Is it time to wage warfare on Oculus Quest 2? Find out in our full Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister review!
Even for someone with only the most passing of interests in the franchise, Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister holds a lot of great moments. Feeling the sturdy thud of Bolter fire in your hands as you stamp through trenches, cowering in the hulking presence of a Space Marine or ripping through enemies with a Chainsword all deliver on the dreams of immersing yourself in Games Workshop’s deliciously miserable universe.
These isolated instances make Battle Sister a decent recommendation to fans of the series, even if they’re strung together by a fair simplistic shooter.
Battle Sister feels warmly nostalgic, not perhaps in terms of the worlds it realizes — Warhammer’s tabletop time-killing has never felt more relevant than in 2020 when we all have to stay inside — but certainly in design. This four-ish hour whirlwind tour feels like an early 2000’s PS2-era tie-in in many ways, taxiing you from set-piece to set-piece via a network of corridors with no shortage of cannon fodder to brutally eviscerate. If anything, I suspect fans would find it has more in common with 2003’s 40K: Fire Warrior than it does any of the newer games in the series. Personally, it had me fondly recalling memories of the first two Red Faction games.
That is to say it’s a cheap thrill you blast your way through. Battle Sister is never anything less than entertaining, propped up by faithful set dressing. Its shootouts against a handful of enemy types would probably slip into mundanity if it wasn’t for the authentically chunky arsenal that takes a little artistic license in VR. The stubby, sturdy roar of the Bolter delivers a pleasing kick with the Quest 2’s haptics and feels powerful to wield two-handed, though if you’re so inclined it’s perfectly possible to dual-wield too. Sacrilege for Warhammer purists, perhaps, but undeniably vicious in practice.
The Flamer, meanwhile, boasts surprising reach and there’s even an amusing inside joke when you happen upon a Lazgun at a particularly desperate moment, but the zippy, slender rifle itself still proves to be a satisfying weapon in the right hands.
Juggling between these tools keeps Battle Sister’s combat suitably morbid, especially paired that the surprising amount of blood you’ll spill for a VR game. Well-placed headshots don’t just result in instant kills, they’ll completely remove your enemy’s head from its shoulders, while you need just hold the Chainsword out with the trigger pressed down to effortlessly rip through limbs and torsos.
It’s not, however, especially deep especially for a VR game. Developer Pixel Toys has streamlined Battle Sister’s reloading to simply swiping down on your belt, for example, and melee combat with a Power Sword falls into the trap of VR waggle. It gives the game more of a feather-touch, arcade weight than you perhaps might hope for amongst the metallic crunch of Warhammer’s otherwise hefty warfare. I’d love to see the series tackled from that angle, getting you to compensate for the ridiculous weight of its weaponry, but Battle Sister understandably aims for more accessible ground.
Other elements aren’t quite as forgivable. Playing as a member of the Adepta Sororitas or Sisterhood, you’ll have access to a handful of special powers that are used too sparingly and are far too sensitive to control. A sort of force push move, for example, is activated by thrusting your hand forward, but it took me hours to understand the precise way in which the game wanted me to do it and where to use it. In early sections, I stood in corridors blocked off by waist-height boxes, helplessly flailing my arms about in hopeless attempts to inch them forward. Abilities to slow time and provide temporary invincibility are easier to activate, though their implementation still feels last minute – there’s one instance each in which they need to be used.
Ultimately, Battle Sister is a game first and a VR-experience second. There are boss fights against giant mechs that are helpfully surrounded by otherwise useless gun emplacements and a steady progression of enemies that, rather than introduce new mechanics unique to the platform, simply shoot bigger, tougher bullets. It’s not without its VR charms, though; standing shoulder to, well waist-height with a Black Templar Space Marine is rightly intimidating, especially as he spits unending jargon about cleansing cultists in holy fire, and there’s a brilliant moment of panic when you overheat a laser pistol and realize you have to throw it as far away as possible before you blow yourself up. This is just scratching the surface of what the Warhammer franchise could do with VR, but it’s undeniably fun all the same.
And it’s a pretty impressive showcase for Quest 2 too, that is when it catches up to you. Battle Sister boasts impressive environmental variety for a Quest 2 game and often looks very sharp for the platform, even in bigger areas. Special mention has to go to the weapon design which is not only authentic but intricately detailed and sure to please even the most demanding of the fanbase. That said, I did encounter a few hard crashes over the course of the campaign and some of the levels are constantly loading in textures, whilst enemy models will inexplicably start to stutter after they’re killed. It can definitely feel wonky at times, and you get the sense Pixel Toys could have benefitted from a month or so more of development, especially with the two-player horde mode not set to arrive until early next year.
Warhammer 40K: Battle Sister Review – Final Impressions
Battle Sister offers mostly clean, mostly forgettable fun, then. It’d likely feel just as at home played on a screen with a controller in hand as it would in VR, but the chance to peer down the sights of a Bolter or exercise righteous justice with a Power Sword will please many a 40K fan. As far as ticking the boxes go for VR shooters, it does enough to warrant a look if your back catalog is empty.
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