When HTC invited me to a behind-closed-doors demo at the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC) to show off a brand new VR shooter in development by Skydance Interactive, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was familiar with Skydance Media from their work on several film properties, such as Star Trek, True Grit, Mission Impossible, and more, but interactive entertainment such as video games and virtual reality is something else altogether.
As it turns out their debut project, Archangel, was on display at the show this year. Archangel is an intense, narrative-focused, action-packed VR shooter that puts players in the cockpit of a massive mech, similar to those found in Pacific Rim or even the Power Rangers. The design is quite realistic and evokes a very MechWarrior vibe.
My demo was brief, only spanning a small part of a single chapter, but the entire experience is promised to clock in right around the 3 hour mark. In addition to the main story there will also be a replayable Arena mode that you can use to earn upgrades for the story mode. Replaying missions is also encouraged to get higher scores.
Since this is a mech shooter, my demo took place while I was seated in a chair. Holding an HTC Vive wand controller in each hand, I extended my arms as if they were holding controls from within a mech cockpit. Moving my hands around manipulated the arms of my giant robot, enabling me to aim precisely at enemies.
Each arm had two different types of weapons that could be switched out. The right arm had a standard machine gun and then a powerful single-blast rail gun, while my left arm had single-shot rockets and a lock-on launcher that targeted multiple units before firing. I could also deploy a shield on either arm that could be raised for my defenses.
The entire game will be an on-rails shooter, meaning that the story and your mech are automatically progressed through each level without any input from you. In this way, it felt similar to arcade shooters like Time Crisis, although it had a much more sophisticated story. As the pilot of this massive, powerful mech — The Archangel — you’re tasked with transporting it through enemy lines to the final place of safety for the resistance so that your side can replicate and mass produce the technology to create an army of mechs.
Since each mission unfolds on rails, the short level I played was mostly a shooting gallery with some dialogue and exposition sprinkled throughout. The lack of movement control was disappointing, but the action was intense enough to make me forget.
This isn’t quite on the level of an ideal Pacific Rim-esque VR mech combat game, but it’s a step in the right direction. The voice acting was top notch, the visuals were superb, and the controls felt extremely tight and fun. The wave-based Arena mode and upgradeable weapons should all go a long way towards making this a solid package when it releases in July of this year for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift with Touch, and PlayStation VR (PSVR).
What do you want to see in your dream VR mech game? Let us know in the comments below!