Whilst Epic’s Robo Recall is essentially a belated pack-in game for the Oculus Touch controllers, and yet another drop in an ocean of wave shooters for VR, it shows what can be done with a strong budget by providing slick visuals, great gunplay and makes you feel like you’ve been sucked inside a sublime 1990’s SEGA cabinet.
Game: Robo Recall
Developer: Epic Games
Reviewed on: PC, Oculus Rift (Free download on Oculus Store for Touch owners)
The design inspirations hit you straight from the title screen; silky guitar riffs and a SEGA-esque ‘Robo Recall’ announcement that holds all the dash and flair of classic light-gun games of old. The game certainly doesn’t take itself seriously and that works in its favour. Pummelling the defective robots has been designed in a fun-first way, without the hindrances of minor details like reloading guns or worrying about ammo; just pull a gun from your holsters, empty the clip, throw it away (or at a robot, if you so choose). The guns are being teleported to you from HQ, and a lot of the arcade mechanics are backed up with the same narrative to provide that convenience without raising too many questions.
There’s only three levels to play, but in truth it’s probably enough. You’ll have plenty of star targets to achieve such as melee-ing your way through a level or hitting a certain number of headshots. Then there’s the high score chasing, which not only acts as bragging rights, but helps unlock more goodies along with those stars. Being able to tweak your loadout with higher mag capacities and laser sights is a nice touch, inevitably allowing you to take an advantage into combat for bigger rewards.
Gunplay can be all out action, but you’ll be forgiven for admiring the scenery which shows the kind of pure AAA qualities that are almost a rarity in VR right now. You’ll be able to teleport around these levels, even up onto buildings, whilst shooting and grappling your foes. The teleporting system does fit the games lore but it has been designed with 2 Oculus sensors in mind. This isn’t an issue in-itself, but for those wanting to utilise full 360 rotation which has taken a healthy step forward with the latest Oculus update, you’ll be greeted with screens jabbing at you to face the right way, which seems a bit of an oversight. It gets good usage either way, as moving about is definitely the best way to keep those multipliers rolling for big scores.
Those expecting a playable version of Epic Games’ Showdown demo with flying vehicles and destructive environments might also be disappointed. The levels are largely static for the most part with focus being relayed to the enemies themselves. The good news is you can grab, pull and throw them around like rag-dolls, or juggle them in the air with bullets, whilst listening to their wistful and hilariously toned self-aware quips about their disappointment in having been given handles that allow this kind of thing in the first place. The overall tone in general is excellent and you’ll be hard pushed not a let out a few laughs during your time playing.
There’s a good sense of scope, too, as you peer up at robots jumping between skyscrapers in the distance. The game runs smoothly at default, but even with the included super sampling options cranked up by .3-4 my GTX 1080 wasn’t yelling at me. At this point, lines are sharp and text is perfectly detailed – even without the graphic boosts the visual clarity is particularly good. One of the most interesting facets is Robo Recall’s full modding support from levels to weaponry. Even though it doesn’t have an abundance of content, opening up the game to the community is fantastic news for everyone involved.
The genre is no doubt becoming saturated, now. Whatever Epic Games had done with Robo Recall, it needed to stand out from the crowd. With lessons learnt from their tech demo, Bullet Train, and developing on other established VR sensibilities, it does exactly that without ever really breaking a sweat. Perhaps most importantly, it has done it with a level of polish and detail that games will need if VR HMDs ever hope to truly take off.
With Robo Recall, the now tiring statement of a game ‘showing what a VR shooter can be’ becomes in this case ‘showing what a VR shooter should be’. VR and Oculus owe a lot to Epic for their input to the industry and even if it was Oculus throwing the money at it, they’re both far better off for having this game on their books. Robo Recall sets the new standard to be measured by, now it’s time for large developers to jump in and follow suit if VR is going to suceed.