The best video games are masters of their respective platforms.
Somehow, the classic Atari game Pong was able to turn a handful of pixels, and a controller that was little more than a knob, into a generation-defining competition that is still enjoyable today.
Call of Duty, although often looked at as a frat-house punch line by many “real” gamers, has written the definitive rulebook for console gaming’s dual analog controllers; and this mastery is undoubtedly a contributing factor to its blockbuster success.
On March 28 the gaming world was introduced to a new platform: the Oculus Rift. Like the consoles and PC’s that came before it, the Rift has its limitations. In this case, that limitation came stamped with an Xbox logo and bundled in every box.
The Rift’s initial preference towards controller-based games over hand tracking is seen by many as a weakness. However, it is the game that makes the hardware, not the other way around.
Crytek’s The Climb is one game that proves it can do more with two buttons than other VR games can do with your entire body.
The Climb is – like many great games – simple. You only have two objectives for each level: get to the top of the mountain and don’t fall horribly to your death.
These goals are accomplished through a beautiful control scheme that is a perfect marriage between the Rift’s head tracking, and the often-mocked Xbox controller. Both components are used wonderfully as your gaze controls where your hands are placed on a given rock-face, while the triggers on the controller are used to activate your grip.
This method of traversal means you’ll often find find yourself standing on tip-toe to get your hand just high enough to reach that narrow handhold, or squeezing the triggers of your controller so tightly that your hands begin to cramp.
There is also a stamina/chalk system that adds another level of immersive gameplay to an already pulse pounding experience. All of this is topped off by the stomach dropping jump mechanic. You will definitely be taking a few real-world steading breaths before attempting that virtual leap across a very believable looking plummet.
As perfect as the controls are for making the best use of the Rift as a platform and building immersion, they can be somewhat finnicky. A few of my falls felt like they only happened because the game was failing to detect that my hand was indeed placed over a viable handhold. Thees moments, while frustrating, are scarce enough not to distract from the rest of the experience.
Visuals in the ‘Climb’ could be there own separate experience entitled: “Beautiful landscape viewer 2016.”
Half of what makes this game so enjoyable is simply gawking at the astounding vistas from every new angle that the mountains afford. Each environment has different visual touches and Easter eggs to keep an eye out for, and they make you feel even more in touch with the simple delight of moving higher and higher up these very large rocks.
Complementing the visuals of The Climb perfectly is its approach to sound. Audio is positionally tracked in the game. This means that when you turn your head away from the shelter of the stone face you’re scaling, you’re instantly greeted by the sharp whistle of the wind or the distinctive song of an eagle.
There is also no music during your actual assent, the subtle soundtrack only kicks in when you summit the various peaks of the mountain you are currently conquering. The absence of music keeps the immersion in place and maintains your connection with the natural beauty of the experience.
The Climb is a challenging game. Even the “easy” versions of the three scalable mountains will be difficult to conquer without a good amount of falls.
There are three mountains to tackle and each has three difficulty modes that are unlocked as you progress through the game and your climbing level grows.
Successfully reaching any of the Climb’s peaks gives you a true sense of accomplishment, but the higher difficulty mountains will especially leave you feeling like a world-class athlete by the end.
There are multiple paths and hidden surprises for each course making multiple climbs a must. Your abilities are also scored at the end of each challenge meaning that you may find yourself coming back to the same terrain again and again in order to climb higher than your friend on the online leaderboards, or defeat their ghostly hands in the game’s “race” mode.