Gunheart feels like the result of developers listing out all of the things most hardcore VR gamers want from their ideal game. Drifter Entertainment have crammed in tons of weapons to pick from, dynamically generated missions so you don’t run out of content too quickly, procedural and hand-crafted maps, lots of enemies, satisfying and tight gun mechanics, and a strong networking system to facilitate co-op. You can also freely move around the map with smooth locomotion, leap dozens of feet into the air, and teleport anywhere as much as you’d like.
In fact, Gunheart is such a thoroughly robust shooter that it’s even got a fully functional non-VR mode for PC players so everyone can play co-op running the same missions together regardless of device. It’s ambitious and after about a year of Early Access refinement, extremely polished.
Gunheart is an excellent example of a game that evolved in smart ways throughout its time in Early Access and became better as a result. For example, when I first played Gunheart all the way back over a year ago it was a teleportation-only game. Since then, they added full locomotion, jumping, and a slew of enhancements and content expansions. Other than the core shooting mechanics, it’s hardly even the same game anymore.
The premise here is that you’re a robotic bounty hunter that takes on jobs to hunt down and kill disgusting bug-like alien monsters. While the plot is just light enough to give you a reason to shoot at things, the real selling point is the atmosphere.
Before and after every mission you’ll visit the Bent Horizon club, which gives off a Star Wars-esque cantina vibe. From here you can customize your bounty hunter with hats, face designs, different vests/capes, and more. You’ll also be able to equip dozens of different weapon mods to tons of different weapons to augment and change how they’re used in battle.
Each Bent Horizon instance also serves as a multiplayer hub lobby where other players materialize so you can chat and meet people and decide if you want to group up for some missions together. Having a physical (or rather, virtual) place to walk around and adjust things rather than just a bunch of menus really helps establish Gunheart’s personality and lore. It feels like a sci-fi version of Rec Room’s gym.
While there aren’t as many varied missions in Gunheart as you’d find in a game like Destiny 2, that had years of development time across hundreds of team members for example, there’s still quite a lot going on here. A semi-procedural system shuffles map layouts around to keep missions fresh and there’s a set-in-stone progression of campaign stories to finish.
The temporary event missions spice things up a bit, as do the competitive PvP maps, so there’s definitely something for everybody. During a mission you’ll come across loot like money and ammo, but not much in the way of gear. Uncovering loot caches and treasure chests that contain cosmetic skins or even new gun mods more frequently during missions would have helped add to replayability.
Luckily most of the maps feature a lot of elevation variation encouraging you to use your jump and teleport liberally to stay mobile and get the high ground. Most standard enemies have wings that let them glide and jump up to high points as well, so you’ve got to keep your head on a swivel. It’s very easy to get overrun quickly if you let them swarm in on you — especially if you’re playing solo.
The drop-in, drop-out multiplayer works great though and you can set it so random people or friends can join your Bent Horizon lobby or even jump in on your mission while you’re right in the middle of it. Even though it’s launch week so far we haven’t seen a ton of people online yet, but hopefully that changes with the weekend coming up and the inclusion of both VR and non-VR play styles.
Since we first played Gunheart over a year ago one other prominent co-op shooter with fast movement has hit the scene as well, named Evasion. That one is targeting PSVR support as well with the Aim Controller and has a bit more variety from the jump with different classes, but it lacks the speed, jumping, and weapon mod system that really helps Gunheart stand out.
Drifter Entertainment consists of game development veterans from Epic Games, Oculus, and Microsoft with experience on projects like Gears of War, Halo, Robo Recall, and Doom. That pedigree shows with how polished and exciting Gunheart is to play. After a few hours I wanted more variety and more types of guns, even though the unlockable perks were all awesome, but at launch it’s already much better off than most other VR shooters.
Gunheart is a perfect example of how to iterate and improve on a game over the course of more than a year in Steam Early Access. What started out as a basic co-op VR shooter with teleportation movement is now one of the most feature-rich VR games we’ve seen in recent memory. Dozens of weapon mods, dynamic mission generation, excellent co-op, high-flying fast-paced movement, and enough bullets to make John Wick blush all add up to Gunheart being an easy recommendation. If they can continue iterating and adding content post-launch, this could become VR’s go-to co-op shooter.
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