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GDC 2017: Arktika.1 Shows Off Deep Story and Amazing VR Visuals

by Joe Durbin • February 28th, 2017

I’m cold. I can see the flurries of snow outside and the thin coat of ice on my hummer’s windshield and I feel cold. This wouldn’t be all that notable except for the fact that a moment ago I was feeling quite warm inside the busy Oculus demo hall at GDC 2017. But I’ve been transported somewhere else since then, transported to the freezing, incredible world of Arktika.1.

I first had the chance to preview Artika.1 — an exciting new collaboration between Oculus Studios and the 4A Games (Metro: Last Light) — at Oculus Connect 3 last year. The brief demo I saw there was enough to convince me that this was a game to watch in 2017. The extended GDC experience that 4A brought to GDC, however, has convinced me that Arktika.1 is the game to look out for this year. It really is that good.

As soon as the new demo began I knew that this time around the studio was focusing on showing off the deep narrative and thoughtfully constructed world of Arktika.1 rather than the more combat heavy slice from OC3. The first 5 minutes or so of the preview I was simply sitting in a heavily armored car.

I was being driven through the frozen landscape by an NPC who’s narration provided story hints at every turn. I won’t spoil them for those looking forward to the game but generally Arktika.1 takes place in the midst of a second ice age. You are a mercenary hired by the last remaining humans in Russia to protect them from marauders, bandits…and something even worse. Here’s the official synopsis from 4A:

Nearly a century in the future — in the aftermath of a silent apocalypse — the planet has entered a new ice age. Only the equatorial regions remain habitable, yet pockets of humanity still manage to survive in small numbers all over the planet. These small regions of civilization sit on resource-rich, highly desirable territories to the north and south. As a mercenary hired by Citadel Security, your job is to protect one of the last colonies in the wastelands of old Russia from violent raiders, marauders, and horrifying creatures. Be the savior. Give humanity a second chance.

Getting past a guard with a pass card

Getting past a guard with a pass card

When my car finally broke through the blizzard I saw on the horizon where exactly the name Arktika.1 comes from: a massive, heavily secured compound. The last refuge for a dying human race.

As I drove up to the survivor city’s gates I was struck by how beautiful this game is. 4A is building Arktika.1 using its proprietary engine and it is able to produce the most striking visuals I’ve ever seen in a VR game. A good portion of that too is owed to the art design. Much like the Metro series before it, Arktika.1’s story oozes out of every carefully crafted asset you’ll come across in its richly developed environments. There’s more detail in every frame of Arktika.1 than you’ll probably even take the time to notice. That commitment to world-building through design, coupled with the amazing visual fidelity, makes this a game that sticks in your mind long after the headset comes off.

A snowy battle at the airfield

A snowy battle at the airfield

In addition to amazing visuals, 4A is also doing some interesting mechanical things that are exciting to see from a bleeding-edge VR title. For example, during my car ride I could interact with certain elements inside the vehicle. I could role the window down at will by pressing a button. I did so and immediately the sound changed. I could hear the engine and the wind more clearly than before. The voice of my companion also got more difficult to hear but when I closed the window again the sound reset and the noises inside the car got much crisper. Little touches like this make a good VR experience a great one and Arktika.1 is packed to the frozen gills with them.

Apart from the world-building moments, the GDC demo also took me through a completely new combat mission as well. Things began similarly to the OC3 demo. I went to the armory and picked out my weapons. After that, however, I was taken into a simulated training room to hone my skills against digital opponents. From there, I was taken to a nearby airfield that had fallen to the icey cold and notorious bandits. My job was to eliminate them. I’m good at my job.

Arktika.1’s combat is all about cover. You need to use it well in order to survive. The levels are designed creatively enough that your cover points always feel interesting and strategic rather than frustrating or overly simplistic. The guns themselves are interesting as well, with enough variable ammo types and firing options to keep you experimenting for hours. 4A also showed us a secret gun hidden behind a hotkey in the demo.

Picking a weapon and the mod-gun (left)

Picking a weapon and the mod-gun (left)

This new weapon is modable with different options for the chamber, barrel and ammunition. Swapping these around created a completely different weapon for each configuration. Mods like this seem to be a staple of what 4A is building here and they are a very welcome addition to the world of VR shooters, where loadouts are often pre-determined and limited.

Between the deliciously ambient world, the pulse-pounding combat and the innovative VR mechanics, its safe to say — for me at least — that Arkitka.1 is the game to look forward to in 2017 on any platform. Its currently set to release in Q3. Until then, stay warm out there.

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What's your reaction?
  • John Collins

    Really looking forward to this. The atmosphere looks amazing. Still hoping for an alternative to movement though but it seems like we will be locked in to it.

  • NooYawker

    So you look at the spot they want you to teleport to and that’s the only place you can go. Of all the locomotion options out there this is the bottom of the barrel, the worst decision possible.

    • brian greyson

      Yeah, teleporting is a no go for me but if artificial locomotion is included as an option I’ll definitely give this one a shot, it looks pretty fun.

    • Mane Vr

      agree I want to get excited for this game but this reason is the one that going to make me skip it some many devs have started to give locomotion option this game just limits you in the worst way

  • John Collins

    With the emphasis on cover though it looks to me that they are locking it down to teleport. Can’t see how with the bit we have seen if full locomotion would work especially when getting to high cover. Still will keep an eye on this as I don’t like teleport but the cover system kind of makes it more “acceptable”. However, the scenes where you are walking from the car (the other video out) it really takes you out of the immersion of the world. Watching the other video it looked amazing riding in the transport and messing with everything and handing the ID card to the guard. Then you open the door and have to teleport to an elevator. Immersion break.

  • 1: Octopus bollocks exclusive.
    2: Teleport pish.

    About the ugliest teleport ever. Reduces the game to that of a Myst adventure with cut-scenes and incoming wave.

  • jimrp

    Ruined by teleporting. Game like this should have option to walk. Soooo stupid.

  • Ashok0

    I don’t understand why everyone is obsessed with teleport. Alien: Isolation and HL2 were the best shooters I played in VR and none used teleport. 🙁

    • Bundy

      Because there are a lot of people (like me), that get insta-nausea from locomotion. I guess they figured that annoyed gamers are better than vomiting gamers.

      I suspect they’ll explore both options before release. It’s still a long way off.

      • Morality_Mortality

        Yes people like you with #VRComfort issues are a very vocal minority. It’s a shame companies like Oculus & HTC can’t figure out that people want the choice to move freely in Virtual Reality and disable normal motion and elect to teleport around (ruining immersion) if it they cannot handle it.

        • Bundy

          I haven’t seen any statistics. Do you have any links?

      • CaptainHappy

        You know what? I was pumped for locomotion in Arizona Sunshine when the update was released but I actually turned it off again.

        Not because of motion sickness but because it actually ruined the roomscale aspect. It felt less realistic to constantly artificially walk than to teleport and then actually move.

        Locomotion is a good thing if you want a VR fix sitting down or standing still, IMO.

  • polysix

    Fuck facebook!

    • Kalle

      grow up 😉

      • Buddydudeguy

        He’s a Vive shill.

  • Bundy

    Looks awesome, can’t wait!

  • Jordy

    I hope they include artificial locomotion too, teleport ruins the game for everyone who don’t get sick in VR.

  • Morality_Mortality

    Another #VRComfort title eh ? What a shame as this title seemed promising. Pass.