Review: Archangel (PSVR)

Review: Archangel (PSVR)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Oculus Rift
  • HTC Vive

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Optional (1)
  • PS VR Aim Controller None
  • Move Optional (2)
Title: Archangel
Format: PSN (5.78 GB)
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Skydance Interactive
Developer: Skydance Interactive
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
If you own a PlayStation VR headset, then you know the drill. Your friends, or family, come over, they see the headset and ask you about VR. You have to choose one game to show off, the one that truly shows what VR does.

My go to has been Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and, more recently, Farpoint. I use the former because I have a lot of horror fans in my circle of friends, and Rush of Blood evokes some serious reactions.

I use the latter for friends who love games like Halo and Killzone, who want to experience what the future of gaming might look like. Both equally impress, and I’ve caused one or two friends to run to Best Buy and purchase a headset of their own.

Archangel almost immediately joined the ranks of the “show off” games. Not only does it represent what I feel is the true second generation of VR games in terms of polish and storytelling, but it is one of the first VR games, generic early access crap not included, to feature a giant mech that you pilot.

The game is badass, plain and simple. It’s an almost premium priced game but one that I feel warrants the price. It doesn’t feel like one of those $15 short experiences on the PlayStation store.

Not that it’s a twenty hour game. It’s not short, but it’s also not that long. It’s more about the complete package, and the true VR immersion that it offers.

From the onset you are treated to an emotional cinematic viewed from your character’s eyes which involves you and your son, Patrick, in a trolley leading you to the military base where your giant robot resides. It even has an interesting mini game that I won’t spoil.

The entire scene is meant to engage you in your character’s world and feel what he feels. And it’s done very well, with no small credit given to wonderfully designed cinematics and character facial design.

Without diving too much into spoiler-y material, you are immediately thrust into a war along side your AI buddies. You are the only one driving a giant mech while your comrades fly around in ships.

Naturally, your robot is coveted by the enemy, so you are Public Enemy Number One. Fortunately you’re far from defenseless as your exo-suit is more than equipped to handle multiple enemies at once.

But before I dive into the weapons and defenses, let me go on a little bit about the sequence where you embark your robot. Holy shit! We’ve all seen movies like Pacific Rim, and cartoons like Robotech with those shots of the characters riding an elevator to the head of the robot and grabbing the controls. Nothing prepares you for seeing that in VR.

I’m certain my wife heard some expletives coming from the other room as I was being introduced to my new robot buddy. And just as I began to feel that my glee could be contained, I took control of the arms and looked to either side of my cockpit to see my giant robotic arms flexing and extending as I extended my own arms.

There is a small lag to the movement and I’m extremely glad that the developer decided to add this because it would look ridiculous if there was 1:1 movement with my own arms. These robotic arms weigh a ton and would look silly flailing around.

Once again, I thought it couldn’t get any more thrilling, and then my weapon systems loaded and I saw my bot’s arms transform to cannons and missile launchers. Robot VR Porn!!! I know I was beaming the entire time.

All of the above excitement happened during the intro sequence. Once the war started, there was little time to admire the surroundings. The sense of scale is incredible, but Archangel is tough.

I even recommend giving the Easy setting a go to learn the ropes because you have to be on top of your game in order to survive and the loading time between deaths is far from brief. This IS an on-rails shooter, but the fun is not diminished because of it.

To be honest, they would have to reinvent the game in order for it to work as a free roaming, because your Move controllers are busy keep your arms moving. I compare it to being the gunner on the movie The Last Starfighter, where you are so focused on the enemy that it’s almost better that someone else is moving the ship.

Left to your capable hands is taking out multiple enemy ships at once. Fortunately you have weapons in each hand and can multitask. But your eyes can’t be in three places at once, so you have to rely on your comrade’s warnings and your own heads-up display to know where the bad guys are coming from.

Both arms are equipped with weapons but they also deploy shields at will. And you will be using these shields quite often, so it’s important to become acquainted with them.

It will not be an uncommon situation to be blocking enemy fire from the right, blindly, while shooting enemies on the left with your other hand. Some mini-bosses even require blocking with both hands and timing your attacks. It’s intense as hell, and it’s absolutely amazing.

After each mission you’re debriefed and have some time to upgrade your systems which include weapons, shields, and armor. Additionally, you can hold conversations with your buddies which is a feature I remember fondly from the old MechAssault games.

This is a story driven single player game, and you learn more about your character and his past as you traverse the campaign. The method used to achieve this is creative and unique.

Since you’re connected to your robot’s AI, there are “surges” where some of your memories come to the forefront and you have crazy flashbacks. These are handled extremely well in VR, and at times made me feel like I was having an out of body experience.

Visuals:
This is a next gen VR game and it ranks up there with Farpoint. The detail in your cockpit is excellent with wires and servos visible throughout the mesh of metal. Also, the robot arms look great with wrists moving independently and controlling the gun turret as well.

When you’re interacting with actual character models like your son, the fidelity holds up very well. The only place that perhaps took a little shortcut was the in-cockpit character communications since the lip syncing and animation on those characters doesn’t match the same quality of the in-game cinematics.

I’m sure that was an acceptable shortcut as your barely have time to actually look at them in battle. But between missions it became a bit more noticeable.

Combat is the other place where this game shines. Again, the sense of scale is amazing with you towering over small soldiers and small structures while still being surrounded by tall, wrecked skyscrapers. Enemy tanks and flyers swam your way and your weapon discharge looks fantastic, explosions matching in brilliance.

Audio:
I wish there was an option to balance your audio like in most games. The sound work in Archangel is fantastic, but at times I wanted my weapons to be louder than the music and dialogue.

They seemed a bit muted for my taste, particularly with all of the visual candy going on and a simple patch could fix this. That said, the sound work is definitely at a high-quality level, with voice work being one of the highlights. Even subtle additions, like your arms moving, produce a mechanical sound that contributes to absolute immersion.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
This is definitely one of my top VR games thus far. True, it doesn’t hurt that I love giant robots (cue Megas XLR theme song). There’s a polish and attention to detail here that deserves absolute praise.

Sure, some folks could argue that free roaming would have made for a better game, but I disagree. That wasn’t the developer’s plan, much like free roaming wasn’t Nintendo’s plan for Star Fox.

I was kept so busy with the task of taking out the enemy with both hands that I was glad that my AI was doing the walking for me. If you own a headset and you’re looking for the next awesome game to jump into, look no further than Archangel. Instant awesomeness guaranteed.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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