Oculus Studios’ New Title ‘Defector’ Aims for High-octane Set Piece Action and Branching Narratives

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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.

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  • AndyP

    Free movement (thank God), decent quality and interesting graphics and gameplay, plus some defiance of physics (literal in terms of climbing a plane at very high speeds, not game/object physics!) – I’m in.

    • Jack

      This game looks ridicuous. Graphics are terrible. No audio. When you hear this guy Josh talk, it sounds like he’s just trying to find a way to rip off other games instead of trying to create something original .

      • Andrew Jakobs

        No it looks great… Don’t be such a graphics whore, and just enjoy the gameplay. And sorry, but it’s been very VERY long since I’ve seen an original game, every game these days rips off other games.. There is almost no way to actually still do something really original, everything has been done by now.

        • AndyP

          ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’

        • Jack

          Andrew – it seems that you’ve surrendered to mediocrity. Congrats. You are merely a pig being brought out for slaughter!

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Nope, I’m just not a graphics whore like you are.. I can still enjoy games with lesser graphics.. And as I said, there aren’t any games left these days that are really original.. Nope, none.. But then again, my first games I played were on the philips odyssee 2001, which only had a few blocks.. And on occasion I still enjoy the games on that thing I played for the first time about 38 years ago.

      • AndyP

        Watched it on HD on a large screen and it looked good to me for a VR game (I’m a high end PC builder for over 15 years – 3DFX to GTX 1080 – and gamer, and early adopter of VR, with high standards for graphics). Are you erroneously comparing the graphics to a non-VR title, or can you provide examples of VR games with significantly better graphics (I hope so). ‘No audio’: there is audio (check your settings, or plug your speakers/headphones in)! Not sure what you’re on about with the personal comments about Josh – a developer of a successful VR title that’s clearly learned important lessons from their first title; or are we rating him on his, mostly irrelevant for an IT expert/developer, interview skills? Learning the lessons of history is a good thing. I’ll give it a chance and if it’s good I’ll give them credit, if it’s bad I’ll get an Oculus refund so can’t lose. Have you developed any successful VR titles so therefore feel entitled to attack, or are you just another negative Jack-ass (troll)?

        • Jack

          Hi AndyP – thanks for the really insightful comments. The reality is that this company is just a “for hire” game studio who phones in the game. There is no originality and it is completely derivative. This guy even said that it’s a rip off of other games / movies. These guys are emblematic of the problem with many of these VR companies. They’re run by uncreative derivative hacks like this one who simply are the lapdogs of the people who pay them to do work. I am far from a negative Jack-ass. I am just tired of playing these VR games that have no reason to exist. And then go on to set a very low bar for VR.

          • AndyP

            Then don’t buy it. And don’t ‘piss on the bonfires’ of others who have different, more positive, opinions as it achieves nothing. ‘Reality’, even when substantiated by actual evidence, is a matter of perspective, as is virtual reality. VR really needs a new Goldeney or Doom or Resident Evil (1) etc, for the benefit of everyone. Personal attacks help no one, so I withdraw mine, Jack.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            ALL games these days are rip off’s of other games/movies, so it’s nothing special if he says so.. And maybe YOU don’t like these kind of games, there are plenty who do.. Maybe this just isn’t your genre.. Have you actually played the game? NO, so you cannot comment on how it actually plays.. you think it will suck..

      • neil rosson

        They have gone for a stylised GTA look, i guess because developers do not want to close out people with low end spec. VR games do not currently sell that well so i guess this is a good option. I personally like the look of it & think the art direction is excellent. My biggest concern is that it will all take place on planes & will be very short.

  • Jack

    This guy Josh seems like a putz. The footage looks like a joke.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    wow, that really looks cool.

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  • Adam Broadhurst

    Just look at a video of PSVR’s Blood and Truth,then look at this.
    Embarrassing.
    A VR capable PC has how much more horsepower than a PS4?
    Yet this game looks a gen behind Blood and Truth.

    • AndyP

      Are you comparing a flatscreen YouTube clip to full VR immersion? Apples and orangutans

      • AndyP

        Noting I’ve played PSVR extensively and in comparison the Rift, and the former isn’t great, though the game library is.

        • AndyP

          Crap, I’ve strayed into the ‘my HMD is better than yours’ bullshit – I retract, and will hang my head in shame. Negativity is obviously catching!

    • AndyP

      Need to compare the actual finished games in the HMDs

    • ShiftyInc

      Nothing from Blood and Truth has been actual gameplay, all prerendered stuff. Don’t be surprised if it turned out to be just as good as Bravo Team.

      • Lucidfeuer

        Are you sure that was pre-rendered? The characters clearly were, but the action sequence look quite real-time PS4. Well on a screen, not in VR.

        • ShiftyInc

          The game is going to use the same engine and gameplay stuff as their tech demo on PSVR with London Heist. So it’s going to be like that in VR, which looked ok, but did not blow anyone away. especially gameplay wise.

          • Lucidfeuer

            Oh so not pre-rendered, unless you mean the final actual result is sub-par that of the trailer rendering.

          • ShiftyInc

            The videos we have seen so far are pre-rendered. Just meant it will look like the London Heist in actual VR. Don’t know if you played that on PSVR?

          • Adam Broadhurst

            You’re talking out of your arse mate.Do you even know what pre-rendered means? There’s actual gameplay videos and it looks fantastic(graphically)

          • ShiftyInc

            Check those videos again, and see how the movement on screen does not sync with how the person is moving. Also i never said it looked bad. I just said it is using the same tech as London Heist. That looked ok, but nothing we have not already seen better in other games.

          • Lucidfeuer

            Didn’t have the occasion to play this one, I like PSVR as a product and it’s catalogue, but the stretched-out screen and dim visuals…

          • ShiftyInc

            Yeah that is one of the reasons i did not pick one up, tracking is also annoying at times. Played around with it at a friends house. But i’ll stick with PC VR.

      • Gonzalo Novoa

        it’s not prerendered but the game is on-rails, very different from this one.

    • jordon321 .

      Because graphics are everything right? Good luck with that low res hmd bud. Different devs make different looking games, PC and PS4 have nothing to do with it, but since you’re so inclined to fanboy, imagine what blood and truth devs could do on A pc with room scale tracking and more power? Because you’re not going to do those kinds of movements in the trailer with a single camera and you’re body blocking your controllers

      • Adam Broadhurst

        Yeah,imagine what the Blood and Truth developers could do with a PC VR setup…unfortunatlely they develop exclusively for SONY,so it aint gonna happen is it.Who’s the fanboy,me? Because i point out a PSVR game has better graphics than a similar PC VR game,that makes me a Playstation fanboy? Grow up child.

        • jordon321 .

          No, you’re a fanboy because you’re acting like one dev vs another means PlayStation is better when you know that’s not the case, or even a valid argument

          • Adam Broadhurst

            A fanboy would mean i prefer PS4 to PC,Xbox or whatever,to have an irrational bias towards Playstation,which is certainly not the case.
            The PS4 is the first Sony console ive purchased since PS1,so I hardly fit the fanboy stereotype.
            My post was merely pointing out the lack of quality in these graphics compared to a similar themed game on PS4(Blod and Truth).
            I have no idea if Blood and Truth will be a good game or a shit game,same goes for ‘Defector’ but i do know it looks a damn sight prettier.

            Also,its not about one dev vs the other means Playstation is better,it’s about the average PCVR game looking like something from the Wii.Playstation has a much higher quality threshold the PC for its VR games.99% on SteamVR games are an abomination.

            PSVR graphics not up to PCVR standard?Play Wipeout VR and then tell me they’re no good.

          • jordon321 .

            So what you’re essentially doing is comparing AAA games to indie games lol. You’re not a fanboy, you’re just not smart. That’s like comparing the last of us 2 to the indie store on playstation, you clearly don’t see many many broke games for pc since you’re making it sound like stream vr is the only place for games. Again, it’s one game, from one developer. If that’s not what you meant you might want to stop making sound like you’re suggesting these things because that’s how you sound. Like saying the “average” pcvr game looks bad compared to pcvr, that just makes you sound ignorant. Graphics don’t mean shit if you can’t make any of it out bud. It’s all about funding, sony just paid them more, a lot of steam vr games come from the community for a quick buck as are most indie titles for every console and aren’t played as much as the quality games like like echo or killing floor, again you’re comparing apples and oranges

      • Pre Seznik

        They’re not everything, but on a platform where the main focus is immersion, it’s a lot more important than usual.

    • Gonzalo Novoa

      I’d take this over Blood and Truth any day for the free movement alone.

  • Behram Patel

    Indulgent ;) .
    I have one question. Did you play this game sitting or standing ? If standing,did it feel weird to drive your car standing ?

    Thanks,
    b

  • Luke

    can be played stealth?

  • Walextheone

    Looks like pure fun to me!

  • Sami Tito

    waw, i want this game,

    realy Oculus is a great thing for the vr industry.

  • PJ

    Looks great.

    Hopefully it has multiplayer too, 6v6 maybe?

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    Looks good, has some intentional over-the-top Goldeneye moments that might translate well to VR and provide player with memorable experiences, shows Oculus is indeed still investing in PC VR. So far, so good :)

  • ShiftyInc

    Another awesome looking game.

  • Lucidfeuer

    The action and gameplay sequences look interesting and stupid enough for the rest of the realisation to be somewhat tame (especially character and level design). I mean jumping from a car into another plane while shooting in VR…sure, yeah I’ll take it.

  • Courtney A Jeff

    Game looks rad.Been looking for a game that lets you walk around the inside of a moving jet.Praise Jesus my Lord and Savior.