Budget Cuts, a first-person stealth VR game, has been eagerly awaited since Stockholm-based indie studio Neat Corporation first released a free demo in 2016. The demo, which quickly became a breakout success in the early days of consumer VR, demonstrated a unique portal-teleportation mechanic, that, when married with the ability to throw knives at robot guards, spelled an instant hit—at least from a basic gameplay perspective. Two years later, the full release of Budget Cuts is here and it’s definitely been worth the wait.

Budget Cuts Details:

Official Site

Developer: Neat Corportation
Available On: Steam (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift), Oculus Store (Rift)
Reviewed On:  HTC Vive, Tested on Oculus Rift
Release Date: June 14th, 2018

Update (6/14/18): Following an indefinite delay announced one day before the game’s original May 31st launch date, Budget Cuts officially launches today (June 14th) at 10 AM PT (your timezone here). The delay was related to performance issues that some had reported during the game’s pre-release review build. However, we didn’t experience any major issues ourselves, and had published our initial review prior to the last minute delay announcement. As our team is at E3 2018 this week in Los Angeles, we haven’t had a chance to compare the pre-release review build to the release build, though the developer says performance has been improved on lower end systems. As soon as we’re back with VR headsets in hand, we’ll dig into the release build and update this review if there’s any noteworthy differences in our experience. That said, the review as presently printed represents the game’s pre-release review build as originally provided to us.

Gameplay

Cubicles, fluorescent lighting, copy machines that don’t work: offices can be a depressing place, but what’s even more depressing is when you find yourself in a boring, cookie-cutter job that’s slowly being automated away. But like Neo’s impetus to escape The Matrix, you soon find yourself receiving a strange phone call telling you to get the hell out of there, lest you wish to meet the same fate as your other human colleagues: reported to Human Resources to never be seen, or heard from again.

The Morpheus to your Matrix is Winta, a helpful voice on the other end of the fax machine who sends you instructions, clues, and guides you along your way as you uncover the truth behind the megalomaniac Texan owner ‘Rex’ and his obsession with squeezing the most out of his business. Humans, I learn, simply aren’t apart of the equation anymore, as an army of docile drones fill the workplace with canned banter like “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps!” and “Don’t you just hate Mondays?”

Image courtesy Neat Corp

These aren’t the droids you’re worried about (or looking for), because in Rex’s palpable paranoia, which is constantly broadcasted over the office-wide loudspeaker, he’s peppered the office with military-grade security bots that tote revolvers, along with a keen sense of awareness when you’re in their line of sight. Thankfully, Winta has provided you with a number of “letter openers” (read: sharp throwing knives) and a translocator gun that lets you teleport around the sprawling office space like Nightcrawler, popping in and out of existence as you navigate the giant building’s many corridors and ventilation shafts. A preview portal lets you check if the coast is clear before committing to the jump, but the portal can be seen by anyone who looks your way.

Image captured by Road to VR

Other tools at your disposal: two gripping devices that take the place of your hands, and a magnifying glass-shaped viewer that lets you read the most essential bits of Winta’s messages, a nice touch to simplify the hand-written faxes, but not vital to the task at hand.

A quick pause before I get into the meat of the review. I have to say this: I loved the original Budget Cuts demo, and only wanted more of it, narrative be damned. But even then, Neat Corp has proven that it has storytelling chops too. I found myself exploring the facility, rifling through notes and learning about my colleagues that have disappeared before me, and laughing at the whole game’s quirky humor and tactful voiceovers. I didn’t need a fun and engaging story to enjoy ganking bots with my less-than-expert knife throws, but after playing, I can say this: expect more of Budget Cuts down the line, because there’s a big story to be told here, and I think I only scratched the surface in my nine hours of total gameplay. Now, back to the meaty bits:

I’m not ashamed to admit that in the beginning I had some trouble getting used to the way you change tools and access inventory, which hold five items of your choosing. While it took a little time to gain the muscle-button memory, Budget Cuts makes it clear that this isn’t a fast-paced, run-and-gun attack. You aren’t given an overly easy way to move and dispatch enemies because Budget Cuts is hard—and satisfyingly so.

Image captured by Road to VR

If you find yourself wishing for a silenced pistol, then you’re not playing the game right. There are no power-ups, no health boosts, no shields, and a single shot from a robot will send you back to your automatic save point. After multiple fails on a single level, it became clear to me that patience is more than virtue in Budget Cuts, it’s a necessity.

The game takes every violent situation, and makes it into a big moving puzzle; robots have standard patrol paths, and they usually stand between you and your objective; get a key card, door code, collect an item important to the narrative. Once you figure out the patrol path, you can swoop in and administer your three inches of steel, or you can challenge yourself by playing all the way through as a pacifist. That’s right, from head-to-toe, you can enforce your own Hindu code on Budget Cuts and complete the game without ever decommissioning a single robot. Ventilation shafts are plentiful, and only the quickest and most proficient teleporters can make it out alive.

The preview portal, which lets you look around corners before actually teleporting, presents its own dangers, as robots can see and shoot you through it. It’s an essential tool for figuring out where to go, and where your enemies are.

Image courtesy Neat Corp

Level design is typically multilayered, offering a number of ways to complete an objective, be it a through the three foot-tall ventilation shafts, or by ducking for cover behind the many cubicles. Neat Corp has also made it near impossible to cheat by limiting your view when you either teleport, or pop your head through doors or walls. The anti-cheat system forces you to adapt to the game’s environment, making you duck in ventilation shafts, and bend down to peer through grates. I’ll cover more of that in the Immersion section, but suffice it to say that I loved how the game forces you to be present, and not take the easy way out.

Core game mechanics aside, what remains is really more than the sum of its parts. Adrenaline rushes of a missed knife throw (causing the target to spin around and point a gun in your direction), the act of sneaking around and planning your next move, following breadcrumb trails to a missing key—it all works so well together, making Budget Cuts one of the smartest VR games to date.

Image courtesy Neat Corp

That said, I did experience some frustration with a few puzzles. If you have a hard time listening to instructions, Winta can’t help you, and she isn’t piped into your ear at all times—a good thing in my opinion.

Sometimes learning a new game mechanic, like unscrewing a grate with a screwdriver, can leave some logical gaps that may drive you crazy looking for the right solution. Fine attention to detail is a must with Budget Cuts, because once the office is splattered with robot blood and you’re still looking for that final key code, only your wits will save you.

SEE ALSO
'Budget Cuts' is Getting More Levels with Launch of New Arcade Version

Immersion

Budget Cuts is cartoony, but graphics aren’t really the most important thing when it comes to immersion. When everything works correctly, and there’s a sense of danger lurking around every corner, then you may find yourself cowering under a virtual desk for cover. You wouldn’t hide, or scream, or fumble through your inventory if you didn’t think you were in real danger.

Image courtesy Neat Corp

Therein lies the problem with the current generation of PC VR. Budget Cuts is a fiercely room-scale game that requires you to duck, take cover, and crawl your way through the world. This is great when you don’t have to mind the ever-present cable attached to your computer, which can take you out of the experience somewhat.

As a teleportation-only game though, I thought I would feel less immersed, but teleportation works extremely well given the game’s premise and objectives. For the anti-teleportation crowd: this game needs it, and gives you a good reason to use it.

Now for the bad: level loading times may be enough for you to hate taking a bullet, because you’ll sit around at a loading screen for about 20-30 seconds upon restart, and even more at the beginning of a new level.

Optimization is also a pain point. On Vive, I saw max performance, which had brief moments of jitter in more object-dense areas; not unplayable in the slightest, but less than I would have expected. For whatever reason, Rift optimization was worse, leading to brief moments of visible stuttering. For reference, my test rig has an Intel Core i7-6700K, 16 GB of RAM and a GTX 1080. I would have liked some degree of control over the graphical quality of the game, as there are no graphics options at all.

Some other less than impressive bits: textures sometimes popped in an out, some areas loaded slowly, and robots sometimes collided with the game’s geometry to comical effect after death. None of this is game breaking, but I worry the lack of user-controlled graphic options may make Budget Cuts even more jittery on lower-spec systems, provided there aren’t any behind-the-scenes automatic graphic optimizations tailored to your specific setup. I admittedly had a pre-launch press build, which came along with two caveats. 1) the version lacked 180-degree snap-turning for front-facing sensor setups (but will come in the launch version), only offering 360-degree sensor support. 2) And the press build was “bound to have bugs that we won’t see in the release build,” I was told. That said, I suspect the problem with Rift optimization will be solved at launch, or at very least in the first updates.

Comfort

Teleportation is by far the most comfortable of artificial locomotion schemes, making Budget Cuts among the most comfortable games to play for all levels. Room-scale locomotion, like peeking around corners and hiding behind barriers, is basically the most natural way to make minor adjustments. Once implemented, snap-turning for 180-degree sensor setups comes as a close second in terms of user comfort.

SEE ALSO
'Budget Cuts' Release Date Confirmed for Tomorrow After Previous Delay

It’s also a very physical game too, ideally requiring the full use of your arms and legs. Crouching down to avoid detection and hobbling through ventilation ducts means you’ll be getting a quad workout to boot. Although if you are unable or unwilling to stand, much of the game’s objects are reachable from the height of a chair, so while there isn’t a bespoke ‘seated mode’, users shouldn’t have a problem playing seated, provided they’re well away from desks (or wayward children), and either use the 180 snap-turn, or have a spinning computer chair. Seated players may also have to play more tactically, since crouching around peeking around corners while seated isn’t as easy.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
9.2

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  • Luke

    my most wanted Killer Application! <3

    • ummm…

      Join us in 2018, or 2025 when this releases.

  • ShiftyInc

    Played the demo and was not blown away by it. Teleportation in VR is not fun no matter how you spin it. And don’t even bother picking it up if you have a small play space.

    • Raphael

      I hate teleport but I have come to accept that in some games it works. I first got used to it in Raw Data (before the new multiplayer mode) and In Death works very well with it.

      I refused to accept teleport with Island 359 and any fast action FPS. Serious Sam with teleport? Really? I punch the heads of muppets playing Serious Sam with teleport. I had to laugh when one muppet posted a negative review of serious sam first encounter VR when he played it with teleport and it made him vomit.

      Of all the teleports I hate BLINK the most. Having your world fade to black or even jump instantly to a new location sucks.

      • Durante

        Serious Sam with instant directional teleport is fucking awesome if you know what you are doing.

        Completed the full campaigns of all 3 games on hard with it.

        • Raphael

          I played the original back in 2001 without teleport. If I wanted a myst adventure I’d play one. Serious Sam is a fast action fps and no one is gonna cripple it for me with shitty teleport.

          • Durante

            I also played the original (on a Radeon GPU; yeah, *just* Radeon) without teleport — but I’m not sure how that relates to the current point.

            I’d like to say good on Croteam for providing both options in the game, since – unlike something like Budget Cuts – their design isn’t inherently built around one of them.
            And neither of them “cripples” the game in any way as far as I am concerned.

            Since you seem very focused on how fast the game is – and it is! – I’m tempted to record a playing session, as I’m pretty sure the way I play it with teleport is significantly faster than anything possible with any other movement options ;)

          • Raphael

            Don’t bother. I love smooth locomotion with FPS games. IN DEATH I am happy to use teleport. Works well with that game.

            I spent decades playing FPS with full locomotion. Teleport doesn’t enhance immersion.

            Island 359 was like a myst adventure before they gave it full locomotion. Like night and day.

          • Graham J ⭐️

            Don’t forget kids, if you’re not the same as Raffy you’re a muppet!

          • Raphael

            I do believe there is some merit to this mode of thinking….

      • HybridEnergy

        I like the option of both, some games with smooth locomotion are okay and others just make me want to put my lunch in reverse.

  • Durante

    The demo is still one of the best things in VR in terms of fully realized VR-first gameplay.

    Great to hear that the final game is still “fiercely room-scale” as you put it, I was slightly worried that they were going to reduce that aspect to make it more broadly appealing or portable to platforms with unreliable tracking.

    • Kenji Fujimori

      Nigga Please

    • HybridEnergy

      I agree. The room scale part is one of the really exciting things about it. Tracking is king when it comes to VR.

    • ummm…

      This was TUE roomscale demo when I got my vive 2 years ago. I’m baffled that they couldn’t find a way to capitalize.

  • impurekind

    Did they fix the knife throwing? Because this looked a bit rough in the older videos I saw. It’s kinda like the throwing in Superhot too, where the rest of the game is amazing but trying to actually throw something at an enemy intuitive is a nightmare.

    • Andrew McEvoy

      In the demo there was a dartboard in one of the side rooms to practise on if you wished. I practised for a good solid 30 minutes and you can, after a while, get accurate (kind of)

      • impurekind

        That paragraph basically goes to my point.

        • J.C.

          Well, we don’t have a truly natural feeling controller for throwing yet. It’s used in so many games that Valve’s where-the-hell-is-it knuckles controllers is designed to make throwing feel more natural. Let’s not forget that *very* few people are actually good at throwing knives to begin with.

          “in the videos you saw”…have you not PLAYED Budget Cuts’ demo? It’s been around for like two years!

          • impurekind

            Actually, I think I did play it too, but I only have a half memory of this.

            There are some VR games that do throwing really well, as in whatever you throw goes where you expect it to with a natural throwing motion that you don’t really have to think about, like Rick and Morty: Virtual Rickality, Job Simulator, and Rec Room for example–so it is possible to get this right, or at least do it well.

        • Andrew McEvoy

          Ha! Yeah I suppose. However it shouldnt be too easy either. It takes a good hour or two before you get to grips with aiming accurately with a bow in Skyrim VR and the satisfaction factor is high once you do.

          • impurekind

            Yeah, aiming a bow is a bit different to just throwing something and it going where you expect it to. I think it should take a little while to get really skillful with a bow, but I think throwing should work as you expect and basically go where you expect right away. And there are a few games in VR that get it right, such as Rick and Morty: Virtual Rickality, Job Simulator, and Rec Room for example, so it can be done.

          • Andrew McEvoy

            Heh ok. Those examples felt a little simplistic when i played those times and I’d mark them down for that reason, however its been ages so will try again to see if its still that way.

          • impurekind

            Well the games themselves are simple but the throwing actually works well and does what you expect of it.

          • Andrew McEvoy

            True enough, but to be fair so did budget cuts once you got the hang of it. But yeah its a CBB.

  • Luke

    As Oculus user I hope the game will be optimised for Oculus SDK on Steam at day 1 or with the next patches. @roadtovr please let we know with a news update if it is ok with performance on oculus!

    • cartweet

      It should be since being released on oculus home as well.

      • Luke

        oh, good news. I hope the steam version have oculus sdk luncher option too. I can choose a different brand for next generation and until Oculus does not open it’s store to all HMD platforms I prefere to buy some games on steam, even if I prefere to luch games on oculus dashboard.

  • Kenji Fujimori

    Swedes are only good at Ikea.. stick to that

    • HybridEnergy

      Go watch your anime porn Kenji and leave video games to people who know what they are doing.

      • Kenji Fujimori

        What are you doing? unemployed loser anglo

        • HybridEnergy

          Oh mom jokes, that must be the high Asian IQ I keep hearing about. Maybe just a fake, just another Weeaboo. Go back to your anime porn and Dance dance revolution before western civ drops another atomic bomb on your stupid ass. Stop trying to sound better than us Europeans who’s culture you have been desperately emulating because you’re starting to sound like the Asian version of we wuz kangz. Anglo-Saxons are employed, I think you have them mistaken with the garbage “migrants” that are trying to flood it.

        • HybridEnergy

          Oh mom jokes, that must be the high Asian IQ I keep hearing about. You’re starting to sound like an Asian version of we wuz kangz. Anglo-Saxons are employed, I think you have them mistaken with the garbage “migrants” that are trying to flood it. The Asian invasion is mad.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Oh now Asians are blacks are we.. And your talking about IQ? Japan is homogeneous.. Your trailer trash is a mixed mutt of genes

          • HybridEnergy

            You seem to have a comprehension problem, must be an Asian thing.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            You seem to be sexually frustrated and Jack off to vr porn, must be you personally cherry boy

          • HybridEnergy

            That’s funny, at least I can grab my dick and jack off. You need a pair of tweezers for that small Asian dick of yours.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Yeah man… You do that, continue jacking off to virtual girls. Not like REAL women will look to your ugly face.

          • HybridEnergy

            Maybe you’re just projecting here, you sure know a lot about these virtual girls. Do they not judge your little Asian weewee? Luck you.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Keyboard warrior can say anything, How about you come say it to me in person?

          • HybridEnergy

            Who’s the keyboard warrior here tough guy? Mr Samurai.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Ok come here and I’ll show you anytime nigga

          • HybridEnergy

            That’s what I thought kung fu masta

          • Kenji Fujimori

            No fried chicken or Kool-aid

          • HybridEnergy

            You mean grape soda.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Shut up bitch

          • HybridEnergy

            Make me, midget Asian.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            your mama

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Back to porn you go

          • Kenji Fujimori

            We can do Bukkake on your mother

          • Kenji Fujimori

            You mean the same companies that have mostly Asian investors and controlling stakes, you can keep your fake self pride and inflated ego to past glory years little man.

          • HybridEnergy

            Ok there Asian Invasion, relax, I like your anime bukkake games with squids and giant robots too I guess. lmfao little man, I bet you are 5 ft tiny Asian.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Go drink your moonshine hick

          • Kenji Fujimori

            I bet your black

          • HybridEnergy

            Black as heck.

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Bitch

          • kool

            Lol Anglo saxons are employed i thought the Mexicans terk der jerbs!

          • HybridEnergy

            Mexicans in Europe ? Do you know what an Anglo Saxon is ? lmfao

          • kool

            Oh you think Anglos only live in Europe…

          • HybridEnergy

            I’m pretty sure it’s about where they come from, koolaid.

        • Get Schwifty!

          Wow….. so, the reality – racism IS universal as we all know (but many try to deny).

          • Kenji Fujimori

            Go back to masturbating on VR Kanojo loser

      • Kenji Fujimori

        Japanese brought back the game industry and made it into what it is today, video game crash from the 80s was due to saturated crap, no different to what VR is becoming today. A lesson for you ADD person..

      • ummm…

        Nerd fight.

      • Kenji Fujimori

        Your mums Pussy is just fine

  • Kenji Fujimori

    90s era graphics wont go far..

    • ummm…

      No. Graphics are actually decent, and way better than 90s.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Job Simulator, etc. called… they said you were dead wrong.

  • ummm…

    So, I bet it is enjoyable. I loved the demo. But I refuse to return to 2016 that was a tough year lol. So I’m going to pass – made easier by it having…..further delays. Oh come on.

  • Andrew McEvoy

    I hope they get those bugs ironed out soon. No later than the arrival of my Pimax at least ;) seriously looking forward to this game

  • anonya

    This game does NOT deserve a 4.5/5 that’s way overselling it

    • Adam Clixby

      What score would you give it? Which parts of the game let it down?

      • anony

        a 2.5/5, Shallow mechanics, short story, delayed a year for something that isn’t worth waiting for.

        • Daniella

          Anony is an entitled child.

          The game is fun. If you liked the demo, you’ll like the full-game.

          • anony

            Would an entitled child be employed in the XR industry as a programmer? These apps are my life I spend time digesting them more than anybody else.

    • Nicholas Petropouleas

      Totally doesn’t deserve that high a score. It’s more polished than most VR games, but nowhere near as polished as something like The Lab or Accounting. Definitely has some framerate issues and I’m on an i74790k / 1080Ti / 32GB memory. I realise my CPU is a bit lacking, but it should be more than enough for something like this.

  • Great review. It seems an awesome game!

  • Oculus Store reviews only rank this a 7.0. Who to believe!

    • CTRL + ALT + ECCHECCAZZO

      the truth stay in the middle ….and there are many games who results beatifull for some people and boring to other. Anyway, there is the old demo, from an alpha build of the game, on steam (I liked it very mutch)

      • anony

        ….Speak english much?

        • Daniella

          It’s obvious English is his second language. It’s a shame you were too stupid to realize that.

          • anony

            lol i realized it immediately, that’s why i said something….
            Language is an intellectual study to learn and improve on, if you’re bad at a language, its your fault. Hes able to change, so i’m aloud to comment on imperfections.

            It’s a shame you just come here to call people stupid and not even explain yourself. your life must suck as a troll, have fun under your bridge.
            ¿Hablas español?