A-Tech Cybernetic opens with a glaringly obvious tribute. In the game’s menu a blue-suited business man walks past a window and stops for a quick, quiet glance before calmly moving on. Only this company man carries none of the menace in his dead eyes that his predecessor did, and he’s grown a shaggy, defeated beard. G-Man, it seems, has seen better days. And so has A-Tech Cybernetic.
XREAL Games deserves a ton of credit for its effort and intention here. Well over two and a half years on from Early Access release, A-Tech arrives at the finish line as one of the best-supported, most regularly updated story-driven VR games on the market. It’s just a shame the studio couldn’t get there sooner.
This earnest attempt at Doom in VR really shows its age in 2020, especially arriving just a few days after a certain big release. In 2018, I said what I played of A-Tech was “pretty darn good“. And it’s still true that this is an impressive title from a small studio; A-Tech offers several hours of big bangs and mutant mow-downs. But it’s also true that the game is mechanically pedestrian, still stuck in the standards of VR development in 2017 rather than rising to the new bar we enjoy today.
A-Tech makes no apologies for its various imitations; its premise is pure Doom with elements of Resident Evil and Dead Space to flesh out the gameplay. Set on a remote Mars-like planet in a facility overrun with mutants, you find yourself essentially hijacking one scientist’s body to fight your way through corridors and caves as you squabble with the mind of your unwilling captive. It may sound like a premise rich for interesting psychological VR exploration, but it’s mostly just played for cheesy jokes and exposition in a game that doesn’t really need either.
In fairness, the core of A-Tech provides pulpy fun. It’s your standard VR horde massacre which, hey, is still enjoyable to this day. But it’s also just so inescapably simple; enemies are programmed to just run at you and then wave their arms in pantomime to take you down, whereas foes with rifles stand in clear sight with little concern for things so trivial as taking cover.
The game is essentially identical in design to Vertigo Games’ Arizona Sunshine, something we once awarded our game of the year, but now itself seems like a reanimated corpse just shuffling on in the face of The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners and others.
Later chapters introduced over the course of Early Access do their best to mix things up a little and its more intense fights do still carry a certain amount of unnerving dread. A-Tech is at its best when the waves of brain-dead goons are being piled on so thick and fast you don’t have time to think about how simple the game really is. Plus there’s a limited amount of strategy involved, like shooting off enemy legs to slow them down. It’s not as deep as system as, say, Dead Space, but it does allow you to insert a welcome punch of pace into proceedings.
But even as a primitive shooter, A-Tech suffers from some strange bugs. At one point I opened a door to find two enemies running into a wall, and in another a swarm of enemies attacking me simply disappeared. One enemy type, a hulking great monster, seemed completely incapable of actually hitting me, while after one death I was teleported back to the start of the level and had to walk all the way back back to my checkpoint. It would be easier to overlook A-Tech’s simplicity if these hiccups weren’t here.
A-Tech Cybernetic Review Final Impressions
A-Tech Cybernetic is a steadfast example of the trials and triumphs of Early Access development. If you bought this game back in 2017 and kept up to date with its new chapters over the ensuing years, you probably had a great time with it, at least in parts. But, arriving as one complete package in 2020, the game can’t hide its age, offering fun, flawed shooting built on overly simple foundations with too many bugs to overlook.
In 2018 I said A-Tech Cybernetic: “is a sci-fi zombie shooter that, simply put, feels great to play and has an actual campaign. That’s not something you can say all that often in VR.” Well, you can say that pretty often now, and that’s one wave of enemies A-Tech Cybernetic can’t fend off.