This was it. This is likely to be as close as I’ll ever get to one of my dreams. I was out there, in space, a dark abyss with nothing but myself. I was there in awe as I stared from the helmet of my suit at the massive blue orb in front of me. ADR1FT is likely to be, as of right now, one of the best space simulation experiences I’ve ever played. There were no sci-fi spaceships or alien creatures to worry about, just myself and the weightless, peaceful experience of this vastly unknown expansiveness. Well…it would be more peaceful, had I not been in the situation that ADR1FT puts you in.
ADR1FT: PC [Reviewed without an Oculus Rift], DTBA Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Developer: THREE ONE ZERO
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: 28 March 2016
Price: £14.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
You start in the spacesuit of Commander Alex Oshima, opening your eyes to the black desolation of space in the middle of a wrecked space station. Your character starts just as lost and clueless as you are, not knowing what happened or why you’re in this situation, and with such mystery, it’s up to you to piece together the story as you play. And that’s the bulk of the gameplay, it’s an exploration based game in which you maneuver in a space environment interacting with various objects. To some people, perhaps this isn’t quite enough gameplay to justify buying it, and that’s understandable. However, for those that can appreciate a great exploration game, there are absolutely many aspects that ADR1FT does well.
The first aspect is its controls, since you are in space you’ll naturally spend your time floating weightless, only using your thrusters to get around. At first, completely coming to grasp the controls will feel a bit alien to some players as each button (assuming you’re using a gamepad) is used effectively for a certain movement, but you have to calculate each movement for momentum and the entire lack of gravity. Your left and right sticks control your typical aspects, your direction, and your camera. The shoulder buttons control your spin, while the triggers adjust your elevation, leaving the buttons to interact with objects and the environment, such as grabbing floating air canisters, a mechanic I’ll touch on briefly later, or accessing computer terminals. Once you spend a bit of time with this control setup, it actually feels completely second nature even if you bump your head a few times in the process.
You’ll use these controls to move throughout the destroyed space station you awaken in, quickly figuring out that you need to repair and reboot certain systems to allow access to an emergency escape pod to enable you to return home, and hopefully any remaining crew you may or may not find. While exploring, you’ll quickly notice the game’s gorgeous environments. Not only does space itself look completely authentic, but the actual interiors of the station have a great amount of visual detail, showing quite well what can be done with the Unreal 4 engine. The detail can be quite pretty, with motionless spheres of water refracting it’s surroundings and massive amounts of debris and wreckage speckled about in front of the Earth far in the distance.
And don’t worry, this game runs very smoothly on a wide range of systems even on its highest settings. Other details you’ll notice actually pertain to your missing crew, such as in their personal rooms, in which you can find items related to that crew members history and personal life, as well as read personal logs that will help you piece together what exactly happened before the space station became the disaster it is, and all of this is very engaging if you allow it.
There is one problem though, other than just being lost in space with no one to save you; there’s no oxygen in space, and with no space station providing you with air, it becomes a very precious resource, and as you move your suit consume your oxygen supply in order to propel you. However, this isn’t nearly as big of a threat as it could have been since there is an abundance of oxygen tanks and refill stations in almost every main chamber. There was really only two times out of my 4 hours of play that oxygen was ever a problem, and that was mostly because I had trouble following the waypoint.
Oh, yes, the game also quite on the short side. Anywhere between 3 and 5 hours max, though considering how quickly the game can become repetitive, it’s likely that this short playtime was for the best so the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. The game really doesn’t have much beyond wandering the environment, which is, fortunately, different from other games like it because of its setting and zero gravity, but ADR1FT will likely become dull quickly after the initial “wow” factor wears off.
I should have mentioned by now, but I didn’t have the chance to play this in VR. I experienced the game on a standard monitor with a controller, and I still enjoyed myself. If you were wondering if the game has any merit without the use of VR, it does, but only if you already enjoy what it has to offer. You don’t necessarily need an Oculus Rift to feel the vibes that this game gives off. Being set in space, ADR1FT gets off pretty lucky in terms of audio, as it can be entirely silent and still nail the atmosphere it’s going for. However, the game does break up some of the silence with occasional music, which is this mix of trance-like waves and eerie sound that can really bring out the horror of the situation.
ADR1FT isn’t the most complicated experience, but what it actually provides it does so impressively. It’s marred a bit by its lack of varied gameplay, but carried by the wonderful visuals and atmosphere. There’s definitely talent here, and I’d love to see what else the team that worked on this game could do in the future.