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Damaged Core Review: Meet The New King of VR Shooters

by Joe Durbin • August 30th, 2016
Platform: Oculus Rift

- Brilliant game mechanics that make sense narratively
- Addictive combat
- Strikingly beautiful visuals
- Engaging Story with interesting characters
- Solid Replayability


- Divisive ending
- Only one difficulty mode

I’m dying.

At least that’s what it looks like. Darkness is closing in from all sides and my vision is slowly narrowing to a pinpoint. I can still hear the sounds of battle raging around me but it’s different now, as if I’ve suddenly been submerged underwater.

As my hearing continues to distort I desperately look around for something, anything to save me. At last I see it. My salvation is 25 feet tall, made completely of iron and carrying one very large gun. I smile, make the jump, and return to the fight.

Damaged Core is unlike anything I’ve played in VR before, and I have played quite a bit. It does for the Oculus Rift what Pokemon Red and Blue were able to do for the Gameboy: namely maximize what made the specific console so amazing, while minimizing any of its weaknesses. High Voltage was able to craft a game that is addictively fun to play, captivating in its narrative, and delightful in its visual presentation. And it does all this not in spite of VR, but because of it.

In Damaged Core, you assume the role of a newly created artificial intelligence with no true body of your own. Your goal is to fight against the evil “Core,” a nefarious group of evil AI controlled robots, in order to save the human race.


As an AI, everything you see or experience in the world of the game comes to you through the eyes of a machine your program is inhabiting. By pressing “A” on the controller you are able to target and warp into enemy robots, tanks, turrets, and strategically placed hovering cameras. When you assume control of these new hosts you gain control of their respective powers, weapons, and stamina.

Damaged Core is unlike anything I’ve played in VR before”

This simple mechanic is therefore able to completely erase any motion sickness from the game in favor of unleashing every bit of the Rift’s unique, immersive powers. That gameplay loop not only provides an almost endless variety of actions in combat when replaying missions, but it also ties all of that together with narrative reasoning that actually makes sense. In an era of VR where most games are still requiring you to blink, fly, or nauseously stumble around the world with no real in-game explanation to back up the mechanics, this is nothing short of fantastic.

In addition to being a genius combination of game design and storytelling, Damaged Core‘s central mechanic also made me feel more immersed and free to move as I pleased than any room-scale game or cockpit shooter ever has. Each level feels like it awards me complete autonomy in how I complete my objectives.


If I want to jump into a sniper and pick off foes with accuracy, I could go for it. If I wanted to jump into shotgun bots and blast my enemies away with satisfying concussions, I was free to do so. And if I wanted to step into the hulking boots of a massive overseer and lay waste to scores of enemies at once, I could make that decision at any time.

Damaged Core allowed me to literally jump into enormous VR gun battles in which I had nearly complete control over how I fought without providing even a hint of motion sickness or “turn in a circle and shoot these zombies” gameplay that VR shooters are becoming known for. That is an experience I won’t soon forget and one that I plan on revisiting as often as I possibly can.

“You honestly feel like you’ve joined a rag-tag militia from Terminator”

Narratively Damaged Core is also a breath of fresh air for VR gaming. Believe it or not this title has something that very few of its peers even attempt to include: actual characters. There are well rounded, sympathetic characters in Damaged Core and — as many of your missions center around protecting these brave resistance fighters — you will quickly feel a kinship to them that few, if any, other VR games are able to create.

The actual plot itself is relatively standard: man makes robots smart, man makes robots too smart, robots decide they don’t like man, robots try to kill man, man fights back. This might be boring in a 2D shooter, but because Damaged Core is a VR game, you honestly feel like you’ve joined a rag-tag militia from Terminator.


When your given the briefing at the start of each mission it’s more of an immersive scene with the group talking to you and depending on you to survive than a simple game. This makes you all the more keen to blast those good-for-nothing scum Core-bots into scrap.

Each mission feels well constructed, perfectly paced, and full of diverse and interesting modes of play. In the space of a few seconds you could go from providing sniper cover to your team as they sneak into a guarded facility, to manning an anti-aircraft turret, to mowing down swarms of bad guys as you jump from a rifle-bot, to a grenadier, to a colossus. Your heart will start pounding as each level begins and won’t stop until you see that glorious “mission clear” screen flash before your eyes.

Something else that makes these missions so enjoyable is the level of challenge they represent. Damaged Core is not an easy game. In fact, if you’re new to VR, or shooters in general, some levels will seem downright nasty. But each time I failed a mission I honestly felt like the fault was with me. There are no OP enemies or unfair wave configurations. If you lose in this game it’s likely because you chose the wrong bot, missed that clutch shot, or didn’t think quickly enough on your feet.


From a visual perspective Damaged Core does the absolute best with what it has. It’s no secret that current-gen VR headsets are lacking in overall image resolution, but High Voltage was still able to create sweeping vistas, character models, gun designs, and special effects that represent the absolute best the industry has to offer.

“Damaged Core stands as the new high-water mark that VR game studios should strive to surpass. “

Sound is also used beautifully whether it be the sweeping orchestral score, immersive audio alerting you to a nearby foe, or a familiar voice echoing in your ear (no spoilers but the final boss is voiced by a man that anyone who grew up watching Toonami will instantly recognize as a legend.)

As far as replayability, each mission can be undertaken any time after you beat it once. There are also leaderboards and after-level scores to improve and keep you coming back for more.

However, it’s worth  noting that Damaged Core is not a “perfect” VR game. I spotted the occasional glitch with the AI (although the results were only ever humorous and not game breaking) and the ending to the story will leave some feeling chilled, some confused, and some downright upset. There is also only one difficulty mode, which High Voltage explained to me was in an effort to mitigate frustration for a game that will already be uncharted territory to the vast majority of its players.


Those few buzzing gnats may be enough to slightly chip away at the the beautiful diamond elephant that is Damaged Core, but they can not fully reduce its glittering form.

There are some moments in life that simply force you to change. Seeing the northern lights, getting married, watching The Dark Knight for the first time, and realizing no movie will ever make you feel anything like that again, are all great examples.

Websites have moments like this too and UploadVR just had a great big Dark Knight moment of its own in the form of this game that’s releasing today on the Oculus Rift. Lines were drawn, alliances forged, and a true Battle of the Bastards was waged concerning what score to give this game (that’s not a Game of Thrones thing, there was just a lot of name calling.)

In the end, a final number was agreed upon that satisfied both camps. And so, today UploadVR is doing something it has never done before by adding a decimal to one of our reviews and giving Damaged Core the final score that you see below.

It’s the first of its kind but this game definitely deserves the exception.

Final Score: 9.5/10 – Near Masterpiece

Damaged Core stands as the new high-water mark that VR game studios should strive to surpass. Its amazing execution should serve to catapult this entire industry into a higher level of excellence. Damaged Core is a brilliant game, an important game, and one that absolutely deserves the score you see above. The new king of VR shooters has arrived.

Now stop reading and go play it.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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What's your reaction?
  • Reggi

    No motion controls?

    • James Andre

      It’s oculus the motion controls aren’t out yet

      • TMT

        This wouldn’t be the same game with motion controls. This game is designed around its current play mechanics (and very well at that). Adding motion controls to it would make it a totally different game, everything would have to be reworked and it would not be the same challenge. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are no plan to update it for touch for this reason.

        • James Andre

          I agree totally I was answering the initial post of no motion controls…. I’m waiting for my download almost done!

    • Joe Durbin

      I said this above but it applies here too: So many people would have so much more fun with so many more VR games if they could ditch the idea that motion controls are a requirement for a maximally good experience. My most immersive gameplay experiences have happened with a gamepad in my hand.

      • Full_Name

        It’s a first person shooter for Christ’s sake.

      • Chieftexas

        You clearly aren’t giving an objective opinion if you’re trying to make that argument. Apparently none of the writers on this website have any objectivity whatsoever.

  • Skylead

    Without having played it the immediate flaw I see is a lack of decoupled aiming.

    • James Andre

      I’ve actually played the division with vorpx before it stopped working and I actually think head track aiming makes games easy… just look and shoot! I was able to sniper without using the scope within minutes.

      • Mane Fit

        have you ever played Half-life 2 vr (not the vorpx ver.)? cause once I played that and felt how great it felt with the decoupled aiming I can’t go back it just doesn’t feel right… I know it’s not for everyone but why r we not even getting the option for it in these games

        • James Andre

          Nope the native vr support is gone as far as I can tell. I have the hydra controllers and have used on some of the vive games and I agree it is fun.

          • Mane Fit

            yea the vr support for half-life 2 is pretty much gone only vive users if they willing to put up with the headache can get it working no hope for oculus users the hmd needs to be in extended mode to work and with some of the new updates I been told might have killed it all together which is a shame it’s an amazing game in vr

    • Mane Fit

      just tried it and this is the biggest flaw in the game. that alone starts this game off in the low 8s for me. Then there is the fact some time after switching bodies u r stuck looking the wrong way. this game should have never gotten over 8 let alone 9.5… smh the reviewers on this site are WAY too easy on these games. I also find it suspect that this score for the game is on the game page on oculus home the day the game was release. this is not away to build confidence in this sites review. I for one has lost all trust in the reviews here this was the last straw. you guys should do video review so u can point out and give examples of what works well in a game and what doesn’t

      • Joe Durbin

        Ah the Internet. The only place where the only way to express your love for something is to be accused of bribery.

        Also: “you guys should do video review so u can point out and give examples of what works well in a game and what doesn’t” sooo like….a review?

        And finally: Sorry to hear you’re out of straws friend. I got you these. Hope it helps

        • Honestly though, he is far from the first person to suspect UploadVR of accepting payment in return for high scores or positive comments.
          Some of the stuff I read here… you really gotta wonder.

          I do think it’s good you stand by your work though. That says *something* anyhow. 🙂

          • Mane Fit

            while I didn’t say they got paid off I just found it weird that the score of the game was up on the oculus home the second the game went live

          • Full_Name

            I doubt they are paid to provide positive reviews, but calling this the “King of VR Shooters” is just insulting when the game is a FPS with no motion controllers. Sure, they did a great job with the limitations they had, but when your main mechanic is to shoot, aiming a motion controller is far better.

        • Mane Fit

          “accused of bribery” where did I say anything about this site getting paid off. I basically said they inflate the scores of games here on this site and I point to a few things I felt didn’t let this game get to a level of 9.5 the mechanics of being held still then never using the stick on the gamepad reminded me of eve gunjack which this game could surely be port to a mobile vr with all of the work fact on performance cause the mechanics was press a, x, right trigger and left trigger. sorry if I want more from the games I just spend close to 2k between the hmd and the pc to play. my investment makes me have high standard

      • TMT

        I don’t recall facing the wrong way when I switch to another body, I thought I was always looking the direction that the body was looking that I switched into. Sometimes I switch into a different body than first selection so it is facing where I want it to. I thought this was part of the strategy.

        • Mane Fit

          it happen a few time to me cause me to die cause my back was to the on coming enemy…

          • Michael Hayes

            but thats the whole point..you are the target of the enemies before you take control of their body..therefore they are going to be facing you..not towards the other enemies…use that to your advantage..grab control of the rearmost bot…then you are facing all the enies in front of you and they are facing away from you…its a very fun slaughter…I find the accuracy of that mechanic to be fun instead of a hinderence

          • Mane Vr

            which is a dumb gameplay design seeing as we loose tracking a lot when u turn around and this was suppose to be a seated gamepad game so how smart was this team to design the game like this

  • laast

    Not without Touch, sorry.

    • Joe Durbin

      So many people would have so much more fun with so many more VR games if they could ditch the idea that motion controls are a requirement for a maximally good experience. My most immersive gameplay experiences have happened with a gamepad in my hand.

      • Mane Fit

        agree good mechanics and control setup is all that is needed whether with touch, xbox controller, etc

      • laast

        I’ve played many games on my Rift with a pad, and enjoyed most of them. But a FPS? Aiming with my head? No thanks. What I expect from a fps in VR is at least to actually “aim” like in real life. If the gameplay is good enough as it is, great, but I won’t buy it.

        It’s exactly the same about The Climb. If people enjoy it with a pad, happy for them, but I won’t buy until Touch support. I firmly believe that Oculus doesn’t help VR’s credibility by releasing this kind of VR games without motion controllers. Plus it encourages some hardcore Vive’s fanboys to discredit Oculus even more.

      • Marc Marte

        yeah I like the space rift game. It is pretty neat. I use gamepad and my neck some stretching and exercising at the same time for aiming, which gives me head exercise at the same time

      • I 100% agree, but it seems like this particular game is designed in such a way that it’s actually a bit at conflict with the whole idea of sitting down on a chair, using a control pad, and being tethered near to a PC in a way that means fully turning around isn’t advisable. I honestly think in this particular case that this game would have been far better suited to either Vive or Oculus Touch where it could have really shined.

      • RoJoyInc

        I Agree – as a vive owner – I don’t get why people bitch about games because they don’t have motion controller support. I mean – it’s great if the game calls for it – but it include it just because they are there? makes no sense.
        I also get tired of standing in games and keeping my arms out – sometimes I want to chill for hours playing MECH WARRIOR ONLINE (needs a VR cousin)

    • Yeah, this is what I’m thinking after watching a few videos of people playing it. All the complaints seem to steam from the limitations and awkwardness of playing this game on a system that basically has you sitting in a static chair, which bizarrely the design of game is at conflict with at times. On Vive or Oculus Touch I think most of the complaints people have with the game as it is now would basically be eliminated.

  • Mane Fit

    about time I get a fps sucks that it’s the teleport movement I am a bit nervous to play cause I am not sure to trust the review here I feel you guys here go to easy on the games but I need a fps to play so this will have to do even with not getting the traditional movements god I wish they at least gave us the option

    • TMT

      This is the first teleport game that really implements the teleportation into the strategy of the game really well IMO. My first session lasted over an hour standing, and I quit because I was tired of standing. If you don’t have a swivel chair, its almost a must play standing.

      • James Andre

        Agreed I was sitting but not swivel friendly setup and it held me back will play standing tom

      • Mane Fit

        yea I think i’m noticing that I need to stand cause I get stuck the wrong way sometime and if I was standing I could turn around but man I just don’t want to stand up to play a game if I can’t figure away around that just going to have to stop playing this game

  • OkinKun

    Hopefully this will get a Touch upgrade, once Touch comes out, considering how close we’re getting.

    • TMT

      I don’t see how they could add Touch controls without totally redesigning the entire mechanics of the game. The strategy, AI, difficulty, etc are all based on its current play mechanics. If they allowed motion decoupled shooting it would make it way too easy in its current form.

  • Dawiiz

    Was super sceptical due to head aiming, but the game is amazing. And you get the beta for Dragon Front later. Super wrf!

    • Joe Durbin

      Exactly. There’s more than one acceptable mechanic for VR gaming

      • Jono

        LOL say only people with Rifts and no choice. Its not VR gaming with a gamepad. A VR shooter with no hand tracking aiming is a missed opportunity and not real VR.

  • h3ll

    No Vive support, no buy.

    • Paulo

      Well, you dont have a Rift. So its not like you are an oculus customer anyway without that hack.

    • Don’t worry, it only has head aiming anyway. *shudders*

  • Paulo

    Looks great. Though I agree that not everything needs motion controls, I feel like a shooter would definitely be better with them. Hopefully they update this for touch.

    • James Andre

      I can see touch controls working on this… mechanics would have to change some.

  • John Stevens

    Did upload vr get paid to review this game? It’s a good game, not much to complain about, but 9.5? Cmon. When I think of 9.5 I think of games like witcher 3 or metal gear. This is not their vr equivalent. I see nothing particularly amazing about it. It’s just a solid fps. 7.5 – 8 seems more fitting.

    • Joe Durbin

      I think it’s a bit ridiculous to compare a VR game to console games like this. The Rift is not even a year old. The PlayStation is over two decades old and the Xbox is getting up there as well. This game is remarkable on its own unique platform and amongst its own specific peers. It certainly wouldn’t be a 9.5 going up against games like that, but going up against titles like Crystal Rift or Radial G it certainly is. Comparing DC to games like the Witcher is like saying early photographs aren’t as good as “The Departed.” When reviewing a game you have to compare it in its own context.

      As for the bribery allegations: why do so many people online think that the only way someone can have a different opinion from them is if that person was given money? If you think DC deserves a different score write a review of your own, post it somewhere and get that discussion started. This industry can always do with more people willing to express their views. But it could also do less with people tearing down those views when they differ from their own.

      • “The PlayStation is over two decades old”.

        Just what PlayStation are we talking about here buddy? lol.
        Not sure why you would even mention something like that. If we are bringing up previous iterations, we might as well talk about all the OLD VR headsets that came out a couple decades ago as well lol.

        • Joe Durbin

          If you do ever manage to find the actual point I was making be sure to come back and try again.

          • Nope, put some thought to it and it still sounds as ridiculous as the first time I read it.
            Glad you tried though.

          • James Abrahams

            Ah he’s acting like a classic programmer, reading the sentence rather then the point behind the sentence.

            The point you are making is that plays ration games have had 2 decades oh iterations of games in order to understand the medium and to some degree since the first dual shock controller hasn’t changed. Therefore any game that comes out now is building on top of all those games, since tomb raider and crash bandicoot.

            Now he is technically right that VR existed around this time too. But if he understood the point he would realise that although games existed back then. They are so bad and so far removed from what happens now that any games you make now would not really be based on them in anyway. We’ve also had a huge hiatus where VR died and so another reason why really as far as the point you are making is concerned VR is new whereas the playstation has been around almost 2 decades.

            But instead of understanding any of this he will going away proud of himself “ha I showed him, his sentence wasn’t completely accurate in its most literal form. No one playstation design has been around for 2 decades and VR as a whole has, haha I’m right about very specific facts and so I can ignore anything else the person is trying to communicate ”

            I hope this person has a good boss or partner that will fight this aspect of his or her personality out of them.

          • Marc Marte

            There is a difference between consoles and VR, for one there were mass adopted and they had more developers then the other. VR only had what 20 devs without the same tech as there is now? I understand what Joe Durblin point in this. For this genere the rating is fair if its a good game. If they feel that is worth that much. If you dont go make up your own site and rate it how you want.

      • John Stevens

        You guys seem to give a positive review to just about every game out there and this game is not even close to a masterpiece. As another reader pointed out the movement system is flawed. When you transport from one bot to another you’re often looking in the wrong direction and the gameplay is just simply not varied enough. It also lacks a certain wow factor other fps I’ve tried such as Brookhaven experiment (the first time you play it at least). I’m really trying to justify your “near masterpiece” opinion on this game but are unable to. I was never captivated by this game-but it’s definitely a good time and worth picking up.

        • Joe Durbin

          Like I said reviews are, by their nature subjective. I found this game to be far more immersive and captivating than a turn-in-a-circle shooter like Brookhaven. I can’t tell you that your lower opinion of the game is wrong just like you can’t tell me my higher opinion of the game is wrong. That’s what’s awesome about games. Somewhere out there someone’s favorite game is Superman 64. He’s probably missing some vital part of his brain but still. Gaming is a beautiful passion as long as we hear others opinions and communicate our own with respect.

          • John Stevens

            I didn’t say Brookhaven was better I said it had more of an initial wow factor. Neither one of them are brilliant.

        • Michael Hayes

          I do not experience that problem of being in the wrong direction after a transference..I mean you are not looking in the same direction as you were beforehand but thats because you are physically changing bodies and that body was facing a different direction before you took control..I actually think the game does a great job of putting you into the same location as the body you are taking over..and that makes it a nice spectacle many times as you get to see the bots still shooting your old body until it is dead

  • Gordon Westbroek

    The plotline of this game immediately sounded familiar and almost taken entirely from a game called Paradroid in the 80s. A fantastic game on the C64 computer. You know your old when the reviewer speaks as if the games plot is a revelation delivered once a generation but its just a borrowed idea. Sigh…Still can’t wait to try it.

    • Joe Durbin

      But hey, on the bright side you just told a whole bunch of new people about Paradroid. Looks like it would be a lot of fun

    • Mettanine

      It reminded me of The Sentinel. Very different game, but same concept of “movement”. So yes… definitely not a new idea.

      • otaku_no_bfm

        Clive Barker’s Jericho game too…

  • Jason Ricci

    Do we know if this game has any subtitles?

  • xGryfter

    I won’t be coming here for reviews anymore. Under no situation is this game a 9.5. It’s not necessarily bad but it is just a glorified arena shooter hoard mode and it gets extremely repetitive extremely fast. The impact reaction of the bots being shot are well done but I found myself having to transfer from one bot to the next so quickly it’s hard to enjoy the satisfaction of mowing down the hordes of enemies. The disorientation that occurs every time you transfer into a bot facing a different direction than you makes getting your bearings a bit of a hassle at times and during an intense firefight you may find yourself having to transport again before you can get back into the fight which isn’t very fun. It’s by no means a bad game but I would put it at a 7 for VR games and a 5 when compared to traditional games.

    Maybe I’m not far enough into it so there may be something here like it but as of now this game is in dire need of some kind of leveling/upgrade system to add some much needed variety to the gameplay.

    • Mane Fit

      I agree to this 100% these are the issues i’m having tryin g to play this game and this review never once says anything about these point and I can’t see how they missed it.

  • John George

    I had no intention to buy this game because of the head shooting mechanic but this review convinced me. I’m so glad it did because this is a great game and jumping from enemy to enemy is so much fun and the gunplay really surprised me with how awesome it feels. Can’t wait to finish it and see where the story goes even if the ending is lackluster.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    I’m guessing the examples you gave are for you as The Dark Knight didn’t change me and there was nothing really special about the movie like stated here.

    This review makes me think the reviewer loves to get on the hype train and judges things based on the hype they get if he thinks The Dark Knight was that amazing and this game, while I haven’t played it, seems to be one that was super hyped up but isn’t as amazing as this review indicates. If he’s a football fan, he probably thinks Andrew Luck is the new god of QBs because of the hype he had coming out of college.

    Reality be damned!

  • unreal_ed

    The game is great! but i think comparing it to “shooters” makes it seem too analogous to FPSes but it’s pretty different from that. To me it feels a lot more like a Time Crisis in VR with a few more mechanics. It’s almost all action and the pace never stops. These arent bad things, but go in with those expectations imo.

    (Still have my fingers crossed for Time Crisis to actually come to VR)

  • Sky Castle

    So I bought this game based on the hype of this review and now the website has lost all credibility with me. The game is very polished and graphically looks nice, but the game play is mediocre and story is forgettable. I can not stand games that locks aiming to head tracking and Damaged Core does not change my opinion about it. If this a “Masterpiece” then I am 100% convinced that seated and standing experience is not for me, because this game makes me miss room scale and my Vive controllers.

    I understand opinions are just that, but calling this a masterpiece is a joke and I will no longer trust this site for reviews. I would give this game a 7/10 at best.

  • Jono

    “Meet The New King of VR Shooters”??!?! ROFL Have you even played Onward? This is not VR when you have to use a gamepad and is more at home on an xbox with a 12 year old. Onward on the Vive absolutely blows this away and its still only an alpha.

  • Well this is a surprise. I’m not sure I see how these are the best visuals in VR so far—I think maybe we have different taste in aesthetics, or possibly the visuals maybe aren’t coming across great in pics and gameplay videos—but I’m certainly interested in this game now.