A-Tech Cybernetic is yet another game that proclaims to be "built from the ground up for VR" for a more polished virtual-world experience.
It features a storyline that thrusts you onto a futuristic biomedical spaceship that's been overrun by hordes of bloodthirsty mutants. With a wiped memory, no clue of who you are or what you're doing there – but an inexplicable number of superhuman powers – you set out on a sci-fi adventure into the depths of the ship.
If this sounds familiar, it's because this sort of storyline isn't terribly original. We've seen it before in virtual reality with Dead Effect 2 VR and Doom VFR. What then, can A-Tech Cybernetic offer, other than its affordable price point?
Will they never learn?
It seems that, once again, scientists have been experimenting with things they shouldn't have been and it's all gone horribly wrong. When will they learn not to play god, eh?
A-Tech Cybernetic kicks off a voice talking to you, telling you that you've assumed control of their body and that they'll give you a series of commands to help you survive. This certainly is an interesting way to kick-start a game with a tutorial that's not standalone. The voice-acting, however, leaves something to be desired - as it's just a tad grating.
Poking around in the first cabin, you explore the basics of movement and controls. Then it's off to explore the ship. It quickly becomes clear that this game follows this tried-and-tested gaming style: there's a lot of "go here, do this", get a keycard, go through a door, kill some mutants, get another keycard, go through a different door. Rinse and repeat.
You soon find weapons to shoot or beat the mutants you come across, and we've been impressed with how well shooting tracks. Indeed, shooting is easy in this game. It might verge on being too easy, but for many players that'll be a "good complaint" to have.
You can only carry two guns at a time, with one holster on each hip. Even though it's more realistic than games like Doom VFR (where you can carry a full-blown arsenal), it feels lacking. There's nowhere to store grenades, for example.
Ammo pick-up is a bit of a hassle, too. You can beam ammo into your hands through some telekinetic powers your character has, but then you have to get it into your ammo belt. This requires two buttons presses which feels excessive and not terribly user-friendly. This action often requires a hand in exactly the right place to get the ammo to register and drop into your inventory rather than onto the floor, which is fiddly to execute.
Reloading, however, is easy – just move your gun to your belt, no need to fiddle with expelling spent clips or manually reloading and cocking guns. This is a refreshing change indeed and the tracking works well too.
There are lots of guns scattered about the depths of the ship, which is a relief. There are pistols, shotguns, machine guns and grenades, as well as a variety of melee weapons to choose from. They use different ammo types, so mixing them up is often key to survival. A pistol in one holster, shotgun in the other and a machine gun in the hand allows for easy play until things get really hairy.
You can extract ammo from them too – so the option is either drop the gun you're using and swap it for a fresh one with a full magazine, or instead take the ammo out before throwing the empty weapon to the floor.
A foreboding atmosphere that fails to frighten
The ship's corridors are dark and eerily lit. This, of course, is intentional. It's meant to make you jump and keep you on edge. Though we rarely found we were scared by the environment as it's hardly the most atmospheric. There are darker parts which are a real struggle to see into, however, which we feel like there should have been more of to add to the tension.
You can acquire a torch to help light the way, but that requires a hand to hold it – and you can't store it on your person without sacrificing one of your gun slots. Therefore you need to choose between carrying it but not being able to dual-wield weapons or rely on your night-vision and hearing, neither of which is perfectly sufficient.
We do like that you can bash enemies with the torch, which is ideal for when you run out of ammo – which you inevitably will in this sort of game. It would have been nice to be able to strap a light source to your head or body to simplify things.
The mutants themselves come in various forms: there are slow lumbering ones; ones that glow green and rush at you; some that are armed with assault rifles and helmets; others teleport out of thin air and are quickly within bashing reach, which presents a pretty serious threat.
In later sections of the game there are larger boss-like baddies that require a larger dose of bullets to kill and can even shield themselves from headshots with an armoured shield.
Like any game of this sort, it's the sheer number of enemies and the lack of ammo that presents the biggest problem. You need to be fast on the trigger if you want to survive, especially in the second chapter where you have to survive waves of enemies before you can progress through a certain section.
Health is regenerated either via medical docks that glow green, or via pills that you'll pick up (but that you can't carry to use later). The result is you're often not only struggling for ammo but for health too.
Progression and gameplay
As we've mentioned already, most of A-Tech Cybernetic's gameplay is made up of rinse-and-repeat tactics. However, there are some puzzles thrown in for good measure – but they aren't terribly taxing, largely just requiring connecting coloured wires to an interface.
If you're experienced in the world of first-person shooters and VR games, then progression through this game shouldn't be too much bother. Movement around the world is actioned by classic beam teleporting – target and click ahead to move to that location – which works pretty smoothly. We didn't encounter any issues with nausea or disorientation, which says something about how well the game is built.
There are just three chapters to play through, however, so the campaign is relatively short. The first chapter took us around 40 minutes to complete. Play time beyond that depends on how you've adapted to the play-style and your shooting ability. We spent around three hours overall and we doubt you'd get much more out of it.
Outside of the main campaign is "Swarm mode" which, as you can imagine, basically involves you being plonked into a room that's suddenly swarming with hordes of mutants coming at you in waves. This mode rewards you with cash for the more enemies you kill. That money then allows you to purchase weapons from consoles around the room.
Other than campaign and Swarm, there's not really any reason to go back and play again. There's the promise of updates in the future, though, which could add yet more worth.
A-Tech Cybernetic VR is an early-access game that certainly shows promise. Sure, the story is hardly an original one, but that doesn't detract from a fun, albeit repetitive, first-person shooter.
We found the in-game tracking and movement mechanics particularly good. It's a smooth and comfortable experience that clearly shows a well-designed game built specifically for VR. No nauseating movement to be found here.
However, the current game is lacking in certain areas. We didn't find it as atmospheric or immersive as it could have been. The narration is grating. And after a while the game holds your hand far too much. There's not much in the way of puzzles or challenges either: going from room to room shooting enemies and finding keycards can get dull rather quickly.
That said, for its £10.99 cover charge, there's a lot to enjoy, making A-Tech Cybernetic a worthwhile purchase if you're looking for a little VR shooting fun. Plus there's the promise of more content in future: the current development plan includes forthcoming co-op and multiplayer modes, which would both be a fantastic addition – especially in Swarm mode.
Alternatives to consider
Sairento VR is another early-access game that really shows off VR's potential. This one has role-playing elements, weaponry upgrades and overall play mechanics that create a wonderfully engaging and long-lasting experience. There's a lot more content than in A-Tech Cybernetic, too, plus a multitude of weapons that don't leave you feeling under-armed constantly.
Read full article: Sairento VR review
Dead Effect 2
With a similar setting onboard a dimly-lit and monster-infested spaceship, Dead Effect 2 is another choice if this genre is your bag. With masses of role-play content, weapons, upgrades and more to keep you coming back for hours and hours, Dead Space wins on sheer volume of content.
Read the full article: Dead Effect 2 VR review