As a first-person shooter, you are immersed in a firefight in the Middle East. There is likely going to be nothing new in yet another military simulator, so when judging Onward you have to assess whether they have done the fundamentals well while using the virtual reality functionality What virtual reality brings is a need for different skills in the game, which is refreshing. You no longer have the crosshairs or your minimaps to guide you around the battlefield. In this game, you need to rely on your coordination and your communication with the other squad members. Onward offers to test all your infantry combat survival skills in a range of maps and situations.
For Rift, Vive and WMR gamers this is all old news. However, for those sporting the Oculus Quest, you can now get to see if the game does anything new in a crowded gaming genre.
The vital details
Release Date: Rift, 6th December 2016; Vive, WMR, 30th August 2016; Quest 30th July 2020
Wargame, first-person shooter, action
Modes: Multiplayer, Co-Op
Developer: Downpour Interactive
Publisher: Coatsink Software, Downpour Interactive
Supports: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows MR, Oculus Quest
Play area: Standing, Room-Scale
Input: Motion Controllers
Comfort levels: Moderate
Are you thinking that this game was fine in 2016 but releasing on the Quest in 2020 seems a little pointless? It is true that the first-person shooter infantry combat game has been done by developers to death. However, the question for Quest users is if the promise of squad-based co-op games in an immersive world will bring this battle zone to life.
Onward has a long history on Steam and as such has long been thought of as the standard to aspire to for shooter games in virtual reality. The settings are realistic, the gun mechanics subtle and there is some wonderful tactical team-play required.
The graphics and the mechanics, along with the need for solid communication, are the selling points of the game. There is no narrative to follow and the gameplay is repetitive. The maps are not that different from each other and neither are the objectives. Yet, we sense that this is not really the point.
If you want to know whether there is any variety. Well, there is the shooting range, you can choose stationary and moving targets, and there are hunt and evac games. In the hunt game, you pick a map, select the difficulty and choose the number of enemies. You then hunt them and eliminate them. You can play this in solo and in co-op.
The reason to be excited by the Quest and Onward is that you can play untethered. Your ability to really immerse yourself in a room-scale combat game can only really be realised when you can move with more freedom in the headset. This is smartphone hardware that powers a shooter that allows 5v5 battles. Therefore, before we say anything about this game’s technicals we need to celebrate the achievement to bring such an experience to the market.
When you load up on Quest you will be informed straight away that you are still playing an Early Access version of the game. They cannot package it as such, as Facebook doesn’t officially allow early access. However, dumping it into the market and then warning that it is only a prelim to the main event seems just fine with Facebook. Don’t ask us – we just tell you what is going on – we don’t know why. But yes, you have to pay before you find this out – so it is only fair that we warn you!
Also, the end result is a mixed bag. The camera is front-facing and the tracking is automated – which feels a lot like you are playing on your PC. However, this does leave you time to manage the intricacies of the equipment. The gun mechanics are awesome and even during manic firefights, you feel the responsiveness of the controllers.
The tutorial does a great job of teaching you about these intricacies. You learn how to handle the weapon and where to position it against your body. The impressive feature of this game is the level of anxiety you feel when you are under incessant attack and you are trying your hardest to reload your gun.
However, we go back to the comments on gameplay. There are some improvements to the maps that offer some variety, but the content feels the same throughout the game. There is the shooting range, which allows a solo player to mix it up. Otherwise, you start out in a similar environment with a similar objective but with a different co-op squad. Is this enough? It is for us but we are geeks in the world of combat games.
Our brief takeaway
Onward is a great game if you love combat shooters. It is also an important release on Quest because it proves the capabilities of an untethered headset. Having the freedom to play with 10 other plays from your smartphone while moving around the room is an awesome technical achievement.
There is room for this game to improve but in some ways, this is exciting more than it is a concern. The idea that they have released this game as only a prelim – an Early Access in all but name – proves they have ambitious plans to extend the experience even more.