Phaser Lock has made a name for themselves in the VR scene by being one of the first developers with a fully-realized game concept that was ready for launch with the HTC Vive early last year. Their debut game, Final Approach, put players in the God-like position of an air-traffic control officer as you guided planes on their landing and take-off around a variety of densely detailed environments. Now the development studio is back with a brand new VR game called Twisted Arrow.
As the name suggests, a bow and arrow are the stars of the show this time around. Armed with the experimental military-grade super-powered compound bow, The Manticore, you’re tasked with descending into the depths of a city overrun with an evil, high-tech paramilitary force. You can see the game in action below:
Phaser Lock Interactive let us get a peek at the game ahead of time and we came away extremely excited to see more. Before diving into the missions, we went through the game’s Advanced Weapons Training tutorial zone. In my left hand was the powerful Manticore compound bow, with an arrow in my right hand.
The arrows are always ready, so I never had to reach behind my back to grab one. This made the game far less active and visceral, but I can understand the decision from an accessibility perspective. I just reach up with my right hand, pull the trigger, pull back the string, and release the trigger to shoot.
If I pressed the right trackpad, I could cycle through different arrow types: standard, freeze arrows, landmines, split arrows, and bomb arrows. Each of them had very specific use cases behind them, which ensured that none of them felt redundant. All of the arrows other than standard use up a bit of energy that you can recharge either by waiting or by shooting energy boxes.
“We’re excited to bring fast-paced, arcade-style action to players in VR with Twisted Arrow,” said Michael Daubert, CEO of Phaser Lock Interactive, in a prepared statement. “From the beginning of the game, we drop you in the center of the action that really gets your heart pumping as you leave a path of destruction and carnage. You’re in for the fight of your life! You will work up a sweat in Twisted Arrow, dodging and weaving your way through enemy forces with over the top action that will test your stamina and overall combat skills in VR.”
Pulling the trigger on my bow hand raises a shield for deflecting bullets, but it can momentarily break under heavy pressure. The top menu button on my arrow hand also lets me teleport to pre-defined locations around the map.
I say pre-defined because Twisted Arrow doesn’t support full locomotion or allow you to freely teleport wherever you’d like, such as in Island 359, Raw Data, or other similar games. The benefit to this is that each location is in a good spot — behind cover, on top of buildings, etc. so you never have to worry too much about getting stuck on geometry or finding good vantage points to take out enemies.
The downside, obviously, is a restrictive feeling that you can’t go anywhere you want. After a few minutes, that feeling subsided, as I was ducking and weaving between bullets while sniping soldiers from rooftops.
The area I explored was a Prison mission that took place down in the streets of a dark, overrun, and ravaged city. Helicopters hovered above (and could be destroyed, sending chunks of fire and metal raining down) and watchtowers bathed areas in light, searching for me. My strategy was to teleport up behind sandbags, kneel down on the ground, and pick off enemies from a distance. Red barrels erupt into massive cartoon-style explosions with the exaggerated ragdoll physics sending the pseudo-cel shaded soldiers flying.
Since over-the-top violence is the name of the game when you’re a VR-version of Hawkeye for all intents and purposes, the relatively whimsical art style feels appropriate. “Shooting an arrow into the head of NPC is fun,” said Daubert in a phone interview, “but exploding an arrow in their face and watching them go flying with ragdoll, it’s really something else.”
As it stands, Twisted Arrow delivers on crafting an intense and fun world to explore. I’m eager to see new areas, try new arrow types, and see more of what Phaser Lock has crafted. There are plans for eventual co-op and competitive multiplayer, but that likely won’t be included until some time later this summer in a big update.
Twisted Arrow is currently slated for a March 16th, 2017 release for both Oculus Rift with Touch and HTC Vive at a price point of $24.99, with a 25% launch promotion discount. You can stay up to date with more info on the studio’s official website.