Dead Se­cret GearVR, PS3, PS4, Rift

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Ro­bot In­vader For­mat GearVR, Rift (tested), PS3, PS4 Re­lease Out now

Though playable on flat screens, Ro­bot In­vader’s cu­ri­ous mur­der mys­tery has, ac­cord­ing to the de­vel­oper’s web­site, been de­signed as a vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. In­deed, given the height­ened sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity you’ll feel as you in­ves­ti­gate a mur­der scene and a se­ries of in­creas­ingly more dis­turb­ing su­per­nat­u­ral events, it would be a shame to play the game in any­thing other than its in­tended form.

Cast as up-and-com­ing jour­nal­ist Pa­tri­cia Gable, you em­bark on a firstper­son puz­zle ad­ven­ture look­ing into the re­cent death of Har­ris Bullard – a man with enough en­e­mies to sug­gest foul play. It takes place en­tirely within the grounds of a moder­ately sized farm house and its out­build­ings, and while you’ll ini­tially be fun­nelled by awk­wardly placed packing boxes and locked doors, soon there’s a good deal to ex­plore.

You nav­i­gate by click­ing on the ob­ject you want to stand next to and are then ei­ther spir­ited over to it via a slow-paced on-rails saunter, or – if you’ve switched to Com­fort mode – warp in­stantly to the spot. While the lat­ter is in­tended for those with greater sen­si­tiv­ity to move­ment in VR, us­ing it also sig­nif­i­cantly ups the pace of the game, and as a re­sult we soon aban­don the pa­tience-test­ing walk­ing an­i­ma­tions. The need to find spe­cific spots you can stand in can make nav­i­gat­ing some of the busier spa­ces that ap­pear later in the game frus­trat­ing, but over­all it’s an ef­fec­tive de­sign that makes Dead Se­cret per­fectly suited for use with the Ocu­lus Re­mote. Func­tion­ing like a mouse pointer in 3D space, it proves to be a par­tic­u­larly com­fort­able way to play (see ‘Re­mote pos­si­bil­ity’).

Much less pleas­ant are your en­coun­ters with a stalk­ing pres­ence that wants to add your chalk out­line to the house’s ex­ist­ing one. Your paths cross in­fre­quently, which mostly poses no real dan­ger, but on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions you need to es­cape or hide. Th­ese mo­ments are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the game at its best and worst: the chill­ing prox­im­ity of an ag­gres­sor clos­ing in on you in vir­tual space will turn your stom­ach, but the pre­scribed na­ture of the se­quences – which sug­gest choice but ac­tu­ally only have one so­lu­tion – and the re­sul­tant need to re­play them un­der­mines their power.

More con­sis­tent is the creep­ing sense of dread through­out, an at­mos­phere that’s built on Ro­bot In­vader’s pref­er­ence for slow re­al­i­sa­tion over jump scares. The story, too, does a great job of pulling you fur­ther into the world and, while the voice act­ing falls far short of pre-em­i­nent genre ex­em­plars such as Gone Home and Soma, as with every­thing else in the game your con­nec­tion to it is en­hanced to a sur­pris­ing de­gree by ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it through VR.

There’s a great deal to in­ter­act with in Dead Se­cret’s en­vi­ron­ments – even the cush­ions can be lifted in the course of your in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Be­ing able to bend down and look un­der­neath things in­creases your im­mer­sion

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