Space Rift: Episode 1 PS4 Review
Sometimes it’s reassuring to know what kind of game you’re in for as soon as it boots up: the moment that Space Rift: Episode 1’s subpar voice acting and visuals enter your VR vision cone like a wet fart, it should be immediately apparent that you’ve been blessed (as in cursed) with another shoddily-made launch window title for the Playstation VR. And before you fill the comments with examples of charming game experiences found under amateurish presentation, spoiler warning: Deadly Premonition this is not.
Developed by Vibrant Core and published by bitComposer Interactive GmbH, which sounds like a sketchy PC malware, Space Rift chronicles the tale of Casey Black, a Mars pilot with a generic name and an even more generic Texan accent who is down on his luck as well as his oxygen; turns out that living in Mars isn’t cheap, as Casey is forced to scour the galaxy for minerals so that he can afford the ability to keep on living. His employer, the sci-fi supervillain-named organization WEYSS, equips Casey’s ship with an AI program that….look, let’s just skip ahead because we all know where this is going: Casey runs into a stranded soldier of the Anoxia rebel group, the AI immediately labels him a traitor just for being near the soldier’s proximity, Casey joins the group, learns about their plan to resurrect the barren Earth, yadda yadda yadda.
The main gameplay viewpoint has players sitting in the cockpit of the spaceship, another in a long line of long-desired VR concepts implemented poorly by developers trying to beat everyone to the punch. Like Battlezone, the game spreads its various UI elements in different directions on the cockpit, forcing players to twist and turn their heads in order to access every component. Space Rift is much more obnoxious about this mechanic, as certain menus are placed further away than necessary, and no amount of calibration can fix this: one of the most important features, which requires players to send a Mass Effect 2-style probe to mine out minerals, is located in the far right, and requires significant neck-strain in order to “reach” the required levers. Add in the fact that the probe is timing based (the indicator appearing on a separate screen, requiring both a crooned neck as well as double vision), and Space Rift’s gameplay becomes a chore the moment it starts.
The eventual outer space dogfights fare a little better, as does the large scale areas that allow full 3D space movement. But the presentation also suffers from a poor visual style where the galaxy looks more like a large painted room, and the framerate also hitches more often than not. Both of these setbacks result in yet another VR game that has caused this review to feel nauseas after just a few minutes in addition to uncomfortable. There are solid concepts to be found in Space Rift, such as scanning large mining spots such as destroyed moons and asteroids, as well as using the gathered materials to upgrade various parts of the ship while in the mission briefing room (as another humorous example of the game’s lack of calibration scaling, characters may appear comically short compared to your viewpoint, and won’t even look at you directly), but when it comes to VR gaming, the positives are immediately weighed down if the most basic fundamentals aren’t nailed down first. Control and comfort are the most important elements of any videogame, and the importance for both only increase tenfold when VR setups are concerned. The ugly character models and poor voice acting would also be forgiven if the game didn’t expose players to both at more times, with almost enough dialog to fill up a Hideo Kojima game. Also, take note, any developer reading this: having the character call out something as being tedious and annoying (the tutorial mission, in this case) does not automatically validate it.
VR space exploring is an inspired concept, but a good game idea matters little if the gameplay doesn’t measure up, and Space Rift fails doubly as a VR experience due to its lackluster aesthetics and unrefined VR controls. Chalk this up to yet another quickly conceptualized concept that lacks the necessary polish to make it work, and only makes players yearn harder for the time when a competent developer fulfills one out of many VR dream games that companies try too quickly to capitalize on during a hardware’s launch window.