EVE: Gun­jack

EDGE - - GAMES -

Gear VR

Sur­pris­ingly, it’s not the eyes that com­plain the loud­est, de­spite be­ing asked to gaze into a stereo­scopic dis­play inches away from our corneas. Nor is it the neck, which is bear­ing the weight of the Gear VR head­set while the head jerks back and forth to line up enemy tar­gets in our sight. No, the dis­com­fort is in the right shoul­der, the re­sult of an ex­tended play ses­sion tap­ping our right in­dex fin­ger to our tem­ples. On the right side of the Gear VR hard­ware is a small touch­pad. When pressed, it fires our guns; a back­ward swipe reloads, and a for­ward one de­ploys spe­cial weapon pick­ups. At first, we feel like Marvel’s Cy­clops. A few hours later, we feel like his arthritic grand­dad.

Still, it’s in­tox­i­cat­ing stuff, at least early on. En­e­mies ar­rive in waves, and must be dealt with quickly – take a hit and the score mul­ti­plier, which builds with con­sec­u­tive kills up to a max­i­mum of x10, will be re­set to zero. Cer­tain en­e­mies fire hom­ing mis­siles, which can be shot down, but the minute a reg­u­lar bul­let leaves an op­po­nent’s craft, you can kiss good­bye to your mul­ti­plier. Take too many hits and it’s not game over; in­stead you can con­tinue up to three times, though each one con­sumed will re­duce the end-of-level pay­out.

Spe­cial weapons give quick boosts to the mul­ti­plier.

Smart bombs and hom­ing mis­siles will quickly clear the screen for you; the large, spher­i­cal statis web slows en­e­mies caught in its ra­dius. The pick of the bunch is the ar­tillery blast, which will catch an en­tire wave in the splash dam­age pro­vid­ing you can hit some­thing with it. Know­ing when to use them is key, of course, and Gun­jack is built on the no­tion that you’ll want to re­play each level mul­ti­ple times, hon­ing your per­for­mance.

It’s clas­sic ar­cade-shooter de­sign, but also the game’s down­fall. As the dif­fi­culty builds, with cloak­ing and tele­port­ing ships an al­most con­stant threat, the ap­peal fades con­sid­er­ably as you re­alise that this is mostly a game of mem­ory gained through rep­e­ti­tion.

And while most mo­bile games use the three-star rat­ing as an op­tional pur­suit for the com­mit­ted player, here it’s used as a road­block to ev­ery­one. It drives the level un­lock sys­tem, forc­ing you back to try to per­fect the early stages be­fore you can move on to the next. One mis­take can ruin a run, and many of them won’t even be your own, the touch­pad of­ten in­ter­pret­ing a reload swipe as an in­struc­tion to fire an empty mag­a­zine, or ig­nore your re­quest to fire a spe­cial weapon.

How would Wii sales have fared had Wii Sports ten­nis only been un­locked af­ter you’d bowled a per­fect game? This early in VR’s resur­gence, games should only dare ask for per­fec­tion if they’re pro­vid­ing us the tools with which to re­li­ably achieve it.

The hulk­ing ships you face in boss bat­tles are, oddly, less chal­leng­ing than the fast, nim­ble drones that ap­pear in the late game. De­bris knocked loose mid-fight is hoovered up and at­tached to your craft to boost your de­fenses

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