Short Version: I hated this game at the beginning, but now I like it and absolutely want to play the other episodes. The initial tutorial is rough and the controls take a bit to get used to, but give it some time and things will flow just fine. The story is intriguing enough and the environments are fun to explore. If you’re looking for a Gone Home-ish narrative based VR game, this is the one to get.
Long Version: Even though virtual reality is very much a new thing, especially in a home console capacity, we are still capable of seeing a wide range of genres come forth to experiment with this new way of playing games. This time, we are looking into a game that is more focused on narrative, similar to games like Gone Home, Tacoma and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Some people might be more on the condescending side and call them “walking simulators,” but I believe them to be more along the lines of old adventure games than anything else, considering how it wouldn’t be too different if one played any of these games with a mouse cursor instead. Regardless of how you might call them, this experience has now been heightened by the addition of VR, further immersing players into a more narrative-focused world like in the one for this episodic release.
Loading Human: Chapter 1 follows the story of Prometheus, a young man in a sci-fi world who is the son of a genius scientist that is also dying. Because of this, you are now tasked to go out into space to look for a powerful source of energy called the Quintessence. The entirety of this first chapter takes place in a base in Antarctica, in which Prometheus prepares for his mission. Along the way, he comes across a handful of other characters that he will have simple interactions with. Most of this 3-4 hour experience is walking around and taking in the world that you have been placed in, along with paying attention to whatever is happening, since you will be questioned many times about small details that you usually wouldn’t think about. All is well and good on this front, but learning how to arrive to all of these things is where you might find some speed bumps.
The control scheme for Loading Human is a rather peculiar one, in which you have to use both PS Move controllers to point to where you want to go. You don’t teleport, but rather you hold down the Move button to slowly pan your way through the environment, as if you were riding around with a camera dolly attached to your feet at all times. This would occasionally cause some motion sickness, especially when standing up, so I opted to play through this entire game sitting down. Even the awkward tutorial at the beginning implies that you should be sitting at all times, despite the fact that your character is standing up 99% of the time. On top of that, you need to make some odd motions that aren’t so prominent in other VR games such as pointing one of the controllers towards your back in order to either move backwards (holding down the Move button) or make a full 180 degree turn (tapping the button). There is also another one where you need to turn to one side then tap the Move button while pointing at that direction in order to have that be your new “forward,” to which then a giant arrow appears in front of you in an attempt to help you correct yourself.
During my first hour playing with such a control scheme, I felt incredibly disoriented and lost awareness of where I was most of the time. Eventually, I got used to it and started to flow much better over time, but I can definitely see a lot of people out there getting frustrated and giving up. The tutorial that teaches you all of this feels very clunky and out of place. Even though they assigned a story-specific date to this segment of the game during a very long loading screen, it is never referenced and feels incredibly detached from everything else that exists in this game. This left a very bad impression on me at first, especially when I booted the game up for the first time, where none of the buttons worked and I had to reset the whole game again. It truly was a struggle to start playing, but as soon as that obstacle has been overcome, things start to get much more interesting.
After acquainting yourself with how to move around, you can actually start to play, in which you can interact with practically everything in this good-looking environment. You will be met with various situations like finding key cards, solving a few puzzles and piecing together clues that can explain certain events that you weren’t able to see happen. This mechanic in particular is a little strange and very similar to the tutorial in that it feels very detached to everything else. For example, when talking to one of the characters, you begin to talk about tea and how it was made, to which then the whole game stops and suddenly turns into a Tron-like environment where you have to literally connect virtual dots in the room you are in to figure out what elements were used for the tea to be made.
This can be pretty fun most of the time, but I still find it strange how there is no explanation for this happening. This is not some sort of superpower that the protagonist has, neither is it ever indicated that this would ever happen; it simply surprises you with it when you least expect it. This is not even featured in the tutorial, which is something that I would’ve definitely liked to see there in order to do away with the confusion.
Amidst all of this disorientation, I still believe that it’s an intriguing game in which I want to see where it goes. I don’t wish to spoil anything, but the game definitely builds a strong ending to the chapter that implies uncertainty, fear and some big things at stake. With this, along with the simple, but fun interactions I had in the small space I was in made me anxious to see what happens next. I’ll definitely admit that the game has some rough edges and a very bumpy beginning, but everything else that is there is fun and interesting to do, simply from the fact that it’s in VR. I feel that if it weren’t, this game wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as it is. Maybe as time goes on, the VR novelty will vanish and I’ll look back on this and not feel anything close to what I do know, but for the time I being, I’m enjoying it and very much willing to continue with future chapters.
Bumpy, But Fun Ride!
On top of that, if you’re looking for a game that’ll last you longer than a 10 minute experience, you can count on this game to deliver some gameplay time, especially when factoring in the multiple chapters that this game will inevitably be bundled with when all of this is over. In any case, It was a bumpy start, but I ended up liking it enough to see where this goes. If any of this convinces you, then go ahead and get this for your PSVR or your Oculus Rift. This is, if anything else, a good example of how narrative based games can continue to evolve and immerse players into a world with a story to tell, in the same way that XBlaze Code: Embryo set a brand new standard for visual novels; another genre of game that could benefit greatly from virtual reality implementation.