VR devices are home to some of the best asymmetrical multiplayer experiences out there. These are the sorts of games that pit players against one another in completely different roles. For example, Evolve from Turtle Rock Studios is a relatively popular (although with a mixed reception) recent asymmetrical game in which one player is a giant monster and a team of soldier players are tasked with taking them down. Several VR games use asymmetrical models as well, such as many of the experiences within Playroom VR on PlayStation VR (PSVR) and the criminally underrated Black Hat Cooperative [Review: 9/10] on Rift and Vive.
Mass Exodus from Polymerse is another such game, which borrows inspiration from the still in-development Panoptic. In this stealthy game of VR hide-and-seek, one player is inside of an HMD while the other plays on the PC itself. The PC player looks just like all of the NPC androids wandering the environment and the VR player is a large, robotic disembodied head with floating hands that’s tasked with sniffing out the human before objectives are completed. It’s frantic and exciting with enough variety to actually make both sides of gameplay fun in their own way.
In the case of Panoptic, it was easy to abuse your power as the “God-like” VR player. You could pick up and kill all of the NPCs until you found the player quite easily. But in Mass Exodus, the scales are much more balanced.
The core of the non-VR player’s experience revolves around your ability to appear indistinguishable from the androids wandering the halls and stair wells, which is easier said than done. If you move too erratically then you’ll stick out, so it’s important to walk in a straight line when you’re not hiding out of sight.
To make things more interesting, both sides also get some special abilities. As the PC player, you can momentarily blind the VR player, which is useful if you think they’ve spotted you or if you need to make a dash for one of the objectives. You can also make yourself invisible for a short time and set off a false alarm to alert and confuse your opponent.
On the flip side of things as the VR player you can force all of the NPCs to suddenly stop moving. If the player keeps walking or stops too slowly, then it’s easy to tell which one they are. You can also block off objectives with barriers and employ a location tracker that vibrates your controller more intensely as you get closer to finding them.
Since the levels are so large it actually plays out dynamically with enough variation between matches. There are blind spots where the PC player can hide without being seen and when the VR player has their back turned, the PC player usually has enough time to make progress into other areas of the map. The NPC androids do a good job of exploring all nooks and crannies and in some cases appear to be acting like a human would. Neither side is particularly easy to play.
When you think you’ve identified who the human is, you just reach out with your hand and pick them up with your fingers, then drop them down into a metal shredder. It’s a dramatic way of killing someone and feels extremely satisfying when you pick them out of the crowd. You can’t abuse it too much though, because the machine has to reset after each unsuccessful selection, which buys the PC player a bit of time when you’ve been fooled.
Since Mass Exodus is still in development it’s too early to render any clear judgement, but it’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting and impressive demonstrations of VR multiplayer we’ve seen. The inclusion of online features, more maps, more abilities, and some form of progression would make the experience even better. It would also be great to see some variations in game modes, or even a single player option where you need to hide from the NPC or identify a particular android from the crowd.
If interested, you can download Mass Exodus from Steam right now in Early Access for $8.99. Have you tried it? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below!