You are a superhero. This is always a great start to the premise of a game. You are flying through space, tick. You are a skilled shooter, tick. There are seemingly millions of robotic enemies trying to take you out, tick. This game has all you need for a classic arcade gaming blast but in virtual reality – three-dimensional space invaders – who wouldn’t love this.
You have the most amazing mobility and unlimited firepower. As you journey through the game, you will benefit from the different perks you can unlock and then customise your loadout. With these changes, you will be able to continue your progress through the missions, gaining experience points and building the perfect craft.
This is dogfighting in space with the ability to customise your weaponry – but will it be a comfortable ride? Let’s see.
The vital details
Release Date: Rift and Vive 24th July 2020
Arcade, Action, Shooter
Developer and Publisher: Still not sure
Supports: Oculus, HTC Vive, Valve Index
Play area: Seated, Standing, Room-Scale
Comfort levels: Comfortable
So, imagine a superman simulator. You are flying with your arms out in front of you and rather than using your laser eyes or your freeze breath you have guns pointing out of your mitts. With this mix in mind, you can get the idea of how you are spinning through space and shooting at stuff. You have to get rid of a massive number of enemy ships and drones that aim to take you out. This is an arcade game, so there is no story, no narrative to immerse yourself in. The aim of the game is to perfect your skills and master your ability to fly and shot in a three-dimensional immersive world.
While there is no narrative, there is a progression in the gameplay. The attacks of ships and drones become more and more challenging as you progress. Therefore, you are required to improve too – and for those who love beating your last high score – this is the only requirement of the gameplay.
It is essential to spend some time in the tutorial. We know this is a little like reading the instructions while building your IKEA furniture. However, if you do not master the nuances of flying with the motion controllers, you will not understand the nuances of your abilities in flight. For instance, you control your direction with the pointing of your hands, just like superman. However, to go faster you have to stretch your arms further out and the opposite is true, to go slower, you draw your arms closer to the chest.
You also have to perfect dual hand shooting. If you cannot dual wield then you will have no chance of taking out the huge number of enemies you will face. However, when you arm a gun, that arm or arms will no longer control your direction or speed, so you will be under the influence of gravity or momentum. Trust us when we say that mastering this is challenging and part of the appeal of the gameplay.
There is only the tutorial mode and then the combat mode. The combat mode puts you through increasingly challenging scenarios and as long as you complete the mission you will progress.
The graphics are slick and the fluidity of the controls makes the game surprisingly comfortable. It is easy to believe that the game would make you feel travel sick – but not so much. However, there is only one environment to play in and this is stark and lacking inspiration. Being used to games that take you through multiple, intricate, environments, Airborn looks more than a little crude.
However, maybe we are missing the point with this comment. The point of this VR experience is the movement within this environment and in Airborn this movement is epic. The manoeuvrability and the complexity of mastering shooting and flying make this game worth its money. The enemies and the number of barriers in your way make this even more challenging. You have to avoid satellites and asteroids, as well as shoot at enemies.
Motion sickness is avoided with the lines that are displayed on the screen. You are shown the direction of travel, so you do not have to continually spin around to know where to go. This allows you to keep your eyes on the horizon and so maintain your comfort levels in the game. Whether this makes the action more predictable and annoyingly easier is beside the point really, as without this aid you would find yourself giddy quite quickly.
We are also impressed with the level of detail in the hands and the weapons – which is where the graphics do shine. So, again, we may be missing the point about the graphics and the environment. There is enough on show to impress the gamer.
The audio is pretty spectacular too. There are these machines that come at you and literally ram you. They come pretty fast but you can hear the sound of the thrusters, helping you detect their imminent arrival and the direction from which they come. The fact that you cannot see them is part of the appeal, as you are forced to immerse yourself in the game using many senses together.
Our brief takeaway
Remember you often get what you pay for and this is a reasonably priced game. The developers are clear that this is an arcade game, so don’t expect a deep narrative to engage you for hours. In fact, the concept is pretty thin. However, you will have a lot of fun in this game and for an intense blast of gameplaying, you will have a great time. It works in the headset and we see this as one of those cheap gems that will pass the time without requiring too much commitment.