Note: This is a Steam Early Access game review — a full review, including a score, will be updated when a full version of the game is released.
As the elevator lowers into the depths of the aptly named Eden Corp, I find myself wishing again for the lights and cheery tutorial found in the above-ground showroom. I am a top operative of SyndiK8, the resistance group that promises to reveal Eden Corp's deepest secrets.
I look down at my belt and un-holster my trusty pistol. I pull out a fresh magazine and reload one last time — better safe than sorry. The elevator comes to rest in a room full of cryogenic tanks, but I can't see what rests within. My friend on the outside — the one helping me with this data extraction — chatters in my ear through our comm system, while Eden Corp's virtual tour guide does the same, albeit with a different tone.
Only after I manually insert the extractor into the computer do things really take off — and I mean they really take off.
There's no way around it: you're going to sweat
Adrenaline starts to flow as the first robot smashes its way through protective glass, assumedly placed there to protect other Eden Corp tourists. You remove its head with a single bullet and think, "Hey, this isn't so bad."
It's best to think of the first enemy as a complimentary kill, and that first little bit of adrenaline as a sip from a much bigger cup. As you roll through each level's stages, increasingly more enemies appear, as well as new enemies with special attacks. Those robots with maroon stripes are going to shoot at you, the drones are going to shoot at you, and the heavily-armored bosses are going to try to blow you up — you're going to have to duck, dodge, and teleport if you want to stay alive. Yes, you can teleport.
Survios, the game's developer, has included the proper tools to get through each wave of robot baddies. Teleporting is easy to do, has a cooldown so as not to be abused, and is incredibly fun to use. I was flying around the map shooting enemies in the back of the head before they could turn, and moving onto the next group before incoming lasers could hit me. The best part? Snapping straight to a new spot gives no motion sickness.
The simplicity of the controls lets you immerse yourself completely in the task at hand.
This is a very fast-paced game, and you're going to sweat. There's no way around it. If you aren't moving around as fast as you can, you're not going to make it very far. The game is difficult, but not so difficult it becomes frustrating. Learning from your mistakes is crucial to moving on through the stages, and the simplicity of the controls lets you immerse yourself completely in the task at hand.
I mean it when I say complete immersion. The graphics are great and the game, even for an Early Access title, has clearly been well optimized. My PC with a GTX 980 and 16GB of RAM had no trouble running everything smoothly at 90FPS, which is incredibly important in a game that moves at such a frantic pace.
Gunplay, swordplay, telekinesis, oh my!
There are currently two heroes to choose from: Bishop is a human gunslinger with a 15-round pistol, while Saija is a humanoid ninja who uses an energy-blade katana and telekinesis to dispatch foes.
First and foremost, gunplay is fantastic. You must aim down the iron sights if you want to achieve any sort of accuracy, and headshots will de-map most weaker enemies in one try. The reloading mechanism where you grab the clip from your waist is novel at first, but when you're crouched down behind a virtual stack of boxes, hiding from enemy laser beams, the Vive's lighthouses sometimes have a hard time figuring out just what the hell it is you're trying to do. At one point I popped up from behind cover and took aim holding two magazines of ammunition rather than my pistol.
Enter upgrades and unlocks. As you rip data from Eden Corp's mainframe, you also discover new technologies, one of which is proximity reload. Just when I was getting tired of going through the reload motion I was able to choose the ability to reload just by dropping my pistol to my waist. Very cool, very timely. I will leave other upgrades and unlocks for you to discover on your own, but know there is a decent mix already — the options available with Saija's telekinesis are amusing — with more promised to be on the way.
Swordplay as Saija is a bit sluggish compared to other games that do it very well. Sometimes a bop on the enemy's head would send it flying through the air, while other times I had to wind up and swing to get a reaction. Sword throwing, however, is right on point, and I found myself tossing the blade like a boomerang far more often. The blade lights up like a lantern when you throw it, so it's great for dark areas and for the completely deluminated Dark Source mission. Oh, yeah, you can also use the katana to deflect laser beams ala Jedi in Star Wars.
If your VR space doesn't have a high ceiling you're going to have a bad time while playing as Saija. Overall you're going to want a big space for Raw Data, but especially a high ceiling — I punched my 8-foot ceiling several times as I swung my sword to hit low-flying drones. I'm not worried about the ceiling — the Vive controller is what's at risk here.
Robotic genocide — now with friends!
Raw Data's multiplayer does not reinvent the game in any way (as with the difference between campaign and multiplayer in Call of Duty and Battlefield), but it does add a tone of friendship as you wreck bad bots. I'm not even entirely certain the later levels are possible to complete without a friend watching your back.
Raw Data's multiplayer is so far the most fun I've had in a VR game.
The Vive's mic was loud and clear as my partner and I teleported around the map — I played up close and personal as Saija, while he played quarterback as Bishop. It was so far the most fun I've had in a VR game.
There are some preview videos of a katana duel mode hopefully coming somewhere down the road, but the swordplay function requires quite a bit of work before that becomes a viable option. Until then you're stuck playing on the same team, but there's really nothing wrong with that.
Responsible game development is key
Raw Data update 0.2 was released a couple weeks ago and included a ton of new content originally suggested by the community. Communication is the key to a successful Early Access game, and so far Survios is killing it. Shaping the game around what players want is almost guaranteed to deliver a satisfying final product, and we can't wait to see what that release looks like.
There's no point defining anything when there is no definite game; when the full game is released we will update this article to reflect what is found within. Until then we highly recommend you try what Raw Data currently has to offer: a frantic, smooth, stylized shoot-em-up that will have the adrenaline pumping and sweat pouring before you're even a few minutes deep. This is definitely a premier Vive game that I am comfortable recommending to all mature gamers.