At first glance Operation Chromite 1950 might strike you as a Call of Duty imitator for VR, but in truth there’s a little more to it than that. Rather than focus on the well-mined World War II setting, here’s a game that shines a spotlight on one of the first major conflicts to follow that era, the Korean War. That subject, you would think, is ripe for fresh ideas and experiences, especially inside VR. But overly simplistic design sadly keeps Chromite from being anything more than a cookie cutter first-person shooter.
Developed by Korea-based eiNpictures, Operation Chromite is split into four missions that cover the Battle of Inchon, a significant counter-offensive move on the UN and South Korea’s part to drive back North Korean forces supported by the USSR and China. You’ll take part in a D-Day-style landing on the Wolmi island, reclaim the coastal line, and then finally defend the territory you’ve captured over a campaign that takes just under an hour to complete.
As is common with Asia-developed games, Operation Chromite boasts some initially impressive visuals to draw you in; texture work is incredibly sharp and character models are a step above many other VR experiences. Weapon models are particularly impressive, especially when you catch rounds spinning out of ally’s weapons. It doesn’t take long to spot cut corners though; the ground often consists of flat textures with no geometry, and assets like fencing sometimes float above where they’re meant to rest. In a traditional game you’d think it lacked polish, and in VR it always reminds you of where you really are.
In regards to the conflict itself, Operation Chromite only gives you a basic understanding of how the battle played out and why the conflict was so significant. A brief introduction video provides some context but there’s very little to explain what you’re doing and why it’s so important, and the game is expectedly littered with typos in its translation to English, harming any kind of academic appeal.
The missions themselves are a mixed bag; simple in nature but not without features to admire. Undoubtedly the high point of Operation Chromite is the authenticity of aiming weapons, which is a rightfully tricky task when relying on the archaic iron sights. It feels a little strange to have to mime holding two-handed weapons like rifles and machine guns, but it’s still very satisfying to dig into cover, focus your aim and then let off a weighty shot. The option for smooth and node-based locomotion is appreciated, too, as is the markers highlighting enemies so you don’t get lost.
As with the recently-released BlackShield, then, the game has a pretty solid foundation for its combat, but it’s let down in key areas like AI. Enemies just stand in place waiting for you to perfect your shot, while allies all just crouch in one group and obliviously fire off rounds. It robs the combat of much of the threat when both sides appear so lifeless and there’s very little thrill to running up to one encampment, systematically picking soldiers off, and then running along to the next one. It’s just not up to the standard of modern shooters, to be frank, resembling a PS3 game with the design of an early PS1 shooter.
Chromite would have done well to lean a little harder on the educational side of the experience rather than trying to serve up an exciting campaign, which is a much more complicated undergoing then many of these types of games seem to realize. Its underwhelming mechanics would have been better served as a way to spotlight an era in history that’s so relevant in the current political climate and yet so few people have a comprehensive understanding of. As if stands, we’re left with just another subpar shooter instead.
Operation Chromite 1950 has a fascinating premise that, like so many other VR shooters, is betrayed by underwhelming design. The handful of levels never amount to anything other than a disconnected, thrill-free shooting gallery and the game never really shows you why the conflict you’re aiding is so important. This could have been something to replace the history books, but it’s better left in the flood of Steam shovelware.