Loading Human is a first-person sci-fi adventure that, much like the pulp fiction space operas of years gone past, puts you in the shoes of a charming 22nd century astronaut straight out of space academy. Instead of launching into the far reaches of the known galaxy though, you’re ordered to report to your father’s polar base to help him recover the Quintessence, a powerful energy source that can reverse his rapidly declining health.


Loading Human Details:

Official Site
Developer:
 Untold Games
Publisher: Maxmimum Games
Available On: PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift (Steam)
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
Release Date: October 13th, 2016


Gameplay

Loading Human is, to put it bluntly, the epitome of male fantasy. As the virile, young Prometheus, you awaken in the bachelor pad of your dreams overlooking an Antarctic wonderland. You’ve been alone in the base for six months now and you’ve been drinking yourself into a stupor waiting for Origin to finally launch, the ship that will take you to Quintessence.

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the split-level polar bachelor pad

You, the player, come to find out that your father Dorian and best girl Alice are cryogenically frozen in one of the base’s underground labs. Picking up Alice’s picture placed on top of her cryo-chamber, you’re transported to the past where you relive everything from the first encounters (of the flirtatious kind) to the moments in the game that piece together why your father needs the Quintessence, and what you have to do along the way to forward the story.

Now, I don’t have a bone to pick with transparently masculine fantasies like Loading Human on principle. But suffice it to say, if you’re turned off by Captain Kirk-levels of swagger and cheesy mid-century sexual innuendo (“we can start by getting you out of that protective suit”) and going in for a kiss after saving the helpless maiden from a fiery explosion, then this game might not be for you.

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loading-human-kiss
going in for the kiss

And yes, the kiss is a scripted element in the game, and not something I’m making up. I don’t just go around kissing people in video games. Either way, it’s safe to say it left an impression on me. Not good, not bad, just an impression.

To use a lazy metaphor: Loading Human is like a shoe. I’m not saying the shoe is inherently bad or wrong for being specifically designed to fit males 13+, but it’s important to know that sometimes the shoe just won’t fit certain foot sizes—which is a pity in a way, because even though we can now inhabit fiction in the first-person thanks to VR headsets, developers are still constrained by the technology and must choose between two imperfect methods of weaving stories around you.

what... what do I do with my hands
“Don’t peek in on me while I take a bath, Prometheus. Oh, and don’t look through the giant keyhole when I’m getting changed”

Right now, NPC AI just isn’t ‘smart’ enough to respond to your actual wants and needs as a real live person, so devs either let you inhabit the body of a tabula rasa—a completely featureless character with no voice or opinions—or a fully fleshed-out person with their own wants and desires. It just so happens you’ve inhabited the body of a horndog.

So if you can consider all of the above to be subjective—either you click with it, or you don’t—below is where you’ll find the nuts and bolts of the first chapter of Loading Human.

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dear old dad, Dorian Baarick

Puzzles, while mostly standard fare (i.e. ‘get that and put it in the slot’), begin to feel arbitrary at certain points. For some reason your memory is corrupted, and you’re prompted at random times to rebuild it whilst tossed in a computerized wiremesh version of the scene. You do this by linking objects together in reverse chronological order, i.e. the tea went into the cup, but Alice boiled the water before that, and put water in the kettle before that, etc… The visual aspect of this is impressive, but it really has nothing to do with the story or how I perceive it unfolding around me. This is when Loading Human: Chapter 1 breaches immersion, and makes me feel like I’m twiddling my thumbs to stretch 2 hours of solid narrative into a slow, and often times tedious 4.

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Speaking of slow: walking is painfully slow. If you forget something in the hydroponics bay, heaven help you, because you’ll be trudging for what seems like a lifetime.

Immersion

Good level design like Loading Human’s is awesome for immersion, but something that really detracts from the twinkling northern lights and the svelte interiors is clearly the locomotion scheme.

I first tried playing through with my HTC Vive because I wanted to really interact with the world’s objects using the Vive controllers. Sadly, the locomotion system is so borked that moving around became an insurmountable pain. To move forward, you depress the touchpad of either Vive wand—simple enough. To snap-turn left or right (there is no smooth turning) you then must point in your desired direction, which isn’t entirely consistent. To add to your frustration, if you decide to stand for more immersion (it’s considered a seated game), leaving your wand in a neutral position by your sides automatically activates crouch, so playing in a chair with good arms to rest your elbows on is a must at this point.

loading-human-05

Continuing on with a gamepad seemed like the only way to finish and enjoy the game, which worked with varying amounts of success. Picking up items with a gamepad trigger just isn’t satisfying.

Another big factor in immersion is how you connect to characters, and I’m happy to report that voice acting is light years beyond what we saw in the pre-release GDC trailers, which was heavily accented—no doubt one-time placeholders voiced by the Italian developers themselves.

The game’s two NPCs, Alice and Dorian, are convincing enough, but they do fly dangerously close to the uncanny valley for complete comfort. You can see glimmers of humanity in both, but every now and then you can catch a plastic smile, or unnatural grimace.

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Comfort

Snap-turn, whether you’re a fan or not, is the reigning method of traversing Loading Human, and it’s proven time and time again to be one of the most comfortable ways of getting around first-person games.

Your head and body orientation, however, are uncoupled in Loading Human, meaning if you swivel your chair to look left, right or behind, your virtual body won’t move in that direction. The only problem is if you’re moving forward and see something interesting, you can’t just look in that direction and simply press forward; you have to virtually move your point of view using the snap-turn function, meaning you’ll always have to be psychically facing forward to walk smoothly through the world. This can be a pain, and you’ll notice it taking effect when your in-game body slows down because you’ve been veering off to the left or right of center.

Level design has very few stairs or inclines, so you’re mostly left on a horizontal plane with elevators to take you between levels. This is important, because even the most comfortable game locomotion-wise but with too many stairs (or worse, spiral staircases) can really get your stomach in a knot.

‘Loading Human’ on Steam

‘Loading Human’ for PS VR on Amazon

Summary

Loading Human wants you to create a bond with the characters of the world, but forces you to do it in a way that comes off as ham-handed and involuntary. Both writing and voice acting are better than average, and the world is almost always beautifully rendered, but this is dampened by inconsistent locomotion and cumbersome object interaction.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
5

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  • DougP

    Bummer for Vive owners that this game’s design was hobbled by the likes of Sony VR & Oculus limitations. Sadly, it seems that ports from those systems will require a lot of re-work to become a fully immersive VR experience on a room-scale ( or standing / 360-degree ) experience.

    • AndyP

      What limitations of Oculus? Hand controllers, or room scale (both out Dec 6th)? Please all stop slagging off other VR systems as this isn’t a zero-sum game (“my stick is bigger than yours” BS): for VR to be successful, for all our benefit, we need Vive, Oculus, PSVR inter alia to be a success. The unnecessary limitation in this game is that the movement is not free (in this case the turning – God why?!), although it’s entirely possible and playable as I’ve just found with Solus Project for example. So tired of fan boys.

      • DougP

        Re: “So tired of fan boys.”
        I am too.
        However, you’re completely & incorrectly attributing that label to me.
        I’ve been involved with VR tech & an enthusiast, completely agnostic of *brand* (i.e. fanboy) most likely longer than you (going back many years before DK1).
        I’ve owned & operated from Oculus DK1 through to Google’s cardboard & Oculus-involved GearVR (still use to demo when I’m on road), as well as owning Vive.
        So….please – skip the “fanboy rhetoric” & save it for someone that fits.

        The funny thing is that it makes YOU sound like a fanboy for falsely/wrongly jumping to that conclusion.

        Now…onto the facts/point I was making…& to correct your misinformation.
        Re: “What limitations of Oculus?”
        I thought it would be self evident or clear from my point.
        But since you apparently aren’t aware, I’ll enumerate for you:
        1) The Oculus does NOT have room-scale or motion controllers at present – you do realize that this game has been released, correct?
        2) More importantly – Oculus has shipped with xbox controllers (again not supportive of motion control). These are the ONLY CONTROLLERS a dev, creating a new game, can guarantee a Rift owner will OWN [ who knows how many will buy touch, particularly as room-scale equiv w/Rift is more expensive than Vive. Some might jump ship or keep Rift just for seated experience ]

        You also realize that Oculus has encouraged devs to develop for seated & even in case of standing – 180-degree experiences? Yet another hobbling/restriction on VR, similar to what Sony’s done.
        However, Oculus is for PC, the same as Vive, so I’m more concerned about Oculus’ mistakes impacting PC gaming.
        IF – BOTH major PC VR manufacturers had SHIPPED with motion controllers (& preferably also support for room-scale) PC gaming would NOT be hobbled by this.

        Plain & simple!

        Re: “Please all stop slagging off other VR systems”
        I “slag off” anyone for making bad decision which adversely affect the VR marketplace.
        See, I’m “equal opportunity” analysing this – if HTC/Valve or someone else made some big mistake, I’d be slamming them.

        So basically Oculus has helped screw over PC gamers.
        Where we would’ve seen console (i.e. Sony @ this point) being the more-likely-seated & 180-degree experiences, more PC game devs would’ve been encouraged to support standing/360-degree & room-scale!
        Now devs have to worry about Oculus’ own fragmented market.
        So ….Oculus’ decision has hobbled devs.

        I seriously don’t get how Oculus apologists don’t get this?
        Instead of using logic you stoop to ad hominem & calling me a “fanboy”.

        So tired of ignorant apologists who can’t understand or accept valid critiques without erroneously launching into accusations or hurling ad hominems because they don’t want to accept the facts surrounding the current state of VR.

      • M0rdresh

        How about the limitation of your virtual arms chopped off until 6 December, is that a clear enough?

    • Bob

      Loads of other games that take advantage of the room-scale features provided by the Vive. And even now the Rift has the Touch launching soon so games designed with room-scale in mind will be more frequent and I’m looking forward to seeing what Oculus Studios have in the pipeline.

  • james harrison

    I just want to say that, regardless of the game’s other qualities, “Loading Human” is a TERRIBLE title.

  • El Badseed

    Tried to play this on PSVR, the movement control is horrible.

  • shilo

    I actually had to stop playing this game because even with dramamine it made me sick. It was the first time in my life where a video game litteraly made me puke. Plus the controls and story stink.

  • M0rdresh

    The developers have confirmed on Steam they are working on HTC VIVE support and a different locomotion.