Crisis On The Planet Of The Apes VR: review

  • Format: PSVR (version reviewed), PC VR formats
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: FoxNext VR Studio
  • Developer: Imaginati
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.apesvr.com/
  • Game code provided by PR

There’s one very important thing you need to know about this game, and that thing is this thing:

This message should be prominent, in huge letters, on each listing of every storefront that carries the game. It is by far the most demanding VR game we have played so far in terms of the distance and space required in order for the game to work properly. It’s possible to play with less arm room, and closer to the camera, but it’s a real struggle.

We’ll return to these issues but, for now, let’s look at the general setup. This tells a unique tale within the Planet Of The Apes universe, but don’t expect an epic story. The premise, basically, is that you play as an ape who escapes imprisonment, and then fights its way through buildings and across rooftops to freedom. Yup, you play as an ape; seeing your big hairy hands on-screen for the first time is simultaneously impressive and amusing.

To the developers’ credit, controls and gameplay have been very specifically designed around the fact that you’re playing as an ape rather than a boring human. You must have two Move controllers if playing on PSVR, each controller controlling one hand. Movement is from beginning to end on a strictly delineated path, but it’s not automatic. You move forward in a vague imitation of an ape’s movement, alternately moving your hands up and down or in a sort of circular motion as though doing a dad dance. This is sure to elicit peals of mocking laughter from anybody else in the room.

Something something human something something cage.

Equally hilarious to watch, but a very interesting idea, is the implementation of climbing. You’ll regularly make use of pipes and brickwork to haul yourself up and across walls and ceilings. Anything grabbable is highlighted with a blue grid overlay when you get close. It might sound like this would break the immersion, but it’s extremely useful in terms of showing what you’re allowed to grab, and which direction you should be going in. Reach for a handhold, grab onto it by holding down a button, use your other hand to grab the next handhold, grasp that one, let go of the last, and so on; traversing hand over hand in this way, lifting yourself up and across, (sort of) like real life. At times, this is actually fairly demanding physically. Mainly when traversing an overhead pipe or cable, keeping your arms stretched above you as you pass one hand in front of the other.

Your surroundings are crawling with humans, so there’s combat. Once – and, sadly, only once – you bunch one of your hands into a fist and punch a bloke’s lights out. Yes, it’s satisfying and extremely funny. The rest of the time, you’ll be taking cover and shooting guns. Holding your weapon in one hand, you’ll use the other to grab your piece of cover and pull yourself above or around it to shoot, quickly pulling yourself back when bullets start flying your way. There are flashes of brilliance where you see the game that the developers wanted to make, and most of these moments are during combat.

But.

The game regularly trips over itself in technical terms, to the extent that it never manages to reach its potential. Weapons never feel entirely comfortable in your hands, but we’ll generously put that down to the fact that apes are never going to be quite so adept at handling assault rifles and shotguns as humans. The screen occasionally shakes a little as you scale walls, but never ruinously. The killer problems are much bigger.

This happened the first time we picked up a new weapon. This was not supposed to happen.

We can not overstate just how much you’ll need to fight the game if the room you’re playing in is smaller than the average barn. Even if you’re in the tiny minority with a huge empty space just for playing videogames, troubles await you. Sometimes, this is down to the fact that you have pretty much no freedom of movement. If you fall while climbing, often, you’ll simply be kicked back to the last checkpoint. Sometimes though, you’ll fall to the ground, out of reach of the nearest handhold. Your only option then is to quit to the main menu and go back into the game, leaving you at the mercy of the inconsistent checkpointing; presuming, that is, that your progress has been saved at all (which does not always happen).

Pull yourself up or forward too enthusiastically, and you might find yourself in the middle of the scenery, causing all sorts of visibility and environment interaction problems. Potentially fatal, as are the flaws with the weapons system. You holster your weapon by swinging your weapon hand over your shoulder and releasing the grab button (which works fine), and equip your weapon by “pulling” it out of the holster behind you (which does not always work fine). Sometimes, it takes several attempts for the game to realise that you’re trying to equip your weapon, by which time you might be dead. In addition, using a gun means keeping the grab button held down constantly, in addition to pressing the trigger button to fire it. Accidentally release the grab button, or let up on its pressure a little too much, and you drop the gun. You’re most likely to accidentally do this when moving from cover to cover during a fight; the lack of free movement means that the only way to get your gun back is usually to let yourself die, or quit and restart.

If you see this and/or something like the previous image, the game has well and truly crashed on you.

At time of writing, PS4 trophy statistics indicate that less than 20% of players have finished the game; despite the fact that it’s possible to finish in less time than it takes to watch the latest movie. Given the technical failings, this isn’t very surprising. It’s a great, impressive experience trapped in some tight and unbreakably thick bonds of frustration.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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