Warhammer’s unmistakable brand of beefy, burley warfare has had brushes with VR before, but the newly-announced Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister is the first headset-exclusive shooter set in the franchise.
Developer Pixel Toys – best known in VR for Drop Dead but also behind some non-VR Warhammer titles – seems to be shouldering that weighty responsibility pretty well. Battle Sister is a single-player campaign shooter, the likes of which Quest fans have been clamoring for over the past few years. You play as a member of the titular group and wage war against people in big red shiny armor and lunatics in gas masks. You may at this point realize I’m not up on my 40K lore.
Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister Gameplay
But you’ve never needed much knowledge about Warhammer to appreciate its universe; gritty, muddy battlefields and impractically proportioned soldiers, with rifles and blades that could have been constructed from Duplo. Battle Sister’s early demo is rough around the edges, but it captures the misery of that slug-fest well. You find yourself on in the midst of combat, accompanied by another Battle Sister that you slog through the trenches with.
It’s a very linear affair, in some ways nostalgic for an older era of first-person shooters; you can hold two weapons at a time and there’s even a section where you take control of a turret. Weapons are a bit of a handful, with chunky machine guns best held with both controllers, though you can dual-wield with each of the first three guns (including a short-range bolter and flamethrower) too. I wish aiming carried a bit more of the heft of, say, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, in which it’s almost impossible to aim without a firm grasp, but aiming down the over-grown sights still feels uniquely Warhammer.
In a sense some of the clunky jitters the game has in its current state speak to that chaos. Visually, the game’s ambitious with an impressive opening shot seeing two mechs trading blows at the front of a grim backdrop. But the sheer scope also muddies the textures in places. Tonally, the sea of brownish greys is quite fitting, I just wish it appeared at least a little sharper.
Broadly speaking, though, the first level does feel like it’s definitely a few passes short of being finished. Walking through the trenches, I see some stutters, either in enemy animations or the framerate entirely. The smooth locomotion – switched on by default – can also collide with the cracks and bumps in the floor for sudden slips and divets while walking forward. Reloading is glitchy and sometimes unclear – I’d even see weapons just disappearing from my hands while I was trying to get them working again.
But those are the kind of issues I’d expect to see smoothed out before launch later this year. More importantly, I’ll be looking to see how Battle Sisters’s level and encounter design evolves going forward. The first level is a staunch showcase of trench warfare, but as a result it’s funneled through a series of corridors with fairly simple shootouts.
There is more to see, though. The demo’s second level starts off with a lengthy walk through your home base, which hints at some deeper narrative elements to come, and the game’s control scheme points to some new abilities. For now, Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister does a good job of rooting you in a lovably clunky universe, and that’s a decent start.
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