The Climb

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Rift

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The great­est trick of The Climb, whether by ac­ci­dent or de­sign, is that you’ll feel like you’ve been on a real rock face af­ter an ex­tended ses­sion. In or­der to as­cend the game’s ver­tigo-in­duc­ing routes you sim­ply look at the hold you want to grab, then squeeze ei­ther the left or right trig­ger de­pend­ing on which hand you’re us­ing. Your free hand moves wher­ever you aim your gaze, but leav­ing only one hand on the rock will erode your stamina. You can re­cover by grasp­ing with both hands, and you can slow the loss of stamina by us­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate shoul­der but­ton to chalk up. Bril­liantly, you can also slightly re­lease a trig­ger to loosen your grip, pre­serv­ing your stamina but risk­ing a fall. De­spite the fact that nei­ther arms nor legs are rep­re­sented on­screen, this is a much more con­vinc­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tion of climb­ing than we’re ac­cus­tomed to see­ing in games.

It’s also ter­ri­fy­ing. While most holds are within arm’s reach, some will need to be leapt to by tap­ping A to jump. Other times you’ll need to drop down to a ledge that can’t be reached by stretch­ing. And then there are the crum­bling, thorny and tech­ni­cal holds that re­quire quick move­ment and care­ful man­age­ment of your stamina. The game in­cludes three lo­ca­tions, each with three routes rated by dif­fi­culty, and there’s an in­fi­nite climb­ing wall, which builds around you as you progress. You can tackle any of the main stages in Tourism mode if you just want to ex­plore, or you can pick a time from the leader­board and at­tempt to beat the ghostly hands of the player who posted the run.

But de­spite this smart, mor­eish setup, The Climb’s oth­er­wise en­joy­able me­chan­ics are let down by finicky prox­im­ity de­tec­tion, which makes lin­ing up your hands with holds and ledges far harder than it should be. It’s not a huge prob­lem on the more re­laxed easy climbs, but once you start at­tempt­ing medium and hard cour­ses, por­tions of which re­quire split-sec­ond re­ac­tions, it can frus­trate to the point of de­rail­ment. In most cases there are mul­ti­ple routes that can mit­i­gate this, but one bot­tle­necked dif­fi­culty spike on the Alps medium course briefly made us con­sider toss­ing our ex­pen­sive Rift hard­ware out of the win­dow. There’s enough to think about al­ready with­out wor­ry­ing about whether your hand is hov­er­ing over the right pixel.

It feels like a de­gree of tweak­ing could have made this a stand­out VR ti­tle. The sense of achieve­ment you feel on reach­ing the top of a climb, as your unseen avatar whoops in cel­e­bra­tion, can be ex­cep­tional, while Cry­tek’s vis­ual ac­com­plish­ments de­liver some as­ton­ish­ing views on the way up. It all makes it an even greater shame that you’ll some­times feel com­pelled to jump off and end it all.

One of The Climb’s chief plea­sures is stop­ping to look around and take in the view. En­vi­ron­ments are ex­quis­ite, and Cry­tek has made par­tic­u­larly good use of po­si­tional au­dio for pass­ing he­li­copters and other dare­dev­ils

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