The introduction of virtual reality to video games while very much still in its early/experimental stage allows us to step away from the arbitrary use of control pad, mouse and keyboard to become completely immersed in a living, breathing 3-dimensional world; a world where a game becomes more than just pixels on a screen; instead inviting us into a sanctuary where dreams become a reality, with players swept up in the surreal feeling of not merely being able to view a game’s locale from afar but to gaze upon it closely with awe.
With Sony’s PlayStation VR recently joining the current crop of headsets readily available for players comes a host of PSVR launch titles. One of which, Loading Human whisks us away from breathtaking underwater tours in VR Worlds or attempting to keep your dinner in with DriveClub VR to explore the wonderful world of science fiction through the eyes of Prometheus, a young man who must embark on a mission to Eagle Nebula to retrieve an item in order to save his ailing father. Predominantly a science fiction title split into 3 separate chapters, Loading Human‘s early moments teach us about love and relationships; at least this is what’s portrayed through the game’s introductory episode.
Loading Human Chapter 1: PlayStation VR [Reviewed], Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Developer: Untold Games
Publisher: Maximum Games
Release Date: 13 October 2016
Price: £34.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
The majority of Chapter One takes place at a secluded base overlooking the Antartic, where the characters frail father lies underground inside a chamber. Along with companion and future love interest Alice, Prometheus is tasked with departing the base and the planet to locate and bring back a vital element called the “Quintessence”, which will help the young man’s father dodge impending death. Despite possessing a potentially great story Loading Human falls short on both narrative, while also failing to present us with the most basic of human emotions. For a young man whose father lies gravely ill, Prometheus shows little to no emotion when either by himself, with Alice or conversing with his father. That lack of emotional pull separates players from the narrative rather than reeling them in closer. As for the protagonist’s future love, the two’s frequent conversations although sometimes intriguing feel too short and blunt, never lasting for too long or long enough for players to feel engaged. The combination of a faltering storyline mixed with a real lack of human feeling leaves Loading Human rather lightweight, considering the potential the game possesses and its breathtaking environments.
In a game where the player is offered all the freedom to move around their environment with little restriction, Loading Human ensures that a leisurely stroll about a large base quickly becomes very lethargic; a true marathon of a game as players are forced to change direction with the PlayStation Move controller or a flick of Dualshock 4’s analog stick in what feels like stuttered stages. To change direction I would push the analog stick right or left but instead of helping me to turn a corner with consummate ease I would end up facing a wall or bumping into a table, knocking its contents to the floor. With no natural feel to player movement freedom feels awkward and hindered. The clumsy movement scheme turns what should be a 1-2 hour episode into a 3-4 hour one, but with some practice, movement becomes easier but still feels all too robotic.
When not slowly wandering the white halls of the base, collecting leaves from its vibrant greenhouse in order to create a pot of tea or simply taking in the gorgeous view from the windows of your apartment, players can solve puzzles or indulge in a mini-game or three but as exciting as that notion seems, like Loading Human‘s stubborn movement, its puzzles and mini-games feel over-complicated and far too fiddly. Locating an object such as a light bulb to complete a glowing sign or fetching a bottle of the finest hair conditioner for the love of your life should be relatively easy tasks to complete, however, unfortunately it all feels more akin to searching for a needle in a haystack and that in part is down to the sheer wealth of interactive objects that clutter almost every open space within the base. Because of its awkward control mechanisms, even retrieving an object from a table feels like a chore. To grab an item from a table or peruse the latest news via a state of the art tablet, players must awkwardly position themselves in front of the object before plucking it up with their hands, slowly turning each item to the correct position to get an awkward glance at it.
Movement aside, Loading Human isn’t without its charms, its science fiction theme is a thing of true beauty. When VR was first announced I saw the chance to feel fully immersed in a game’s surroundings as an incredible draw, especially when you take into account the brilliant architecture and picturesque landscapes viewable today with many titles. A science fiction buff at heart, I couldn’t help but admire what Loading Human had to offer visually. Futuristic corridors and elevators straight out of Alien Isolation‘s playbook, a luxurious apartment bursting with literature, fine wines and a dreamlike view to die for, a gym equipped with basketball hoops, exercise machines and mini-games to partake in while outside a magnificent greenhouse with herbs growing and plants blossoming stands proudly like a peacock stretching its wings in the morning sun. If nothing else, Loading Human excels with its visuals; something that will most likely keep players entertained in the episodes to come.
VR is undoubtedly in its early stages and with sufficient time its games will inevitably improve and truly wow us. Loading Human boasts a fitting locale and cast to deliver a truly immersive experience, sadly it falls flat. Human emotions will never be the easiest feature to convey in video games but that doesn’t excuse the main characters outright lack of sadness when faced with one of mankinds more testing of times. The game’s narrative could have been better explored between its three characters in such an isolated area, but a shallow script only results in a separation of player from storyline. This coupled with a fidgety control system sees Loading Human become a wasted opportunity when it could have been so much more.