BlackShield: Upora Story is one of those games that seemed to appear from thin air. Developed by Chinese studio V-Sensory, the game’s Steam page touts impressive visuals and fast-paced action with dual-wielding weapons. Once you get past the flair of the screenshots and trailers, though, is the game actually any fun to play?
BlackShield is pretty similar to 4A Games’ Arktika.1; it’s a node-based shooter (no free locomotion here) in which you teleport to one spot, shoot everything in sight, then teleport to another spot and do it all again. The game pits you in an interplanetary war between various races including brilliantly made up names like Akkadian, Kronos and (wait for it) Clagtovian. I couldn’t tell you which one of those is the enemy race, but it consists of malicious robots.
As with the recent demo for Reboant, the game’s cast features lovably cheesy voice acting and dialogue that seems intent on resurrecting 80’s-era videogame scripts (imagine “Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of rocks to hide behind!” said in the style of Gears of Wars’s Marcus Fenix), though the translation to English features regular typos and confusing statements (such as “Objective: Arrive”). The plot simply isn’t up to the same standard as the game’s visuals, which boast highly-detailed environments and solid character models that wouldn’t look too outdated in a modern console game. A special shoutout goes to the lavishly-designed gun models too, which look and feel great to hold.
For the most part the shooting is fun, if unremarkable. Usually you’ll teleport behind a piece of cover and then some enemies will try to pick you off from afar while others will rush you for a melee attack. In a tribute to Robo Recall, you can grab robots that get too close and pull off their limbs, though I also found it useful to keep them as a bullet shield, as it can be hard to dodge incoming fire and I usually found it easier to play on my knees to maximize cover. Melee kills also reward you with more ammo.
Enemies usually come in different color variations: red and yellow are melee, while white uses pistols, blue shotguns, and orange rocket launchers (you’ll want to take care of them first). They’ll soak up damage with anything but a headshot, meaning it’s best to always keep the limited-ammo machine guns in hand and keep getting melee kills rather than to rely on the under-powered pistols with infinite ammo.
As you can see, then, there’s a pretty solid foundation here, it just all gets a little repetitive, even within the short running time. 75% of the game has you taking out enemies as quickly as possible with occasional variation; there’s a mercifully short stealth segment (which, no, doesn’t work well at all), an explosive setpiece on a turret (which works better, though the controls are stiff), and the occasional race against the clock to reach a certain point in the level.
There’s just not much invention to it; it’s the kind of box-ticking experience that doesn’t translate well to VR. Everything’s a little too on-rails with no room for the experimentation that VR should afford; you can only use grenades when there are enemy types weak to them and scripted sequences rob the explosions of any sense of danger. What you get is something that’s initially entertaining to play but the appeal diminishes with each encounter.
You might be able to overlook all that if there was at least a full game to play. Sadly BlackShield is yet another game that can be beaten in less than an hour. It would appear more is on the way (the credits suddenly appear after a mission briefing), but right now at the hefty price of $29.99 there’s not nearly enough to justify a purchase. We reached out to V-Sensory to find out when and how new chapters will arrive, but haven’t heard back.
BlackShield: Uropa Story has a solid foundation beneath it, but it’s yet another VR shooter let down by the lack of content and overly simplistic design. The fact of the matter is that, were this a standard shooter, there’d be very little in the way of identity or innovation here, and adding VR support into the mix just isn’t enough of a differentiator to grant excitement.