The first thing I see are my hands. Clenching my fingers around the Oculus Touch controllers, they turn into two powerful, hulking ape fists connected to hairy arms.
“Do I get to punch humans?” I ask.
I’m a big fan of the Planet of The Apes movies, and the modern trilogy did a great job putting on the big screen apes you empathize with to such an extent that you begin to root against your own species. In VR, I find it amazing how quickly the developers make me hate humans again. It happens about 10 seconds after the tutorial showing how to navigate the world.
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR is the first fully fledged VR game from FoxNext VR Studio. The group previously published The Martian to negative reviews, many of them focused on it costing $20 for a limited 20 minute experience. The Apes game is expected to sell for around $15, launching April 3 on Oculus, Steam and PlayStation VR. According to Fox, you can expect the play time to be approximately two hours or so.
Fox is in the process of being purchased by Disney, but FoxNext representatives say it is business as usual for them during the process. They have more interactive and game-based VR projects connected to movies they plan to launch this year that build on what they learned from The Martian and Crisis on the Planet of the Apes.
I played about half of an unfinished build of the Apes VR game, and as a fan of the movies it was entertaining to actually visit that world for the first time. We’ll plan to review the game when it launches next month, but for now I want to describe an interesting locomotion system the game uses to help make you feel like an ape.
You can look ahead to find a transparent outline of an ape. This shows where you need to go next. Then you point at it with your arm, press a button and swing your arms to start walking toward it. In some places you swing your arms upward to take a leap across an obstacle. In combat, you can just reach out to one of these ape outlines and pull yourself toward it quickly with one arm pull. Your gun goes over your back and can be pulled out anytime.
This system is combined with a method of climbing much like The Climb. The game is meant to be played in a standing position mostly facing forward and in certain parts of the game you need to traverse pipes snaking across the ceiling, or climb walls. While in cover, you can also grab boxes or tables to move yourself around. Guiding blue lines indicate any of these places to which you can grab hold. This makes for an interesting cover system while in combat because, while you can physically duck behind cover to avoid gunfire from the humans, I found it more enjoyable to pull myself up over boxes with one hand while firing with the other. This somehow made me feel more like an intelligent ape popping his head up above the boxes to fire at the taller humans.
I don’t know yet if Fox figured out with Crisis on the Planet of the Apes how to build a profitable interactive VR game tied into a movie franchise, but as a fan of the films I enjoyed visiting this world and interacting with it infinitely more than any 360-degree movie tie in. It is an original story, too, set between the Rise and Dawn films, so Crisis offers a chance to visit that universe in a time and place we’ve never seen before. The game is produced in partnership with Imaginati Studios.