For as far back as I can remember, one of the old adages of gaming has been “licensed games suck.” The unfortunate part of it all, is that no matter how advanced the technology gets, the statement still remains true minus an exception here or there. Developer FoxNext put forth a worthwhile effort and introduces some genuinely fun gameplay mechanics, with Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR. Released for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR on April 3rd for 14.99, Crisis may be may have been too ambitious for the Fox-owned studio. The game does come at a low price, and even lower for PlayStation Plus members. With that aside, how critical is it that this one becomes a part of your collection?
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR is the playable tie-in to last Summer’s surprise hit movie, War for the Planet of the Apes. The game has you starring as an unnamed ape, hand-branded as “139” during the tutorial stage. With humanity’s numbers heavily reduced after a Simian Flu outbreak, the titular war begins when intelligent apes fight back against their human oppressors. The game starts with players being escorted through the grounds of a human-led Internment Camp before scripted events soon lead to gunplay. Levels can be traversed in a variety of ways, but always on rails so unfortunately, there are no free-roaming options. When players aren’t led by the tracking camera, movement is handled via pre-set paths marked with a white outline. Once the “path” is acknowledged using the move button on the PlayStation Move controller, players alternate movement of their arms back and forth to gain forward momentum.
The movement is the first concern I had with Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR, as it just feels like too “gimmicky” the way it’s implemented. I’m still at a loss as to why more games haven’t utilized 360-degree locomotion on a Move controller as effectively as Skyrim VR. When not being led by the in-game camera, players have the ability to climb, traveling along pipes on the ceilings, or strategically-placed bricks jutting from scalable walls. Using the trigger buttons on either controller to simulate grip, climbing is as simple as finding a handhold, marked by a blue outline, and pulling in the desired direction to progress, like monkey bars. The wall-climbing sections were probably the most fun I had during my first play session, but just like my arms it got extremely tiring.
Combat is standard point-and-shoot, but tracking is done better in other games. Aiming down the sights isn’t effective at all as it’s easier to lead your next shot with the last. Sure, it wastes ammo, but that’s far from the only concern. Suspension of disbelief is great, and while I don’t expect (or deserve) a bulletproof monkey, give me an idea what I’m working with! There’s a simple cover mechanic, but no real indication of how much damage you can take before the game over screen. Lots of games ditch the heads-up display in favor of realism, but there’s usually some way of knowing when your number’s almost up. Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR ain’t got time for soft signals. There’s also no noticeable way to regain health, plus an achievement for dying. Yay. Just take your three or four (five?) hits, respawn and pray the bugs don’t get you, assuming the soldiers don’t — again. Lastly, enjoy figuring some way to log level progress. Among the countless things designers left out was any indication of a checkpoint system. Every time I had to reset the game I was a lot further behind than I’d anticipated on the respawn.
In the first hour of my review playthrough, I had to reset the game exactly three times for three separate issues. Once when the game just stuttered and froze, and twice in relation to the game’s movement system. In one of the climbing sections, I’d fallen from a pipe, just a few inches short of the next white outline to advance the stage. Normally this would result in instant death but here, since there’s no way to move outside the preset paths, or back to one, I was just stuck and was forced to reset. The last reset was after I was able to pull myself inside one of the boxes I was supposed to climb. The clipping here issues are inexcusable. While I was stuck, all I could see was a black screen with the words “Head inside object. Move it.” Expect to see this especially when climbing hand over hand on ceiling pipes. Penalizing the player for horrible collision detection is punishment enough without poor level design adding fuel to the fire.
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR tries, but really should have been a trimmed-down “experience” the likes of the Spider-Man: Homecoming and Justice League VR tie-ins, not a full-fledged retail game. With game-breaking technical issues and dull gameplay, even with it’s low price, this “crisis” should be avoided at all costs.
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