Espire 1: VR Operative is still one of our most anticipated VR games and at this point it should only be mere months away. At GDC 2019 we got the chance to go hands-on with the VR stealth action game developed by Digital Lode and published by Tripwire Interactive and came away impressed with the level of interactivity and excellent feeling of stealthy tension.
Since Espire 1 is split up into a series of 4-5 hour long episodes the bit we played is only a tiny chunk of the first episode that’s launching soon. The demo featured an original Oculus Rift headset and Touch controllers, but it’s coming to Vive as well. When I asked about PSVR support their response made me think it’s coming shortly after. Fingers crossed for a Quest port too.
Espire 1 is a clever game in that it’s not only all about stealth and espionage, but also because you play as a robot with some really useful abilities. For example, I can reach up to my ear and pull the trigger to send out a sonar-type signal that illuminates enemies through walls. And on my hands I’ve got cameras I can point around corners to get a quick glimpse of what’s coming or who is waiting. While most of the game for the majority of people will be about sneaking around, avoiding detection, and quietly taking down enemies, it doesn’t have to be.
During one section of the demo enemies flood in through a door near the end (you can see it happen above) and during my playthrough this was my guns-blazing moment. The assault rifle felt good in this section, easily able to mow down a group of enemies. My primary weapon through most of the demo was a bolt-action style pistol. But to be honest, I mostly just used my fists.
Sneaking up behind someone and cracking them over the head with a metallic hand is pretty satisfying, as I found out. The developers even told me I could have said “Freeze!” and enemies would drop their weapons if you sneak up behind them before demanding it. Objects can be thrown for distractions as well. All that definitely helps feed into the Metal Gear Solid vibe.
As you can see in the image above, Espire 1 uses a very unique movement system if you’re prone to motion sickness. Rather than teleporting you around or having you move fully and just seeing what happens, it uses this unique vignette effect. Everything in front of you is behind a digitized wall and your direct gaze creates a hole in the wall. The faster you move, the smaller that hole gets to focus your eyes and prevent that disorienting artificial movement sensation.
I don’t get motion sick so it was mostly distracting to me, so thankfully it can be turned off. This sounds like a nice compromise without losing the benefit of smooth movement totally.
The rest of Espire 1’s special sauce is in how you interact with the world. Climbing on metal objects like walls, pipes, and railings felt great, dropping down from a platform to bash an enemy on the head and take him out was exhilarating, and creeping along through hallways gave me a real sense of tension — something that’s often missing from a lot of VR games.
I’m unsure I like the idea of an episodic format — I wish I could just play it all at once! — but we’ll have to wait and see. Up to 4-5 hours of content per episode sounds too good to be true.
Espire 1: VR Operative’s first chapter is slated to release on PC VR headsets like Rift and Vive very soon this year. You can check out the Steam page for more details. Let us know what you think down in the comments below!