Edge of Nowhere is a third-person VR survival horror game recently released for the Oculus Rift that places you in 1932 in the boots of Victor, a biologist and adventurer attempting to track down his lost fiance Eva.
Eva had decided to join her professor Dr. Edwards, a fanatical biologist, on a journey that they hoped would uncover an ancient species that has existed undiscovered for centuries. Edwards had been dismissed by the scientific community for his ungrounded theories about ancient life existing in the far reaches of the world but, both Eva and Victor were inspired by his research and thought that it had some credibility. When Edwards and Eva miss their first check-in radio call in Antarctica, Victor hops on a plane to find out what happened to them.
Edge of Nowhere Details:
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Oculus Studios
Available On: Oculus Home (Rift)
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift
Release Date: June 6th, 2016
Edge of Nowhere strands you in the icy wasteland of Antarctica leaving you with only a pick-axe, a shotgun, and some rocks to defend yourself against a bloodthirsty ancient species that lurk inside the snowy caverns. The lack of supplies makes for tense gameplay and forces the players to be creative and conserve resources. This creates many tense moments when you’re forced to decide whether you should use that last shotgun shell and blow the head off the horrible beast lurking nearby or just try the more risky route and sneak past.
When you’re forced to engage enemies, combat is intense and satisfying. You can either strike at the ancient beasts from behind with your pickaxe or blast away with your shotgun using the head tracking of the Oculus Rift to aim. Players are also given the option to distract enemies with rocks. Throwing them far away from you can be a good strategy when low on ammo and not wanting to draw any more enemies in your direction, as attacking them will often lead to a swarm making quick work of your flimsy body. You will most likely have to try some encounters several times before figuring out how to get by.
The enemy types are varied and interesting. They range from pulsing spheres with spikes that shoot out of them when you get close, to horrible lobster-centipede like creatures that use echolocation to search for their prey. Monsters are animated realistically, crawling around their environments in creepy bug-like ways. Edge of Nowhere does a wonderful job of introducing each type to you slowly and then shoving different combinations of enemies at the player for interesting and challenging encounters, forcing you to use all of the game mechanics you learned along the way to progress.
Edge of Nowhere’s pacing is excellent, splitting up sections where you sneak around and ice climb with more intense action packed platforming sequences. Running through a cave while it is collapsing with beasts chattering and chasing after me as I pick which ones to shoot and which I can just run by was some of the most intense fun I have had in VR.
The game makes you feel like you’re an inch away from death at all times. You never know when a creature is going to fall down from the ceiling and strike at you from behind, or if the ice is going to give way underneath you, forcing you to make quick jumps in order to survive. I found myself always walking around with my gun drawn, clearing corners like I was a member of a SWAT team; this game keeps you on edge. It is like a combination of The Thing (2002) and Dead Space (2008), and if this sounds like it would be fantastic you would be correct.
Some may take issue with the game’s exceptionally linear design. Insomniac Games chose to craft a very directed experience; many times there is only one way to climb through a section or to get past an enemy which does remove some choice from the player. On the flipside, this allows developers to place impressive set pieces and action sequences in the player’s way, adding to the awe and fun.
I absolutely love a good scary game. I have played through FEAR (2005), FEAR 2 (2009), Dead Space 1 (2008), 2 (2011) and 3 (2013), Outlast (2013), Slender: The Arrival (2013) and many more. All of these of course succeeded in being frightening and entertaining but were limited to a flat screen. Horror games in VR are on a completely different level.
When a game makes you so ‘crawl-out-of-your-skin’ uncomfortable that you actually can’t bring yourself to look at what’s happening on the screen, you know there’s something different about this than what came before. Edge of Nowhere succeeds in creating this sensation several times throughout the game. While it does use some jump scares, many times I found myself experiencing a feeling of true terror which will be absolutely wonderful for those of you that enjoy horror games. The sense of Presence that VR brings to each monster makes each encounter in Edge of Nowhere feel like a struggle for survival; death is always lurking nearby.
One of my absolute favorite parts about this game was the level design. Climbing ice walls, jumping from spire to spire, and crawling through caves felt like I was really exploring an undiscovered realm. There were many times where I would wonder how high I would have to climb or how deep I would have to go inside a cave, adding to the sense of dread and suspense that already exists within the game. Edge of Nowhere looks beautiful and the environments vary from bleak but stunning ice cliffs to the inside of caves populated with undiscovered flora and fauna. The ability to look around the environment instills a great sense of scale which again adds to the intensity of the experience.
A minor note: I didn’t like that my character would frequently say things like, “this is crazy” or, “out of rocks” when I was literally right behind a monster that uses sound to hunt its prey. In a small way this broke the believability of the moment.
The story is compelling and drives the gameplay forward nicely. During loading screens you get to see exactly what Victor is thinking and occasionally you will get visions of the past to provide some backstory. Journals can be found along the way to help you piece together what happened to the exploration party that has gone missing. The story was enjoyable all the way through; I found myself truly wanting to find Eva and help her and Victor escape this nightmare.
As a third-person VR game, Edge of Nowhere does an excellent job of managing to maintain immersion without sacrificing comfort of the player. The camera, which is fairly far away from the character, is controlled by your head movements and the actual character movement (even at full sprint) is relatively slow. Aiming while shooting your gun or throwing rocks is completely controlled by head movement.
In my 5-6 hour playthrough not once did I feel as though I needed to take a break or experience any discomfort. Some newer VR users may experience discomfort in segments where the player is required to slide up or down a rope in order to advance but most VR users will find the entire experience comfortable.
Since Edge of Nowhere is a seated experience, it uses the Rift’s Xbox One gamepad for controlling movement and interaction. The controls for are as comfortable as any console game, and the buttons are mapped in a way that will be familiar for anyone who has played video games on consoles. Despite not being able to see the gamepad in my hands (due to the Rift worn on my head), after being taught the initial controls I never found myself panicking and accidentally pushing the wrong button due to confusing controls (and you will be panicking often), so cheers to the developers for keeping it simple. Occasionally the controls did not respond as I expected them too. I would sometimes think it easy for my character to grab onto a ledge but he would miss by a mile, which could be frustrating at times but never took away from the overall experience.
We partnered with AVA Direct to create the Exemplar Ultimate, our high-end VR hardware reference point against which we perform our tests and reviews. Exemplar is designed to push virtual reality experiences above and beyond what’s possible with systems built to lesser recommended VR specifications.