Lethal VR PS4 Review
Videogames are an ever-evolving technology, with each new generation of hardware introducing new concepts, techniques and control schemes that inspire the creative minds of developers everywhere to create new kinds of experiences that seemed impossible just years prior. And yet, nine times out of ten, whenever a new piece of innovative hardware is launched, the first games coming out of the gate tend to follow the age-old design process of “Shoot Things”.
Lethal VR is a game where players shoot things. In first person. With guns (and sometimes knives). Cynicism aside, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a first person shooting-range game, other than the fact that there are so many of them and that a good majority don’t even feature responsive controls or compelling gameplay. Yet there is a place for them in the world of hardware launches, as they tend to serve as simplistic tech demos to determine how much the hardware works (or doesn’t work). Nintendo understood this concept with Wii Sports, a basic pack-in game that was designed solely to prove to the world that their new motion-controlled hardware could do exactly what they advertised (and all without using any target shooting, though Link’s Crossbow Training did eventually make its way to the Wii shortly after launch).
Developer Three Fields Entertainment also deserves credit for getting right to the point with their debut PSVR game (originally released on Vive, the PC-exclusive VR headset by Valve): Lethal VR is a shooting-range game, where players manipulate realistic-looking firearms to shoot at cardboard targets. The interface is simplistic and stripped of any colorful aesthetics that one might see in similar score-based games like Headmaster: aside from a futuristic arena that shifts and elevates depending on the targeting challenge, Lethal is all about starting up the next challenge and ranking up the best high score, which is also a requirement to unlock additional courses.
Players start off with a basic handgun that requires manual reloading, but within a few minutes of practice will also unlock dual pistols, knives, assault rifles and other heavy firepower in order to accomplish the increasingly challenging courses. Such objectives start off easy with shooting targets, but steadily ramp up in difficulty by introducing moving targets that hide behind civilian targets (shooting them results in an instant penalty), time-based objectives where targets must be eliminated quickly, long-distance targets that must be skillfully dispatched with a throwing knife, and so on. There is a plethora of content to be found, and the ever-addicting nature of videogames all but guarantees that players will go back to try and manage a better score (especially as it unlocks additional challenges featuring bigger guns as well as knives).
But as is always the case with the PSVR, everything hinges on the responsiveness of the controls. For the most part, the Move controllers simulate the concept of wielding a handgun in first person well enough. Though the menus feature a laser-sight for targeting, it is disabled during challenges, requiring more precise aiming down the sights. This includes dual-wielding handguns, which is nowhere near as easy to pull off as Hollywood movies would have you believe. Knife-throwing is even trickier, as the game requires players to flick their wrists in order to throw the blades over long distances. Be doubly sure there aren’t any objects nearby that may get caught in the vicinity of your flailing arms, be it a nightstand or television.
The big problem that hampers Lethal VR’s required precision seems to revolve around how much the camera picks up: despite numerous attempts to reposition the camera, the areas that are designated out of bounds for player’s hands seem much more restrictive than other VR games. This proves especially cumbersome for the knife-throwing challenges, where no amount of force can properly register this reviewer’s throwing speed to accurately hit the targets. In many cases, these challenges could only be accomplished with unorthodox movements (and a disappointingly low score). A more precise calibration would probably solve this problem, but unfortunately Lethal VR only has the default re-center option by holding down the Options button. At least the basic colors and stationary position keep this game from being another stomach-turner, at least as far as this reviewer is concerned.
In short, Lethal VR is a basic game concept that does exactly as advertised. It’s a quick arcade-style target range game with a lot of neat objectives and weapons to play around with. It’s just a shame that more time could not be given to the controls in order to better accommodate the PSVR’s hardware, as precision and comfort are absolutely instrumental for games like this. We’ve come far in the last few years, yet it seems target-based gaming has not evolved much since the Nintendo Wii’s remote-waggling days.