Hands-On – Archangel: Hellfire Is Finally The Epic VR Mech Game I’ve Wanted
We weren’t big fans of the single-player Archangel experience when it released last year. While not terrible, it just didn’t do enough to stand out as a must-have VR mech game due to its uninspired story, on-rails movement system, and lackluster set piece gameplay moments. Skydance Interactive listened to the feedback though and are now updating the game with a deep, hardcore multiplayer mode named Hellfire that aims to push players to the limit.
Archangel: Hellfire is not for the faint of heart. Instead of nudging players along slowly through levels on rails, this is a full-locomotion, pedal to the metal, boost-jumping, laser shooting, multiplayer showdown. In short, it’s the VR mech combat game I’ve been waiting for.
If you already own Archangel then you’ll get Hellfire for free and the open beta officially starts today around 10AM PT. If you don’t have it already, then it’s included when you buy the whole package. As of today it’ll feature two maps, three mech classes (light, medium, and heavy,) and a single team deathmatch game mode for 2v2 warfare. The winning team is the first to 10 kills.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but once you dig into the intricacies of gameplay and layers of complexity involved with each of those three mechs, as well as experience how much health you each have, you’ll see how it’s anything but shallow.
Controlling your mech feels like it could have been ripped right out of Pacific Rim or the most recent Power Rangers movie reboot. Each controller (Oculus Touch or Vive) represents an arm of your mech. As you sit in your chair you move your arms around to aim your weapons, mimicking your robot’s movement. Since you’re inside of a cockpit the right stick or touchpad steers the position of the mech’s actual head, but you turn your own IRL head to aim your targeting system for some weapons and to look around the battlefield.
You’ll use the left stick or touchpad to move around the battlefield with full, smooth locomotion and you can click it in to perform a hover boost that rockets you upwards above the battlefield. If that sounds complex that’s because it all kind of is when you put it together — but that’s only covering the movement mechanics.
In terms of actual abilities each mech feels completely different from the others. As you probably guessed the ratio between speed and health scales based on size so the light mech is faster with less health while the heavy is slower with more health. During my demo we did two full rounds so I got to switch between each class liberally during each match. All three mechs have the same movement controls, activate shields with each controller’s grip buttons, and use machine guns as their default weapon for each hand, but vary dramatically beyond that.
I tried the light mech first, which let me run around the battlefield quickly and get in and out of engagements. My left arm can switch over to “shield breaker” rockets that don’t lock-on at all, but can be fired rapidly and do a great job of tearing down shields. The right hand has homing missiles you press the trigger and hold to target, then release to shoot. The in-VR cockpit in front of me also had two special buttons I could press once enough energy was collected to activate my two “ultimate” type abilities.
The main super ultimate was a “death from above” attack that zoomed me up into the air and let me hover there as I rained missiles down, similar to Pharah’s ultimate in Overwatch. Light mech’s also have a cloaking ability as a secondary ultimate which is great to use when sneaking up on an enemy from behind since shields only cover the front of a mech.
Pretty robust, right? That’s just the light mech.
For the medium, which became my favorite during my play session, I found myself mostly hanging back to fulfill a more range-focused role. The secondary weapon for my left arm contained semi-homing missiles that travel towards their target a bit without a true lock-on, but the real shining star of the arsenal is the secondary on the right arm: a super-powered laser canon. Pulling the trigger shoots out an enormous laser blast that can be used to snipe enemies from across the map or do huge burst damage up close.
The medium’s ultimates are a massive, ultra-powered singularity beam that radiates from the head of your mech — like enormous eye lasers, and an infinite ammo state. The infinite ammo state seems less cool at first, until you realize that means you can basically spam the smaller laser canon and really wreak havoc.
Finally is the heavy mech. This bad boy has over 3x as much health as the light mech and packs a heavy punch. The left arm secondary contains heavy rockets that do some big damage and the right arm secondary is a brimstone canon, basically a shotgun, that can absolutely eviscerate someone if you catch their backside or land an unshielded shot to the head.
For ultimates the heavy has an enormous EMP blast that pulses out into a huge radius around them hurting shields, damaging energy reserves, and hurting the hull of anyone caught in the blast. As an alternate ultimate, heavy mechs can also go invulnerable for a brief period of time, making them even more deadly than before.
The one major feature I feel like is missing is an element of customization. You’ll be able to earn cosmetic alterations and upgrades in the game, but a hallmark of most great mech games is being able to really tweak and modify your weapons, chassis, and other parts. Perhaps those are plans for a future sequel if this does well enough.
And did I mention the environments, buildings, and most structures are all destructible? That helps make battles extra interesting.
Just like any good class-based shooter, winning a match in Archangel: Hellfire is just as much about teamwork as it is individual player skill. Since teams are only 2v2 it means tactics and communication are incredibly important.
Currently there are only two maps and one game mode, so it’s not as varied as I’d like, but as a free update to a previously single player only game it’s substantially better than I’d expected. Compared to the single player Archangel experience it’s almost like a brand new and much better game as a whole.
From here Skydance really has a blank slate in front of them. They appear to be doubling down on the esports angle for the game (watching people pilot mechs in VR is extremely entertaining for viewers) which is a great angle, but hopefully they keep delivering content as well. A third map is planned for after the beta period.
Archangel: Hellfire hits open beta starting today around 10AM PT on Rift and Vive as a free update as long as you own the full Archangel game. When it exits open beta there will be a horde mode for co-op or single player as well, but the beta period is only for team deathmatch matchmaking online.
You can grab Archangel on Oculus Home or Steam to get into the Hellfire beta today. The PSVR version does not have multiplayer support planned at this time due to the lack of touchpads and/or analog sticks on the PS Move controllers.
Let us know what you think of Archangel: Hellfire down in the comments below!