If Red Matter set a new benchmark for visuals on standalone VR hardware, then Red Matter 2 had big shoes to fill, especially on Quest 2.
Thankfully, it’s more than up to the task. In fact, Red Matter 2 is the most impressive visual showcase available on Quest 2 right now. Even better, it’s a great sci-fi adventure and mostly a joy to play.
Looking back on our review of the original Red Matter from 2018, it’s remarkable how many of those thoughts can be echoed with regards to Red Matter 2.
This is far from a bad thing – everything that the original did well the sequel builds on and develops further. It’s not necessarily just more of the same – instead, it’s clear that developers Vertical Robot have doubled down on what made the original Red Matter so great to produce a truly compelling sci-fi VR experience.
Red Matter 2 is of course a continuation of the story from the original with returning environments and mechanics, but new players shouldn’t feel isolated either. The story, even if a continuation, is easy enough to pick up and the game assumes no prior experience in terms of mechanics.
Much like the first game the player holds a multi-tool iron claw in each hand molded to the shape of your controllers. They provide a solid interaction system, allowing the player to switch between a scanner, claws and flashlight, as well as some new tools. They remain a fantastic way to circumvent potential confusion and friction caused by controllers as they act like an extension of your hands to interact with the environment without breaking immersion.
In the first game the default was to pick out spots to move to ahead of time and your jetpack then moved you there, but now you can now slowly propel yourself into the air and jetpack around the environment. You only have limited vertical movement with the jetpack, though, and it only recharges when you touch the ground. This introduces some engaging platforming sections that require smart thinking and calculated movement. Overall, the new system is a nice way to mix up environmental exploration.
A Stunning Visual Showcase
The most impressive aspect of Red Matter 2 is the visual experience, by quite a long shot.
Red Matter originally released for PC VR and PSVR in 2018 before being ported over to the Quest a year later. At the time, we said Red Matter’s Quest port set a new standard for visuals on standalone hardware.
Three years later, the sequel has done the same on Quest 2. Red Matter 2 is nothing short of an incredible technical achievement and Vertical Robot once again set a new standard for visuals on standalone hardware. Red Matter 2 features some of my favorite, most awe-inspiring moments from any VR experience, let alone one running on standalone hardware.
On PC VR, the game looks fantastic as well (and there are a few noticeable upgrades in detail and lighting). However, what’s more impressive is just how comparable the Quest 2 version is. Not only does it completely hold up compared to the PC VR version, but it presents a level of visual fidelity that is near-unmatched on the platform. This isn’t to say every single moment of Red Matter 2 looks mind-blowing, but in its best moments there is nothing else on Quest hardware that comes close.
Red Matter 2’s environments sparkle with attention to detail. There were several galactic vistas that took my breath away, but many rooms and corridors did the same. The exploration in the game is made all the more enjoyable by just how pretty everything looks. The lighting, and reflections specifically, are a particular highlight — several small moments will leave you wondering just how Vertical Robot managed to pull off such amazing effects on standalone hardware. At times, these effects can seem like something from a next gen console title rather than a VR game running on a mobile chip.
There’s also a prevailing sense of depth throughout the game’s environments. Everything feels very big. When Red Matter 2 puts you standing on the surface of a planet, looking out into infinite space, it feels overwhelmingly impressive in its size. It’s a similar feeling to the one I got looking over the urban sprawl of City 17 at the beginning of Half-Life: Alyx.
There’s a few other Alyx nods peppered throughout as well. Some mini-game puzzles, requiring you to move a cursor through a 3D holographic object, feel very City 17 in design but don’t quite click the way the ones in Alyx did. There’s also Alyx-like liquids in all of Red Matter 2’s bottles, which is a beautiful touch.
For the most part, everything works together in Red Matter 2 to create an experience that hits an ideal sweet spot. From the puzzles to the environments to the story, everything is fed to you in just the right amount and spaced out so that you don’t get bored and always stay on your feet.
However, there are some hiccups to contend with as well. Much like the original, the environmental puzzles are mostly enjoyable, but occasionally a bit too puzzling. During the second half of the campaign there were a few moments that left me truly confused and frustrated with the sense there’s not enough clues to put two and two together. It’s a shame, because the first half of the game feels like it hits the clue-to-puzzle ratio just right.
Likewise, there are some other late-game sections that fall a bit flat. It’s a longer game than the original, but might start to feel a little too long toward the end. The addition of a gun attachment to your claws is fun for the first one or two encounters, but engaging gunplay isn’t Red Matter 2’s selling point. The combat can become tiresome as you play through several similar encounters. Likewise, a stealth section involving dodging or disabling turret drones to pass through an area is fun at first, but somewhat overstays its welcome. Both clearly aim to add variety to the second half of the campaign but verge on feeling repetitive in themselves.
Red Matter 2 Review – Final Verdict
Even with a few second-half hiccups, Red Matter 2 is a stunning achievement and a delight to play with its minor gripes easily forgivable. It’s a gorgeous game on both PC VR and Quest 2, but it truly raises the standard on the latter to new heights. If you’re a Quest 2 owner wanting to see the best visuals your headset can offer, it’s one to check out. And if you’re just looking for an engaging sequel that evolves a sci-fi adventure that started in 2018? Red Matter 2 delivers on that front too.
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