It was back at the end of 2015 that Epic Games Founder Tim Sweeney teased “something much bigger” than the VR tech demos the company has done in the past. Now the company plans to launch Robo Recall, the evolution of their critically acclaimed Bullet Train tech demo. We’ve played it and it’s awesome (and beautiful).
Last year at Oculus Connect 2015, Epic revealed the Bullet Train tech demo for Oculus Touch. Now at Connect 2016, the company has revealed Robo Recall, an Oculus Touch exclusive arcade FPS and spiritual successor to that tech demo. In Robo Recall, you’ll be blasting robots left and right right, tearing enemies limb from limb, and generally wreaking satisfying arcade FPS havoc.
Robo Recall is built entirely around Oculus Touch and will be exclusive to the platform; Oculus funded the title and plans to release it for free in Q1 2017.
With Touch, guns are a natural gameplay mechanic, and Robo Recall is full of them. With Epic’s characteristically impressive design, the weapons you’ll wield in the game are satisfying from their look to their sound, right down to the way they blow enemies to pieces. Waves of killer robots will be on the receiving end of your firepower, but this isn’t the gritty serious action of Call of Duty, it’s an arcade slugfest where a high score underlines the action.
To get a sense of the sort of arcade styling of the game here’s an example: You start with two basic pistols holstered at your hips; once their clips are spent, instead of reloading with a new magazine, you’re encouraged to simply throw them aside, as a new pair will simply be teleported to your holsters. It’s virtual, wasteful, debauchery of the best sort. Then there’s the flashy points that pop up over enemies’ heads when you blast them apart, and a narrator highlighting moves like “headshot!”.
And there’s more to do than just shoot. If a robot wanders close enough, you can reach out and grab it, then proceed to tear it limb from robotic limb.
Holding on to one part of the bot, you’ll see white dots appear on other vulnerable parts, with you off hand you can reach out and just shear the piece off, then of course use it to beat the rest of the thing to pieces. And when you’re all done, don’t forget to throw that sad, lonely limb at another robot for some juicy points. Developers behind Robo Recall told me that this feature came directly from people’s natural reaction to reach out to grab or punch enemy robots when they got near in Bullet Train.
Returning from Bullet Train is the bullet-dodging functionality where the world will go into slow motion when incoming bullets are about to hit you. And yes, you can still grab a bullet out of the air and launch it back at your assailant like a superhero.
In the Robo Recall demo I got to play with Oculus Touch at Connect, I tore through enemy robots with guns, fists, and even a giant mini-boss-bot that I was able to board and control, using it’s huge arms to grab and smash enemies and the laser cannon on its right arm. At one point I nabbed a robot who strolled too close, launched it into the air, and then proceeded to blast it out of the sky like laser skeet.
Navigation is handled with a teleportation mechanic where you point to where you want to move to and then use the Touch controller’s left stick to rotate the teleportation cursor to the direction you want to face when you move. When it works, it works well, but there’s stuff some user-control related issues that sometimes get you turned around away from the frontal tracking cameras. It’s something Epic says they’re still working to perfect.
There’s no denying Epic’s game development talent, and their work in VR is no different. Across the board, Robo Recall is visually and sonically polished to a sheen (just wait until you see those pretty reflections), and the game oozes with feedback that elevates it from what could be a generic VR FPS into something much more visceral.
The sum of the experience is satisfying action-packed fun. Grab a robot, rip the gun out of its hand, then blow its head off and use the corpse as a shield.
The game isn’t just fun, also impressively beautiful. That’s the norm for pretty much anything Epic has set their minds (and their impressive Unreal Engine) to, but Robo Recall in particular uses some new tech from Epic to look extra sharp in VR.
Epic Game’s Nick Whiting told me that the company wrote a new forward-renderer to eek out extra graphical detail in VR. Partly based on Oculus’ work, the renderer opens up the door to MSAA in VR which Whiting says really enhances the sharpness of geometry which is especially noticeable in VR thanks to stereoscopy.
The free Robo Recall, which will be released in Q1 2017, will have three environments with three missions easy. The game isn’t so much campaign as it is a score-attack and wave-like shooter, but Epic promises we’ll see mini-bosses and mini-events (like ‘kill the most enemies in 2 minutes’) to spice things up. The company is aiming for two to four hours of gameplay with Robo Recall.