Despite there being an abundance of them available on PlayStation VR already, I can’t resist a good sci-fi title. Everyone wants to be out in space, right? Well, the immersion offered by the headset makes it feel all the more real, whilst it’s always a thrill when there’s a genuinely enjoyable adventure to go along with It too. Unfortunately, Downward Spiral: Horus Station doesn’t quite offer that, with it ending up falling a little flat thanks to some boring gameplay and an underwhelming narrative and setting.
The game puts you in a seemingly abandoned space station with no clue as to what exactly is going on. It’s up to you to put things right though, with the player tasked with finding out what’s gone wrong, fixing it, and maybe even uncovering what happened to everyone aboard the station.
Sounds a bit obtuse, right? Well, you shouldn’t expect a detailed story in the game, with very little shown to player until late on. Even then you’ll be left unsatisfied though, with the narrative not ending with a satisfying bang but feeling a little unfulfilling and vague right until the end credits. It seems to set itself up as a mysterious sci-fi thriller, but in honesty it rarely delivers a thrill throughout.
Downward Spiral: Horus Station can be played both in and out of virtual reality, but this review focuses on the PlayStation VR version of the game. It works with two Move controllers, with each one representing one of the player’s arms – fortunately, that’s all you need to move around in the game, with a big emphasis placed on using your momentum to pull yourself around. It’s a zero-g game, what did you expect?
That’s right: there’s zero gravity in Downward Spiral: Horus Station, so you can expect to find yourself floating around throughout the seemingly abandoned space station. It’s actually pretty neat in-game because you traverse through the station using your own momentum, meaning you’ve got to grab out at objects in the environment and pull at them in order to get around. Admittedly, it can be a little fiddly at times and you can expect to have to stretch here and there, but there’s no denying that it does something cool that I haven’t seen properly implemented in other PlayStation VR releases before.
Those who don’t like the idea of getting around using their own momentum will be pleased to know you eventually get access to a grappling hook too, which also feels satisfying to use. In fairness, moving around in the game is always a lot of fun – it could be guilty of feeling a little slow-paced, but I actually enjoyed traversing through each of the game’s environments. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the fun ends.
It’s not that Downward Spiral: Horus Station does anything that’s particularly bad though, but rather that it’s just a bit boring. Your objectives are simple and mostly consist of reaching a specific spot and interacting with an object, whilst the game’s combat situations lack any real challenge and just feel a bit bland. Sure, it’s cool to be able to use tools to take down the lurking robots (I’ve loved using a nail gun ever since playing Quake when I was younger), but no showdown in the game ever felt particularly action-packed or exciting. Want to know the worst part? There’s no punishment for dying, with the player simply respawning as if nothing happened. It made me wonder why the developer even bothered including combat in the first place, though in fairness they actually included an option to turn it off completely as if to admit that they realised that it all feels a bit pointless too.
There are collectibles to find across the station if you feel like it, but again, there’s nothing about them that’ll really motivate you to seek them out. It doesn’t help that the station itself feels really uninspired, with nothing about it that makes it stand out from all the other sci-fi PlayStation VR titles that are out there right now. To its credit, the exterior shots of Downward Spiral: Horus Station are impressive, but they’re too few and far between to really appreciate.
It’s not as if Downward Spiral: Horus Station is one of those short experiences that doesn’t outstay its welcome either, with it lasting over five hours to see through to its conclusion. Whilst those five hours aren’t horrible by any means, they are spent completing bland and repetitive objectives, taking on unchallenging enemies, and trying to follow a story that won’t really hook you in – even the enjoyable zero-g movement can’t save it from medicority.
One interesting feature that I didn’t get to try out was Downward Spiral: Horus Station’s multiplayer, with both competitive and co-op options in place. Playing through the story with a friend is unlikely to make it more interesting, but taking each other on in Deathmatches or facing dozens of robots in the Horde mode could be fun. I didn’t get to try it out yet thanks to a lack of players though, and I can’t really see Downward Spiral: Horus Station being a game with a thriving online community. Still, it could be worth checking out if both you and a few friends have the game.
Developer: 3rd Eye Studios
Publisher: 3rd Eye Studios
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift