced in VR.

I honestly hope that the story is as good as the rest of the game promises to be. It’d be a shame for all of this to end up in the bargain bin section of the Oculus Store because it failed to capture players into its world the way that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare did during its own time.

Conclusion

I’m excited to see where Defector goes. I can say that there’s nothing quite like it on the Oculus Store, and I’ve wanted a AAA spy game to show up around these parts for over a year.

While the melee combat isn’t anything to shake a stick at, there’s a lot here that hasn’t been properly implemented by other FPS developers in VR.

Are you looking forward to Defector’s launch? Leave your comments below.


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