NASA-backed ‘Mars 2030’ Now Available – A Beautiful, Educational Trek That’s Rough Around the Edges

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What I’m getting to is this: after hours of testing Mars 2030, I’m still struggling to figure out what is the best way to experience it. It certainly feels like an experience developed with gamepad in mind, but without an obvious camera reset button, it’s practically impossible to use the gamepad when on foot. There’s no obvious solution to the issue of wanting to sit and stand each time you get in and out of the rover, but again, it really needs a quick-access camera reset. Bizarrely, turning with the right stick on a gamepad rotates the avatar body (and HUD), but not the head, another body Presence issue. I’d rather use a gamepad to control the rover, but much rather use motion controllers to pick up rocks. Frankly, the most consistent, least problematic way to play has been on a monitor with a mouse and keyboard. Interestingly, I also felt a small degree of nausea playing it on a monitor too. I’ve played countless first-person games on a monitor without issue; the only other example that caused nausea was The Witness, a possible combination of unusual rotation and movement acceleration, no FOV adjustment, and a lack of crosshair (which was quickly fixed).

Mars 2030 has some strong educational features

Mars 2030 feels unfinished. The menu system is partly broken; not only are the controller maps missing, but the graphics settings don’t seem to register, and it struggles with save slots and checkpoints. The main objective, which involves finding interesting rocks to assess in the Geolab under a microscope, was impossible to finish, as the game would always forget my ‘geolab progress’ each time it crashed, not recognising that I had found samples. Unless more missions unlock after all the Geolab samples are found, it feels like there simply isn’t enough to do, but developer FMG Labs say there could be additional missions in the future.

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Image courtesy FMG Labs

Despite its bugs, Mars 2030 is capable of delivering a remarkably atmospheric experience. Its audio deserves particular mention, with convincing, ambisonic sound effects and a suitably grand musical score performed by the London Symphonic Orchestra. The horn melody that plays out each time you place a flag is magnificent. The voice acting is mediocre, but it is welcome, and educational. The accelerated day-night cycle is spectacular, with shadows casting realistically across the landscape. The distinctive blue sunsets and sunrises have an eerie, magical quality, and the blackness of night is mildly terrifying in a VR headset. If you’re looking for a powerful sense of isolation, this might be the one. The software is at its best when you stand still, stop fighting the controls and simply take in the view.

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Mars 2030 is launching soon on Steam for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift on July 27th and comes to PSVR later this summer. It will cost $15 and will be free for students and educators, as part of the NASA Space Act Agreement.

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  • Raphael

    Just wondering if there has ever been a VR game where reviewer didn’t have dizziness?

    • Wednaud Ronelus

      Lol

    • Wednaud Ronelus

      Lol

  • Get Schwifty!

    They really need to get the bugs and issues worked out – its this kind of thing that makes VR so useful beyond just entertainment. I will never go to Mars in this life, but I am grateful VR at least allows a small taste of what it would be like.

    • Raphael

      I want u to go to mars Schwiffiffy. :)

    • Caven

      But bugginess is realistic! NASA’s had its share of bugs trying to get probes to Mars–some very expensive, embarrassing bugs. ; )

  • Xron

    Looks awesome.
    I just wonder why no1 created a decent game/app where you can relax watching starry sky while talking with friends near the fire…
    Or even just stary sky, if grapchis and star positions would be ok, (relaxing musiv included) I would deffinetelly buy it and would recommend for others non stop.

  • Hacker4748

    “Our lead environment artist actually worked with a NASA geologist to find the correct reflectance factors to really get the materials to be as photorealistic as possible,”

    Ha! He should rather have worked with a… ummm… Marsologist!

  • ShiftyInc

    They first might want to change the name of this game, seeing there already is a game on steam named Mars 2030 for the past year. It always boggles my mind when a team work so hard on a product, but slacks off with all those other things that come with it.

  • ITALI-LORI-MONTI

    altra esperienza…altra fregatura…
    sono già stato fregato 2 volte con le esperienze VR e non mi faccio fregare una terza volta!
    SI DEVONO VERGOGNARE!

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    It’s not on the oculus store so I guess I will never play it. Don’t want to promote that monopolistic Steam bastard. From now on let’s not buy or download on Steam. If they want the other half of the profit they have to come where the money is : oculus store.

    • wheeler

      This is just absurd … Valve/Steam isn’t behaving anti-competitively. And there are plenty of other competitors in the market–they’re just not as good. But Facebook has been taking anti-competitive actions with Oculus Home from the very start.

      On one hand you’re denouncing monopolistic behaviors and IMO this is great. Most gamers take the short-sighted “I don’t give a f*** as long as I get my fix NOW” stance when it comes to who they choose to give their money, so props to you for that. On the other hand you choose to support the company that is taking monopolistic actions in software, hardware, and software market/distribution … over the one that hasn’t for the past 13 years. This doesn’t make any sense.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Closed environments are not by definition “anti-competitive”, that is a serious misunderstanding of what that means in business.

  • Yossarian

    Please let this be moon base alpha 2.0