Do you know what I would do if I was really in The Brookhaven Experiment? Run. I would run faster than I have ever run before, probably throwing my weapons to one side to help increase speed, screaming as I go and almost certainly crapping myself. Screw fighting to the last bullet, I want to live.
But I can’t run, I have to stand my ground (and still crap myself). It’s with good reason, of course, as room-scale tracking has its limits on Vive and is non-existent on PlayStation VR, but it leaves me wondering what type of game we might have gotten if Phosphor Games had let us roam free. The answer is probably something close to Kill X.
Created by Vivagames, this was one of thirteen games Sony announced from Asian developers earlier this year, and a demo is currently available on the Chinese PlayStation Store (which you can access by making a free Chinese account). It’s a spooky shooter that uses two PlayStation Move controllers and has you creeping through a network of tunnels as an inexplicably beefy protagonist, whose fascinatingly muscular arms awkwardly stretch out in front of you as you hold a flashlight in one hand and gun in the other.
I couldn’t tell you the story since I don’t read Chinese, other than that our hero finds himself trapped in this desolate environment with a series of slimy humanoid monsters (that look a little too similar to The Clickers from The Last of Us). The rest is pretty straight forward; illuminate the occasionally branching tunnel ahead, aim and shoot at enemies before they take chunks out of you.
The last time we saw full navigation with two of Sony’s motion controllers was Loading Human [Review: 4/10], which had serviceable if imperfect integration. Kill X is much the same story; you hold the trigger on the left Move to walk in the direction your facing, and then press the square or triangle buttons to make slight turns. The right trigger, meanwhile fires your gun, and shaking it reloads. Despite having arms the size of boulders, you can’t use melee attacks, presumably because the force they would deliver would shatter the earth itself.
Intentional or not, the inescapable stiffness of these controls invoke classic survival horror games, which were both hated and loved for the ‘tank’ control schemes. You can’t use the quick turn buttons when moving, and you can’t really defend yourself from behind thanks to PS VR’s limited tracking. It’s an annoyance to some extent, but there’s also a nostalgic panic to seeing a monster circle around you and having to cumbersomely turn to get it in view. Firing a shotgun blast and watching them fly relieves that stress in an instant. It’s a bit of a thrill.
In the space of the 10 minute demo you’ll get a pistol, shotgun, and machine gun to defend yourself with, along with occasional ammo drops too. Your ammo count doesn’t feel restricted, more calculated to give you just enough to take out the set amount of enemies in the level, though one nice touch is not actually showing the ammo display, leaving you guessing how many bullets you have left. There’s a final showdown with an enemy that crawls on the walls too, and he takes up a lot of your ammo count, making the pressure mount deliciously with each bullet gone.
That said, I don’t know if Kill X is crafted with the kind of mechanical precision to build this solid foundation into something more meaningful. Things quickly get messy when a flood of enemies swarm around you, and you have no hope of surviving, and the level design is bland. There’s no verticality or unpredictability to its world, and no methodical systems to its combat. It’s all about spotting the next corner that enemies will likely spill out from and blasting away. That detracts from any sense of fear gained in those first few unknown moments in which you wonder what lingers in the dark.
Kill X might end up leaning more towards the blander side of horror shooters, then, even if its freedom of movement sets it apart from other PS VR games right now. A fun distraction in these early days of VR, perhaps, but Farpoint and Resident Evil 7 might have more to offer in the long run.
According to the demo, Kill X is coming soon to PS VR, though a western release has not been confirmed.