Arktika.1 is a first-person VR shooter that makes more than a few smart choices in its design, something that may have you thinking twice before dismissing its admittedly limited node-based teleportation style lock, stock, and barrel (holographic sight and flashlight too). It’s not to say Arktika.1 isn’t without its clear flaws, but the end result is decidedly a net positive that gives you exactly what you came for in the first place: a ridiculously good looking game that goes pew pew pew.


ARKTIKA.1 Details:

Official Site

Developer: 4A Games
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Available On: Oculus
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift
Release Date: October 10, 2017


Gameplay

In an effort to combat climate change, humans have accidentally flung the world into a new ice age, the results of which are much worse than just having to knock a few icicles off your dual-wielded pistols. As an elite mercenary, your job is to protect Arktika.1, a settlement in a frozen wasteland outside of what used to be Vostok, Russia. Machine gun-wielding bandits are a big concern, but at least they’re human. Mysterious beasts called ‘Yagas’—named after the Russian folktale monster-witch ‘Baba Yaga’—roam the multi-level facility looking to feed on anything with a pulse. And these overpowered freaks of nature are genuinely gruesome creatures that like popping out of the shadows and rushing at you hissing and screaming—just the thing to get your heart racing.

Arktika.1’s levels are giant and while you’re gifted with the power of teleportation to traverse them, you’re only allowed to teleport to nodes that the game chooses, creating something that I’m tempted to describe as a ‘mobile wave shooter’ experience. You’ll enter a room, see two bad guys, kill them, which triggers 4 more bad guys to come rushing in. Once you clear the area, you’re then offered a new forward node to teleport to, which effectively functions as a signal that you’ve eliminated all possible bad guys and can move to the next room. I say I’m tempted to call it a ‘mobile wave shooter’ because of the, well, waves of bad guys that you swim straight through, but levels aren’t always big rooms with well-timed waves of enemies rushing in. Oftentimes you’re traversing through tight corridors and elevators, and you just don’t know what’s waiting for you on the other side, be it a trap, puzzle, or one of those terrible Yagas ready to tear your head off.

Image courtesy 4A Games

While you don’t have the freedom to move forward without first eliminating everyone, and you are only given predetermined angles and shooting spots, that doesn’t mean you won’t be physically ducking and hiding around corners to land a decisive headshot, or getting your heart rate up in excitement though. It just tends to structure gameplay in a way that feels a little more ‘paint by numbers’ than genuine exploratory combat would. Outside of that, there are clearly timed waves of baddies in larger rooms, sending a fresh wave your way once you’ve killed the remaining guy in the last wave, which adds to the experience’s overall artifice.

There aren’t a lot of VR shooters out there featuring customizable guns, and Arktika.1 does it right, giving you a mix of clip-on and embedded accessories that both cater to your individual shooting style and also effectively work like physical difficulty sliders; you can stay with your basic iron sights for the most authentic shooting experience, or customize all the way up to an x-ray sight so you can see bad guys through walls, letting you anticipate attacks and even see them in the dark. It’s up to you if you want to deck out any of the ten or so pistols available, and which pistol or upgrade fits your shooting style. That said, I wish the upgrades were a little harder to achieve, as half-way through the game I felt like I had everything I needed.

Image courtesy 4A Games

The shooting experience itself is really well done, and it’s nice to see that the creators didn’t compromise it with awkward-to-hold rifles, instead offering a wide enough selection of pistols and sight types to make you feel like what you had in your hand was enough.

There are two basic reloading styles, and having a mixed set-up (one semi-auto and one revolver) can kind of screw with you at first, but reloading quickly becomes a fast reflex. Holsters are conveniently placed above each shoulder, so you can easily stick them away for button pressing and puzzle-solving.

SEE ALSO
‘ARKTIKA.1’ Behind-the-scenes – Insights & Artwork from 4A Games

Bandits are your main foe in Arktika.1, which boil down to three classes: basic infantry, heavy, and sniper. More variety here would have been gladly welcome, because after killing the same identical three guys (with the same voices) umpteen times gets a little tiresome, but the same could be said about established shooter franchises like Halo too. The three classes (plus the odd drone) add enough of a mix to keep you on your toes though, as the heavy really only dies on headshots and the sniper always seems to materialize over your head and land a laser-scoped rifle round to your head. There are a surprising lack of level boss encounters—not a requirement, but an interesting choice nonetheless.

Image courtesy 4A Games

Some of you have been skimming this article for gameplay length, so here it is in bold: it took me five hours to complete, but the usual caveats apply; you’ll probably spend more time if you’re one who likes hunting hidden easter eggs and completing ‘Objectives’ (optional challenges) on each level. Rolling out with the most game-cheapening gun accessories, I only died twice (albeit on the default Easy difficulty), both of which were because of laser traps that I didn’t shut off in time.

Puzzles, although at an impressively wide variety, are an absolute breeze, and are really only momentary tasks on the road to more shooting. This isn’t really about that, so it’s an easy charge to forgive.

Immersion

Eventually clicking into the frantic task of managing your corners, and making sure you can anticipate the move of every bad guy as he pops out behind pillars, you start to sense a flow in the game. Getting used to the game’s various tasks and locomotion system is really only one part of immersion though, as the world itself has to entice you into forgetting you’re really in your living room wearing pajamas.

Image courtesy 4A Games

Arktika.1 excels visually with its overwhelmingly atmospheric levels, elevating it among the best looking VR titles to date. There’s a thick varnish of neglect and ice on everything, and it’s hard not to feel the biting cold come through. I have some minor gripes with the incorrectly scaled hands of the player, some chairs, and a harmonica the size of a chalk eraser, but these are few and far between.

If you’re looking for a deep story with character arcs that give you a reason to fight, you’ll be a little disappointed in Arktika.1. You’ll only ever get to know one person in the whole game, Viktoria, and while her story does develop, I can’t say I really felt attached. I never had that moment where I said to myself ‘this is a real person worth my attention.’

The opening sequence, a part of the first 25 minutes of gameplay, seemed like a promising start with Viktoria, but she quickly becomes an immobile task master holed up in her command center; the virtual voice in your ear telling you where to go, what to do, why to care, etc. Positioning Viktoria as a chattering task master feels like a cheap solution to the complex problem of telling an in-world story, which in the end makes it feel like a thin guise to get you into that next mission. For many, that’ll be just fine (pew pew pew, amiright?), but a rich story that compels you to care about what you’re doing and drives you forward is a big plus for immersion, though Arktika.1 felt more like dangling the carrot of more money in front of my face.

Image courtesy 4A Games

I’m supposed to be a mercenary, sure, but it would have been nice if maybe a grandmotherly figure popped her head in and made me a hot cup of tea, or if I got to see a group of settlers going about their lives to signal some semblance of humanity worth saving. Viktoria doesn’t even get mad at you when you throw things at her face, and she never asks you questions that may require a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ nod. She talks at you until the game is done, but you never actually speak back or interact with her.

All in all, these sorts of narrative misgivings filter into the back of your mind when you actually hit the action, which on its own is cohesive and varied enough to hit all the right beats.

Comfort

Image courtesy 4A Games

Even though the Oculus store page says the game supports 360 setups, the game is entirely a front-facing experience. Teleportation nodes place you right where the action is going to be, which again makes it feel a little too ‘paint by numbers’, but makes it ultimately super comfortable. And no, this game probably couldn’t work as-is with smooth forward locomotion, as many levels require you to teleport over large gaps.

Playing this one all the way through, I really would have appreciated a seated mode that placed me at the right standing height so I could finally give my dogs a rest, but this is more of a 30 minute-per-mission type of game, meaning you’ll probably digest this one in bite-sized pieces.


We partnered with AVA Direct to create the Exemplar 2 Ultimate, our high-end VR hardware reference point against which we perform our tests and reviews. Exemplar 2 is designed to push virtual reality experiences above and beyond what’s possible with systems built to lesser recommended VR specifications.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
8

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    Teleportation is teleporting VR back to the 90’s fmv cd rom games. Please stop this cancer, we need full locomotion and teleport as an option. No movements no money.

    • Ryan Lafave

      the game started development many years ago before people knew a small % of people can handle artificial movemement that onward basically started. the game is gonna be much better than its locomotion.

      • Ethan James Trombley

        Yeah but most people become acclimated to artificial locomotion. Teleportation doesn’t kill it for me, but the node based teleportation is very limiting. Still it seems most reviewers are more disappointed in the lack of story, which to me shows the world structure and gameplay are so immersive that longing for a deeper background occurs. To me that shows that VR is maturing not taking a step back because now people are hungry for more. Like the complaints aren’t about VR issues, these are commen complaints about regular flat screen games, which tells me we are getting closer.

        • Rack

          I dunno, I mean I’m early on in the game but right away this system feels like it clicks with me. If you can step off an ideological high horse and take it on its own merits I think you’d see that free locomotion would make the game substantially less enjoyable. It’s not an easy thing to get a hold of, but unsatisfying options can be bad.

          • Ethan James Trombley

            Oh this game for sure, I didn’t think I was on a high horse? Anyway this game was designed around node based teleportation. However a game like vanishing realms allows free teleport. Gun Heart has free teleport with snap to cover. The overall point is that it has already been shown that node based teleportation is simply too limiting to confine VR headsets to overall. Actually look into Gun heart in my opinion they handled the teleportation alongside free locomotion amazingly well. Still it seems like your looking for an argument here well sorry buckero I’m not about that. If you want discord you’ll find it here, if you want to take shots at eachother go find someone else to pew pew with.

          • Rob Oppers

            I agree, the teleportation does not bother me at all in this game. This game lacks some proper story but the immersion is there. So far this game is on my second place just after lone echo.

        • ChristianWilliamson

          no they haven’t. i fucking projective vomit with more than 5 minutes of full locomotion. minecraft fucked me up bigtime

          • Ethan James Trombley

            Yeahhh I have no idea what the deal is there, it gets me to. There have been alot of smooth locomotion options added that mitigate sim sickness tho. I’ve found the most effective to be standing with motion controls and having the FOV reduced during movement. That’s just me, but I get motion sick in cars even so I would think that for most this system would also work. I’m basically referencing the movement of Skyrim VR. Still, games like Sairento on Vive also have done a decent job as well.

    • Rack

      I just can’t agree with this. Free locomotion robs VR of almost all of its advantages over flatscreen games. In Robo Recall when I see bullets incoming I physically move to avoid them. It’s an incredibly absorbing and fun experience. In Raw Data I press the joystick to the left and slide along in a method exactly as immersion breaking as teleportation, only it takes longer. It’s feels lame, but the game design somewhere between encourages and mandates it.

      You don’t like it? Fine. But it’s a gameplay style that is wholly incompatible with “just adding an option to move freely”. Both should exist side by side in either different games or wholly independant modes or characters.

      • Jona Adams

        Try Doom BFG modded for VR. It’s amazing, and offer full locomotion just like the normal Doom game does.

        • Guru Guy

          Except that as Rack pointed out, you turn your head around a bit but you are never encouraged to actually move much else IRL which Robs VR of its greatest features.

          • Jona Adams

            I’m not sure what you mean. I can tell you this. I have a room scale set up. But when it comes to shooting games, I prefer the Stand option. Mostly because getting into a super chaotic shootout, and trying to turn on my toes, gets me tangled up on the headset cord.

            And smooth turning doesn’t break my immersion for me at all.

          • Konchu

            I like both options teleportation can work fine for some titles. Some benefit from Full locomotion. I personally like a well thought out hybrid.

      • xxTheGoDxx

        > In Robo Recall when I see bullets incoming I physically move to avoid them. It’s an incredibly absorbing and fun experience.

        For me that is more of a stupid gimmick that makes the gameplay feel shallow and none immersive. In the real world you can’t just dodge bullets because they don’t slow down before hitting you. Instead is what you do is go down to reduce your hitable area, hunk behind cover etc.

        I never played Raw Data but in Onward I often spend half the round crouching behind cover between shots or lying on the floor. Those situations involve way more boy movement than playing Robo Recall.

        • Rack

          I think that’s a good sign of what I’m getting at. Robo Recall is obviously not designed at realism and makes a fun go of a free teleportation system. In Arktika you can’t dodge bullets but taking cover physically is a necssity. In Onward you move about but the focus is still kept on hunkering down. But in Raw Data where you can choose whether or not to move freely you can just physically dodge attacks with the pad because the game couldn’t account for you being able to do both so easily.

          Games work best when the devs pick a system and run with it.

          • Guru Guy

            THIS. Until VR is mainstream and we have 100+ million dollar titles, I think the amount of resources it takes to balance out most games which would try to include more than one movement system would be almost like making the same game twice – or it would be compromised towards one method or the other.

        • Guru Guy

          In real world you cant float around on the ground, running full speed backwards down stairs, bash into walls and just stop, etc. Most ‘full locomotion’ FPS flat games let you do all this. Its not so much about ‘in reality’, as gaming is an escape from reality, its more about being immersed IMO. When I move 1:1 IRL with my on screen character, I am really immersed. When I am floating around on the ground using a thumbsitck, I am less immersed. Am I more immersed than the same game would be on a monitor, yes, but it is as good as the full potential of VR, not really.

          Not advocating ‘teleport only’ here, just think that there have been tons of types of locomotion in gaming throughout its history – and good games have been made using all of them.

    • doug

      I agree. I needed comfort options in VR at first, but now I’m fully acclimated.

      • Jean-Sebastien Perron

        We are not VR Virgins anymore.

    • Guru Guy

      This is a horrible analogy. There were not motion controls back then. There was no 1:1 IRL space movement. Without thumbstick locomotion in flat gaming there is no way to move in the game. VR games with teleportation encourage the player in VR to move in their actual game place. It also solves VR sickness problems people have. VR has opened up a new form of locomotion in and of itself (you move and react in real life). No matter if the game uses a type of thumbstick locomotion, teleporation, or something in between (Echo Arena / Lone Echo), saying that it goes back to 90’s fmv is crazy.

    • BeingHealthyandFit

      In t his day and age,… just give people the option…

  • Folo

    The visuals might be pretty but they are blurry as hell and supersampling with OTT seems to do nothing in this game.

    • Martin L

      Same problem here, it almost looks like the game is running below 1.0 supersampling. Not sure what’s going on here, I’d rather turn down effects and other graphical improvements and keep SS at least around 1.0

    • MadMax1998

      Looking at the user.cfg file inside “C:UsersDocuments4A GamesArktika.1” reveals a lot of variables that are used by the engine to configure the game. There are four variables per setting, one for each graphics preset in the game… there are two settings here, “max_ss” and “min_ss”, with only the “extreme” preset variables showing 1. for “min_ss” and 1.3999 for “max_ss”. It looks like the game is changing supersampling on the fly based on performance and only on “extreme” does it NOT undersample; all the other “min_ss” variables have values lower than 1. That might explain the blurriness. Also, a variable called “fxaa” is set to 1 for all presets, again, that could lead to blurriness.
      Not sure if messing around with the variables will actually change the game’s graphics. Personally I’ve been disappointed by the lackluster gameplay and the storytelling so that I don’t want to play more than two hours,in case I decide to get a refund…

      • Folo

        I’ve changed those values upon reading about it in one of the threads on reddit and fortunately it works. The game looks way better although still not as sharp as I’d like it to. Plus I get quite a lot of ASW now and some frame judder. Still I prefer that to the ugly blurriness I had before.

  • Morality_Mortality

    I took Lucky Palmer to task over #VRComfort about 2 months before he disappeared . . . coincidence ? He sent me a tirade of tweets after I mentioned I am boycotting all VR titles that eschew natural movement in favor of (immersion breaking) teleportation.

    I wholeheartedly stand by my decision. I would have bought Arktika.1 on day.1 – IF – they had of allowed the user to choose between free-form 360° movement or immersion breaking teleportation just like “From Other Suns” from Gunfire games did recently.

    • Guru Guy

      I am really confused here. You state teleportation over natural movement? In most cases games that use a type of teleportation encourage way more natural movement than others.

  • Martin L

    Did nobody had scaling issues? Even the Touch controllers in the beginning are huge. In-game hands are huge, floor level seems to be wrong.

    • sebrk

      Everything is huge, fat and scaled wrong.

    • heythere

      yeah everything is too big and I´m floating a foot or more over the ground. Very weird that no reviewers mentions it, cause so many other people are complaining about it on reddit too.

  • sebrk

    Horrible physics. Horrible scaling. Bad sound. Bad animations. Bugs all over. Weird resolution scaling makes everything blurry. One of the biggest let downs in my 5 year VR history.

  • MadMax1998

    I have to say the trailers leading up to the game’s release and all the talk about it made me believe it was a free roaming exploration game in an abandoned facility, which involves shooting but also hiding from monsters and other horror-like stuff. I was really interested in the game (and the costumizable guns!) but what I just played the last hour was a boring shooting gallery with no form of creative gameplay whatsoever. Shouldn’t I be allowed to solve a problem in VR the way I see fit? If the guy on the other end of the long balcony is too far away for my revolver to hit him, shouldn’t I be allowed to run up to him and close the distance? This game won’t allow it. I can’t see how the missions could possibly get any more intense and fun if the gameplay is so very limiting. It’s always going to be a gallery shooter, no matter how complex or epic the situations.

    The fact that a sexy female android (what’s her purpose?) is leading us through the missions like a sidekick doesn’t make it more immersive, just videogame-y. The graphics are not bad but the scaling is off; everything is 10% bigger than normal including my character. The game uses 50% of my GPU yet struggles to run smoothly even on “low”. No customizable graphics settings (in menus at least). The sounds are weirdly mixed and the enemies are louder than my own guns! The voice acting is piss poor. What a letdown this game is… I can’t say it wasn’t fun, but I’m considering asking my money back.

  • Mane Vr

    I refuse to support any game that is teleport only this is a practice that needs to die in vr. not everyone wants to be standing around jumping from side to side just to play a video game. a lot of us want our intense full locomotion vr shootouts that make us feel like we r in our beloved fps. but as of now most games feel limited and simply and the only thing I can see as the cause of it is teleporting

  • PJ

    Wasted opportunity.

    The scaling is off, and it’s nothing more than a pretty glorified wave shooter.

    I thought it was going to be a metro esq corridor FPS.

    Refunded and I’m gutted

    PS
    Getting really sick of wave shooters and teleportation now, none do it as good as RoboRecall, and it’s about time we get some proper full locomotion games.

  • sebrk

    If you want to be taken serious RoadToVR, stop these ultra-biased reviews. I’ve seen so many posts detailing the obvious and game/immersion breaking flaws in this game it is just ridiculous that you don’t even mention it.

  • Magnus_Helgisson

    Guys, it’s pretty freakin’ simple: you don’t like the game mechanics – you don’t buy the game. Just like that. I don’t like prunes, but you know what? I don’t go over the internet to annoy everybody telling that I don’t like them. I just don’t eat them. Try to settle this complicated idea in your heads. Stop acting like vegans.

  • KUKWES

    I wouldn’t call it gorgeous and I am ok with the style of teleportation. It show cases cover systems in VR. If they could mix it with regular locomotion with some type of snap cover system we might have something special. Free Locomotion is ok but moving in your own spaces has created better experiences for me. I wouldn’t get too frustrated about this stuff because we are still in its very early stages. The only immersive game I have played is Lone Echo but I don’t want every game to be like that. I would rather just play a regular game if its focus is normal locomotion. I think I was more disappointed that it was advertised as the best looking VR game and it is far from it.

  • Jason Lovegren

    Chiming in. I think what would be a cool movement for those who don’t like locomotion would be an actually portal that we can walk through (Similar to rick and morty) only I could access the portal at any time and move back and forth through the portal. That would be more immersive than your typical teleport.

  • oompah

    pics look like Doom