Is the new multiplayer VR shooter from Inxile Entertainment worth your time? Find out in our Frostpoint review!
There’s a mystery at the heart of Frostpoint VR: Proving Grounds. This chilly online shooter, developed by Inxile Entertainment, finds itself in suspiciously similar territory to the studio’s just-released tactical RPG, Wasteland 3, set amongst snowy ruins that play host to scrappy shootouts with rusty rifles and energy beams. It’s also a very different game to the one we were expecting when Inxile announced it was working on an ‘open-world survival RPG‘ more than three years ago now. Clearly, at some point, plans changed.
Sadly, that mystery is pretty much the most interesting thing about Frostpoint.
Inxile’s second VR game is an otherwise simplistic offering — far more routine than the warm nerd nostalgia of The Mage’s Tale — that seems unlikely to break the curse of empty VR multiplayer lobbies. What’s here is certainly competent, but there’s shockingly little beyond the base foundations that sets Frostpoint apart from other VR shooters.
So you’re confined to a frozen military base in Antarctica, two opposing teams of 10 players each relentlessly charging towards each other between the meager offering of two game modes – Team Deathmatch and the base-capturing Conquest. Completing objectives and killing opponents earns you cash you can then spend back at base for one-time access to better weapons (you’ll need to buy them again if you die) or to build turret outposts out in the map.
None of this is especially original, and neither is the core gameplay which adopts the absolute bare minimum of VR basics in 2020. Some weapons work well; pistols offer dependable control, while more destructive machine guns need to be held with two hands otherwise weapon kickback will throw your aim off course. It’s fairly inconsistent, though, as you could easily wield a large sniper rifle with one hand without any of those pitfalls.
Still, it’s mechanically sound; jamming a magazine into a gun and then pulling back on a charging handle remains as much a novel satisfaction here as it does in any other VR shooter, even if the weapon handling is a little too light to the touch and the firing sound effects feel muffled and muted. There are a surprisingly generous amount of weapons in your arsenal, mixing up scopes, laser-sights and even chargeable cannons, but there’s otherwise little else to distinguish itself.
What Frostpoint would like to call its twist is the presence of alien enemies on the battlefield; mutated brutes that join the fray and prey on either side. In concept art they look terrifying and, in theory, they could indeed add an interesting dynamic to otherwise vanilla gameplay. In reality, they’re nothing but a minor distraction, no more bothersome than a fly hovering around your head and far more easily dispatched. What are these creatures and where did they come from? You might find out through the game’s bafflingly exhaustive library of lore located back at the hub, but their presence on the battlefield is so underwhelming it’s difficult to raise much intrigue.
Level design is at least varied and does play well to the game’s claims of being a tactical shooter. One map has you weaving in and out of frozen ice caps and fighting for dominance in the remains of an enormous tanker. Another features a winding network of underground tunnels that forces shootouts much closer together. When playing Frostpoint with friends (you can make squads of four to take into battle), this does open the door to legitimate strategies, especially in the Conquest mode. They’re not all winners; larger maps fall into that ghastly trap of making you sprint toward an objective, die, respawn, and sprint all over again, but also provide an opportunity to scan the map, locate less-utilized routes a get in a sneak attack.
Still, all of this doesn’t especially bode well for the longevity of a shooter that, frankly, is already struggling to maintain a consistent player base. At only one point in the past few days of playing have I seen the game’s human player count get close to the halfway point (nine players out of a potential 20, to be exact). Most of the time I saw a maximum of four players in-game, myself included. During launch week, I’ve just been outright unable to find games.
When I could join, the missing spots were filled in with AI that leaves a lot to be desired – at one point I racked up around five or so kills in seconds gunning down enemies that appeared almost in single file and you’ll sometimes happen upon your own AI failing to fight back against the alien NPCs. An upcoming launch on the Oculus Rift store might go some way to improving player numbers but sustaining an online player base in VR is notoriously difficult and I frankly can’t see Frostpoint doing much to overcome those hurdles save for perhaps maybe releasing on Quest and PSVR later down the line.
Frostpoint Review Final Impressions
Another case of what could have been, then. After all my matches in Frostpoint, the only lingering thoughts it’s really managed to leave with me are of what might have gone wrong with it. Did Microsoft’s 2018 acquisition of Inxile scupper plans for something wholly more ambitious? Or is Frostpoint’s barebones set of options and unremarkable gameplay really the result of three years of work from a very talented studio? We may never know the answer, but the result leaves a lot to be desired. To succeed in the multiplayer VR market in 2020, you need to be red hot. Frostpoint, however, arrives frozen stiff.
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Frostpoint VR: Proving Grounds is available now on SteamVR for Vive, Rift and Index, and will be coming soon to the Oculus Rift store. What did you make of our Frostpoint review? Let us know in the comments below!