Most developers do their best to avoid discomfort in VR but Anshar Studios seems to relish in it. Few games have shown such reckless disregard for sending players into a dizzy haze than last year’s Detached, a fact its makers flaunted in a hilarious trailer for its PSVR launch. And why not own it? With a community that’s becoming increasingly (and needlessly) hostile to games that don’t include smooth locomotion and turning, why not coax players into a masochistic competition to hold in your vomit. It’s essentially the VR equivalent of a dare.
Telefrag, the studio’s next game, follows in those shaky footsteps.
I considered myself to be a fairly hardened VR user that can count the number of times he’s fallen sick inside a headset on one hand, but I could physically feel my stomach lurch as the camera shifted on this new gravity-manipulating online shooter, which the team likens to Unreal Tournament. In 1 v 1 matches, you dash around maps, occasionally ascending the walls on special grav ramps to turn the arena-style levels into full 360 degree battlefields, much like in Enthusiast Games’ single-player NeverBound.
Control-wise, the game’s closer to Doom VFR than Epic’s classic series, with quick dashes assigned to a flick of an Oculus Touch stick and a teleport function that can be used to smash into your opponent and cause them to burst like a bag full of blood. That’s called telefragging (hence the title), which is the same named coined by Doom itself. Guess that term’s sticking, then.
In its current state the game has a solid foundation that its developers need to build upon. You begin each match by choosing one of three loadouts — more will be available in the final game — including a fast-firing pulse rifle, rocket launcher, and dependable laser pistol. Each feels great to fire, though it’s a little hard to judge how easy aiming is when you know the developer you’re playing against is probably going a little easy on you. When you did, you’ll have to choose another weapon loadout, though power-ups on the map give you the chance to even the odds if you’re not using a favorite.
Matches are punchy and entertaining. Chasing a player on the back-foot as they dart backward in intermittent bursts feels like a VR game of cat and mouse, and the ability to walk on any wall brings a heightened sense of exposure to the start of levels where you hunt for the enemy. Another arena-based shooter might not necessarily be what VR needs right now, but the low player count certainly makes it a viable option for two friends that need a place to shoot each other on weeknights.
While the gravity shifting is undoubtedly going to limit who can play Telefrag, you can try your best to avoid it. Teleporting can instantly move you to other surfaces including the ceiling for example, though in the heat of battle your fight or flight instincts will inevitably lead you up or down a ramp at one point or another. Again, more power to anyone that can stomach the sudden shift in perspective. Though Anshar tells me they did take comfort into more careful consideration this time around, I still don’t think they’re going to be breaking any ground for those that keep a sick bag near them when in VR.
Telefrag will probably occupy the same space in the VR scene as Detached, then. I’m not convinced it’ll overtake the likes of Onward and (hopefully) Firewall as the VR shooter to beat, though Anshar is talking about bringing in some interesting features like stat-altering grenades and larger match sizes that could improve those prospects. There’s also going to be more maps than the one I saw and, hopefully, a few others modes give that Detached itself had some pretty interesting alternatives to simply killing each other.
More than anything, though, if you’re the type of player that longs for VR content that doesn’t bend its knee to the needs of the weaker-of-stomachs, it’s absolutely a game that you should be following. I dare you.
Anshar is planning a beta for Telefrag later in the year (it’s undecided if it will be open or closed), with a full launch in early 2019.
Update: We added GIFs and new screenshots after publication.