Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2017 is here, and Oculus is showing off a bevy of exclusive games that are due out sometime later this year. Among them was an entirely new level of ARTIKA.1, a sci-fi shooter from 4A Games‘ Malta-based studio that aims to get gun freaks excited as you plug away at human raiders and horrific creatures alike with an arsenal of customizeable futuristic weapons.
The demo begun in the passenger seat of a military vehicle, sitting beside my companion Viktoria and driving through the icy desert wasteland. Approaching our Russian outpost, we pass several guards. They seem friendly for badass gun-totting sentries and joke with Viktoria as we move closer into the protected confines of the huge base, a place I later learned would be my new home and consequently house the entirety of the game’s action.
Snow is pouring down and the windshield wipers are sluffing off melted snow, a detail that steals my attention away from the massive downed military airplanes to my right, a relic from earlier times before the world went topsy turvy. I roll my window down with my outstretched finger to give the final guard Viktoria’s ID from the glove box. It’s windy outside and the vehicle’s engine is purring loudly. It’s a harsh place and I instinctively roll the window back up to return my attention to the quietness of the car and my guide’s explanation of the world around me. The demo hasn’t even really started and I’m already blown away at the little things, the level of care that 4A Games has taken in getting you acquainted with the world while listening to what could have been a boring monologue in a conventional flat screen game’s opening cutscene.
Once inside the base, we slip into a vehicle bay and get out, my first taste of the new level’s locomotion scheme. A ghostly outline of a man appears standing in front of a circuit breaker a few meters from me. I zap to the pre-determined spot, pull down a lever to get the bay’s electricity going and similarly zap over to the elevator for my weapon’s training. All of this interaction happens while I remain front-facing, something required by the Rift’s two-sensor setup.
Next I’m put through my paces with the guns, something we got a crack the first time we saw ARTIKA.1 at Oculus Connect 3. I toss red dot scopes onto a powerful blaster rifle, paint it a white camo color and grab another gun that charges up to release a powerful laser bolt and throw on a thermal sight. The developers say you’ll be able to scavenge these parts throughout the game and even build an entire weapon from scratch, something that promises to be ‘particularly impressive.’
Shooting is easy, pull the trigger and reload by lowering your gun to your side—but I was more interested in was how the game’s locomotion system informed level design. Moving around the starting level, an ancient military transport plane from earlier, I noticed a few ghostly outlines to choose from. A blue outline appears on a teleport node that has adequate cover and a yellow outline indicates no cover. It’s your choice really which one to search for, so you can go in guns a-blazing or stick back and line up your targets for a more efficient take down. But there aren’t infinite teleport options, only a few you’re presented during fire fights, and ones clearly created to move you forward through the level (in front of doors, code panels, displays, etc).
There are a few puzzles to solve as well, although I didn’t encounter any that were especially hard. In one instance a key code was written on the wall behind me, the number 18Ɛ. I foolishly plugged in 183 to the code panel which resulted in an error message. Realizing the 3 was actually backwards, I then typed in the correct code of 381 to open the door I needed.
I’m tempted to call it a wave shooter based on the fact that most areas have at least 2 waves of enemies, but I don’t really feel comfortable reducing it to that due to its constant forward movement. The teleportation mechanic, although limiting somewhat for immersion, creates interesting bottlenecks that you have to navigate and helps keep the game’s pacing consistent. Some may call teleportation an outright minus to the game immersion-wise, but I found it refreshing, almost creating a gameplay style similar to the Halo franchise’s campaign mode.
And while it won’t have the same reach as Halo, ARKTIKA.1 is undoubtedly playing in the same ballpark, and we can’t wait to get our hands on the full game, planned to launch exclusive to Oculus Touch in Q3 2017.