Oculus Studios today revealed their latest Rift exclusive, Defector, a high-action first-person adventure from Twisted Pixel, the studio behind Wilson’s Heart (2017). Defector aims to put players in the shoes of a veritable action movie spy, with gadgets and guns aplenty.
Set to launch in 2018 as an Oculus exclusive, Defector is shaping up to be quite a departure from Twisted Pixel’s first-person psychological thriller Wilson’s Heart. And while they’ve traded the prior game’s black and white aesthetic and ’40s era motif for a full color modern day setting, there’s still a clear emphasis on cinematic presentation. A major difference though is Defector’s emphasis on branching narratives, optional objectives, and an abandonment of the node-base movement scheme which left Wilson’s Heart feeling rather restrictive.
I got a chance to go hands-on with an early build of the game where I got a feel for the game’s new locomotion options and gameplay.
At the start of the outset, you’re asked a series of questions which determine which kind of locomotion you’d like to use; the core of it is based on free movement with snap-turning, which felt plenty comfortable to me throughout my initial 15 or 20 minutes of play. At the start of the demo I opened a small box in front of me and picked up an earpiece and placed it in my ear, then a special contact lens and placed it in my eye. The ear piece allowed me to hear my handler buddy who fed me helpful instructions and intel, while the contact lit up an augmented reality-like HUD display in front of me—both smart ways to create plausibility for necessary avenues for instruction and information.
The demo I played had me on a large, luxurious plane where I was attempting to covertly infiltrate my way to the head honcho without making anyone suspicious of my motives. I’ll let the full demo playthrough (above) speak to the gameplay, but there’s two interesting things worth calling out: the first was the moment that one of the burly henchmen gave me a virtual frisking, where I had to actually raise my hands above my head while he checked me for weapons (if I put them down he’d get angry and shoot me). It was wonderfully uncomfortable in a way that simply wouldn’t have been at all if I wasn’t in VR, making it a really rather smart use of the medium that I haven’t seen before.
And the second interesting thing is the game’s focus on branching narratives based on player choice, which can lead to some significantly different action. In the demo I played I was given the choice of whether I wanted to jump out of the plane or fight my way out. Both choices led to totally different segments of the game: one had me clinging for my life to the outside of a plane in a sort of climbing mini game, while the other led me into a gun fight, a fist fight, and ultimately to driving a sports car out of the plane’s cargo hold. Below you can see the alternative later segment with the sports care finale:
Speaking with Creative Director Josh Bear, he told me that the studio’s aim with Defector is to put players in the shoes of the ultimate spy, like a mixture of Mission: Impossible and Fast and the Furious. While the game’s price and specific release date haven’t been announced yet, he said that the studio is aiming for a similar quality bar and scope as Wilson’s Heart.
Bear also said that the studio learned a lot from the development of Wilson’s Heart, and the widespread feedback that players didn’t want to restricted to node-base movement motivated the studio to offer more freedom in how players move around in Defector. He further said that Defector wants to make cinematic action but keep the player engaged, citing moments in Wilson’s Heart where things looked good but players were just watching what was happening at times rather than participating. You can catch my full interview with Bear above.