We're not computers, Sebastian; we're physical.
Robo Recall is available for Oculus Rift.
Those pesky robots are at it again. A group of them decided it would be fun to torch a couple of cars and spray paint some insightful messages on the concrete walls of our otherwise pristine city, and now there's a full recall in order for the all offending models, guilty or not. That doesn't sit well with all the bots haven't committed any crimes, and recall agents have been radioed in to report for duty.
In my dingy apartment I load up, choose a part of the city to teleport to, and then I'm on my own in a neighborhood. Judging by the pistons visible through my gloves, I'm pretty sure I'm also a robot, but that doesn't matter much. I am Agent 34, and I am here to recall as many robots as I can.
Dealing with the hype of Robo Recall
Ever since VR enthusiasts everywhere saw the first Robo Recall trailer, there's been a build-up of hype surrounding it; this seems to be the norm for AAA titles these days. As we've seen countless times, the release doesn't always bring to fruition what the trailers and news promised. Robo Recall does not suffer the same fate, and in fact seems to have delivered on its promises. As I sit here writing this review, all I want to do is play more Robo Recall, which is a testament to how much fun the gameplay is, even after you've completed the campaign.
The story itself is spread out over nine missions; there are three missions in three different parts of the city. You start on the ground and eventually move to the rooftops where you'll make a final stand against Odin, the mechanized meme-lord (you'll see) responsible for all the trouble in the city. From the get-go, the soundtrack pumps out some retro tunes to get you going, and from there it's a wild ride that will leave you out of breath and sweating.
You'll be playing Robo Recall for a long time
Completing all missions will probably take you about four hours, but that's only if you hit the bare minimum requirements for moving on to the next level. These minimum requirements are your primary objectives and will make you collect enough samples, recall a certain number of robots at a certain point in the game, or protect pacifying towers known as Robo Relays. Each mission has a set of secondary objectives that, when completed, give you a star to unlock new weapons and attachments for those weapons.
Secondary objectives range from amassing a certain number of points, finishing a level without firing a weapon, and tossing enough robots into giant fans. The secondary objectives are different enough and challenging enough to keep you going back repeatedly, even if you just keep trying to unlock a specific star. To add to the variety, you can choose to replay the level in a night or day setting.
On your primary monitor (or if you're streaming) there is a live scoreboard keeping a tally of your current amount of points and your actual position on the worldwide leaderboard. This lends itself incredibly well to Robo Recall's role in the overall VR community, and the leaderboard itself is a good reason to keep going back to try for a higher score.
Adding even more replayability is All Star mode, which is unlocked when you've completed all secondary objectives in a mission. All Star mode gives robots more health, makes them faster, and seems to reduce the amount of slow-mo that automatically happens. A separate leaderboard is provided here, as scores will generally be lower — it's a struggle just to get through the match, nevermind getting a high score.
Robo Recall is a modder's dream
From day one, Robo Recall has been completely open to mod support, and the result is a growing list of mods only a few days after release. Some of the first were locomotion options for room-scale, 360-degree players, but there are weapon mods and skins in the works as we speak.
Because of the relatively open-ended design of Robo Recall, it will be interesting to see what modders can come up with, and this again only adds to the replayability.
A wild, hilarious, violent ride
So what's the actual gameplay like? Robo Recall is like a lot of other VR shooters where you're alone against mobs of robots or zombies, but there so far hasn't been a game this utterly satisfying.
The standard mode of movement is through teleportation. You hit a thumbstick on your Touch controller, point to a spot you want to move to, and rotate the stick to choose where you'll be facing when you teleport. It takes a few tries to get used to, but it works well for players without a 360-degree setup. Once you've become practiced, you'll be teleporting around the map fast and with precision — the game constantly reminds you not to stay still, and to rack up points you really do need to keep moving.
Teleporting behind robots, grabbing them by their handles — Why did they give them handles? — and ripping their heads, arms, and legs off is more fun than it should be. The tension from the cables connecting their parts is realistic, and the shooting sparks and "Uh-oh" exclamations when a head is removed is perverse and something you'll want to do as much as possible.
In the bottom-left corner of your view is a multiplier, which fills up as you collect the microchips dropped by downed robots. Melee kills award the most chips, which, again, promotes the whole head-removal-by-hand thing. If you happen to get hit by a bullet or a robo-punch, your multiplier drops, so you want to move around or deflect bullets.
You can't deflect bullets with your hands — that is reserved for your guns and is actually a secondary objective in one mission — but you can grab bullets, shotgun shot, and rockets of the air and throw them back at robots. There are plenty of times where you'll turn to look at what is beside you, only to see bullets streaking through the air in the automatic slo-mo Robo Recall does so well. If you don't want to squat or bend backward like Neo, you can deflect, teleport, or throw bullets back.
When you aren't deflecting bullets and ripping robots apart with your bare hands, you'll be using pistols, revolvers, shotguns, and energy rifles. Instead of a classic reload function — and because you'll be duel-wielding most of the time — you just drop your empty guns and grab new ones from your hip or shoulder holsters. You can, of course, use your empty weapons to bash robots, and a late-game upgrade for the energy rifle actually causes it to explode when thrown.
There are countless other little gameplay tidbits, like being able to reload a gun by bouncing it off a robot and grabbing it again out of the air, that makes Robo Recall seem so frenetic and deep.
The enemies are unique
The first few missions in Robo Recall have you face off against some pretty basic enemies who use either their fists or simple pistols. As you move through the game, these bots will learn to use better weapons and you'll encounter a few bosses or elite enemies. These range from shield-bearers to rocket bots to concentrated-laser bots. The really cool thing about these special bots (aside from the shield-bearers) is that you can grab onto them and use their special abilities against other bots.
For example, one of my favorite things to do is grab a missile-launcher bot in each hand, use their payload against other enemies, and let them fly off and crash into each other. If at first a secondary objective that wants you to beat a mission without firing your weapons seems impossible, the slowly revealed extras, like being able to grab bots and fire their weapons, really are a treat.
What more can be said?
Considering Robo Recall is free for anyone with Oculus Touch, there really isn't much of a reason to not, at least, give it a try. The robo-violence might not be for everyone, but you might still get a kick out of the humor and incredible graphics. Vive players can also get in on Robo Recall by using Revive, but they'll have to pay the modest $30.
Overall, the level of polish here is refreshing, and the open and encouraged modding makes us antsy for what the future holds. As far as shooters on the Oculus Rift go, this sets a new standard and represents most, if not all, of the things we love about VR.
- Polished, detailed, and beautiful
- Frenetic action
- Variety of enemies and weapons
- Full mod support
- Stock locomotion isn't great for 360-degree Rifting