Updated: 19th October 2017

Robo Recall review: Oculus Rift finally gets its killer game

Packed with death bots and funny one-liners, this adrenaline-fueled, Oculus Touch-controlled arcade shooter for the age of VR is so much fun

Ever since its Kickstarter campaign, launch and then Touch-based update, the Oculus Rift has been searching for that killer game exclusive, but now its found it. Robo Recall is finally an Oculus game that is worth playing.

Its made by Epic Games, creators of the Unreal engine, which underpins a big chunk of the virtual reality content available on Facebooks VR platform. Epic started with a solid demo of its engine with Bullet Train, but Robo Recall takes that arcade shooter and turns it up to 11 and for free to anyone who has Oculus Touch controllers.

At its heart, Robo Recall is a light-gun game dragged kicking and screaming into a 21st century VR world. If youve ever played Time Crisis or similar youll know the score: shoot anything that moves.

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Robot helpers go from being nice, friendly, almost charming robotic slaves to leaping machines of death. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The story is pulled straight from Will Smith vehicle I, Robot: in the future humanoid robots walk the streets, do chores and help people in their day to day lives. Theyre all shiny plastic and metal, interconnected and semi-intelligent, but something goes wrong and our helpers go from being nice, friendly, almost charming robotic slaves to leaping machines of death.

Thats where you come in: a recall agent tasked to bring in rogue robots in the only way you know how, blasting them or (more fun) ripping them to bits.

There are three sections of the city with three missions in each for a total of nine separate levels to play. Two missions in each sector are multi-chapter mini-stories, the third is your typical boss battle.

Youre guided through your missions by your robotic-sounding female AI assistant no one say Siri and later by a random male AI assistant that sounds like hes been ripped straight out of a 90s American TV show, who becomes your comedy voiceover.

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Take out the trash by chucking the bots into the vortex. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Broadly speaking there are three different tasks that can constitute a mission. The first is simply shoot everything that moves to clear an area; the second youre tasked with defending a robo relay (antenna thing) from an onslaught of bots, and the third is a capture-them-alive type mission, where you have to shove intact robots into a big vortex thing that sucks them up for analysis. The third is definitely the most fun.

Each mission is a combination of the three gameplay types, but also has certain challenges to complete to be awarded stars, which unlock weapon upgrades.

There are four standard weapon types in the game. A semi-auto handgun, a more powerful revolver, a shotgun and a plasma rifle. Each starts off fairly standard, but as you play you can unlock attachments and upgrades that add things such as a laser sight, recoil dampeners, fast chargers and magazine extensions.

One of the best things about the game is that the weapons feel like they have real weight to them. Their accuracy is wholly dependent on your accuracy. You have to aim down the sights and pull the trigger gently or frantically if a hoard of bots are bearing down on you. I even found that closing one eye while aiming down the sights, as you might if you were target shooting with the real thing, helped with my accuracy. Of course, the shotgun is a more point-in-the-general-direction affair, but you get the gist.

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You didnt need that, right? Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

The only thing more fun than loading up with two pistols with extended magazines and blasting as fast as your fingers can pull the trigger is the second element to the game everything has a handle and can be grabbed.

Robo Recall uses a teleport system to move around the place, which helps avoid VR sickness and becomes another weapon in your armoury. Press the thumbstick on the Oculus Touch, point to the place you want to jump to and rotate the stick to point in the direction you want to face. Normally that means jumping to a new location up the street or on top of a building or car, but you can also jump right up to a robot.

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Aim, point in the desired direction and teleport. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Without guns in your hand you can hold anything with a small white circle highlighting grab point and then use and abuse it. You can punch it, bash it into things, use it as a robot shield against your enemys gunfire, hurl it at a wall or another robot, or into the vortex if thats your mission.

Bullets and missiles can also be grabbed and hurled back at any robot in your way, or if youre skilled with using a gun as a table tennis bat, you can spank the bullets back at the shooter. Its not quite a lightsaber deflecting blaster fire to kill other storm troopers, but it certainly feels like youre wielding the force.

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Who needs guns when you can use their own bullets against them. Return to Sender! Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Each action is accompanied by a game score announcer-style commentary from your 90s TV host AI, as well as quips from the robots themselves (there are even jokes about the internet and cats), and a pumping high-energy guitar soundtrack of the kind you used to get on games such as N64s F-Zero X. You score points by recalling robots, but you get a score multiplier by collecting shards that the robots drop when blown up, which rewards getting up close and personal for some more creative kills.

You cant actually die in the game. You have a life energy that fades to darkness if you get shot too many times in quick succession and then builds back up if you stay out of the line of fire for a little bit. You can also physically dodge bullets if you fancy yourself a bit of a Neo in bullet-time, which is amusing for any onlookers.

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The more shots you can hit a robot with in the air the higher the score – keep firing! Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Although you have set things you have to do in each level, you dont have to do it the way the game makes obvious, which means theres quite a lot of replay value after your initial play through. The arcade elements of the game also lend themselves to pick-up and play just jump into any mission from the level select map and blast away for a few minutes.

It could also work well as a party game, as a running score sidebar is displayed next to a full-screen view of the action on the monitor attached to your PC. Given you can pull off trick shots, funny moves or straight-up pushes for the high score its a potentially interesting game for spectators as well as players.

Robo Recall demonstrates everything that can be good about a great VR experience. The Oculus Touch controllers come into their own in hand-to-robot action as much as they do as gun analogues.

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Robots make excellent human android shields. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Right from the off, its an adrenaline-pumping arcade experience that replicates everything I used to love about light-gun games, and adds a level of immersion that Ive not managed to get in any other VR experience. No matter how silly it gets, you feel like youre right in there, and at no moment did it make me feel sick.

The irony is that its one of only a handful of VR games Ive found worth paying for, but its free for anyone with an Oculus Touch so you dont need to. Its so good that I think its genuinely worth buying a set of Oculus Touch controllers just to play, which I certainly cant say for many of the VR titles out there at the moment.

Robo Recall is an almost perfect VR arcade experience. The only downside is that the cost of entry for Oculus Rift and Touch even with a new lower price of 598 is still too high for many, when you include the cost of the PC needed to run it. But thats not the games fault.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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