Damaged Core is a first-person shooter from High Voltage Software that’s offering a unique solution to one of the biggest problems facing first-person games in VR today—locomotion. And while the game’s own brand of teleportation may take more than a minute to explain, the results culminate in a fast-paced, explosive jaunt through a large futuristic battlefield that will have you spanning the entire map with ease, and a deadly purpose.
Off in the not-too-distant future an artificial super intelligence has emerged, the Core, and it’s not the enlightened nanny-bot 5000 that we hoped it would be—more like the malicious AI that Elon Musk and Bill Gates have been warning us about.
As the game’s human-friendly AI, your quest is to fight the Core by hacking into its robot foot soldiers, letting you effectively leap frog your way across the map through the bodies of the robot army and using them as fixed nodes for your disembodied consciousness. And while the game’s locomotion scheme is useful for getting you from place to place, it instantly becomes apparent that your new found ability comes with some added tactical benefits.
The demo I played at the pre-GDC Oculus press event was one of your standard FPS ‘protect the whatever’ mission, in this case a drop ship from the rebel faction. Navigating through a series of broken buildings by way of hacked robot enemies and a friendly (and suspiciously convenient) non-combatant camera drone, I made my way to football field-size opening featuring a ton of incoming bots attacking the ship. Up until then I only had command of a single robot type, a laser rifle-firing human robot that had the ability to zoom in with its sniper scope.
And that’s when the demo started throwing new classes of robots at me—a robot with a shotgun, a hard-to-hack giant bot with a powerful laser, flying bots—all streaming in from behind broken buildings and beaming in from wherever their offsite base was. This is where the game makes use of teleportation not only as a story-cohesive way of getting around the map, but as a method of forcing you to use it tactically. You begin to see the benefit of hacking a bot behind an enemy group, or a lone laser sniper across the map so you can pick off belligerents attacking your drop ship. Big laser bots are menacing until you can destroy their jammers and pop into their braincases for a massive blow to the smaller bots below.
I played the game standing up with the supplied Xbox One gamepad, admittedly not my first choice for a first-person shooter in VR, or my second or third choice for that matter. The game is really engaging despite the gamepad, and I even forgot for a moment that I was dealing with a gaze-based aiming system—normally something I hate using based on my firm belief that the human neck isn’t supposed to be used as a fine-pointing device. While Damaged Core would certainly benefit massively from reliable hand controllers and abandonment of gaze-reticles in general, it’s still massively fun to have your robot shot to death and jump into the body of a new host across the map at the last second, something that actually a necessity to move along in the game. Even if I’ll be playing with a little begrudgingly with a gamepad, I’ll still be playing.
What we saw at the pre-GDC Oculus event made a strong case for expansive teleportation-based first-person shooters, and while the 20 minute demo I played never once felt gimmicky, the long-term success of it will weigh heavily on unique mission types that exclusively use the teleportation mechanism as a core game mechanic. Repatterning the game off of existing FPS tropes could force the title to rely on the ‘giant crowd of bots’ trick I saw in the demo to give you full map coverage, which although fresh and engaging now, could leave you feeling like you’re playing the same ‘protect the thing for some reason’ mission over and over. I only played the tutorial and first mission though, and I look forward to discovering what’s next in the game.
Damaged Core is an Oculus exclusive that’s been slated for an unspecified spring release. No pricing information has yet been made available to the public, but we’ll be keeping an eye on the game in the next few months to see just where it goes.