There’s been some interesting titles in the Playstation VR launch line-up, but Loading Human: Chapter One was the one that had me intrigued the most. The game had actually been under the radar for me and besides a successful Kickstarter campaign I hadn’t actually seen a whole lot about the game. Despite this, the sci-fi premise and the ability to fully explore this futuristic Antarctic base had caught my interest – the only question was whether the game could deliver an enjoyable VR experience or not. It delivers in some ways, but also falls incredibly short in others.
Loading Human: Chapter One’s story is interesting and sets up a good foundation for future chapters, though it does only lay out the basic premise to begin with. Prometheus, the game’s protagonist, has been tasked by his scientist father to take a twenty two year mission to a far-off planet in order to find a special element that could prolong his life, essentially allowing him to live forever. The first chapter of the game takes you through the preparation for this journey, though the bulk of it is spent developing the relationship between Prometheus and Alice, his love interest in the game.
As you see more of the flirtatious interactions between Prometheus and Alice it’s clear that a relationship is starting to bloom. The game does a good job of humanising it too, though some of the flirting could border on cringey at times – again, something that’s quite natural. The only real issue I did have is with the fragmented way in which the story is presented. Whilst I appreciate games that have adopted a similar approach in the past (‘Beyond: Two Souls’ for example), it resulted in the story feeling a little detached at times.
The move controls are pretty awkward to use initially, though kudos to the developers for including full and free movement in the game. You aim the move controller ahead of you and press the ‘move’ button to go forward, or you face the move controller upwards and press the ‘move’ button to go backwards. It’s a pretty unnatural approach to movement, though in fairness using two move controllers was never going to be easy.
That’s just moving forwards and backwards though. When you want to turn you have to position the move controller in the direction you want to turn and then press the ‘move’ button, with the character turning a set amount of degrees in that direction. Whilst it generally works alright in game, it’s not always that accurate; one time I simply wanted to turn to face an object right next to me, but found myself turning completely out of view of it time and time again. It was frustrating and in the end I found the best way to directly face an object was to just slightly tilt my head to one direction when moving forward and hoping for the best.
You go through a pretty meaty tutorial to learn the controls at the start of the game, so I think the developers knew they were a little awkward. That’s not the only problem though with the controls feeling unresponsive at times too, demanding absolute precision just to make the most simple of movements. Navigating should never feel like a chore in a game, but I couldn’t help but to find the whole process a little laborious. That being said, after an hour or two with the game I did start to get used to the control scheme, even if I didn’t particularly like it. They certainly don’t make the game unplayable and I’m sure some players will get on with them a lot better than I did.
The move controllers also act as your hands in-game, the triggers allowing you to pick up and examine objects. As in a lot of other VR titles, you can pick up and examine almost any inanimate object in the game. Loading Human: Chapter One focuses on using a lot of these objects for puzzles, though unfortunately these puzzles can often border on mundane. The game’s Kickstarter page described it as “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ meets ‘Monkey Island’ in Virtual Reality”, but the puzzles aren’t anywhere near as complex or enjoyable as those found in the classic point and click adventure.
One puzzle saw me opening an elevator door and shaft by placing a metal rod on it, then I had to press buttons to re-route power throughout the facility, whilst another time I had to simply mix a few ingredients to make some tea. None of these puzzles required much thought at all and in honesty were a little boring. These are just a few of the game’s earlier puzzles, but they never become particularly taxing as you progress either; in fact, the solution to almost everything was either directly mentioned to you or right in front of you anyway. There are a few arcade like mini-games to get through too, but even they aren’t particularly fun thanks to the awkward move controls. It’s not that anything in the game is bad per se, but rather that it never offers anything that’ll really engage the player.
Despite its flaws, I really liked Loading Human: Chapter One’s visual style, with each area of the game’s location feeling unique and interesting to explore. There aren’t too many Playstation VR launch titles that allow you the freedom to check out such a large location, but Loading Human: Chapter One’s Antarctic facility was open for you to investigate how you please.
The sci-fi environment set up a great vibe in-game, whilst the graphical presentation inside the Playstation VR headset was some of the best I’ve seen so far. Sure, there are a few jagged edges on some characters and objects, but that’s to be expected. The lighting effects were neat too, with your surroundings having a reflective shine to them that really stood out. It really did prove that large open environments can look visually appealing in VR and I’m looking forward to seeing where Loading Human takes us in future chapters, even if I do begrudge the entry fee.
Loading Human: Chapter One isn’t cheap, especially for an episodic game. It costs £29.99 (or your local equivalent), making it close to a full-price release. The game is meant to span across three chapters, meaning if you want to get the full experience you have to fork out close to £100. I know that the game has the whole ‘virtual reality’ hook going for it, but when you consider that you can get entire seasons of other episodically released games that are of a higher quality for less than £20, it’s hard to justify forking out so much cash when Loading Human hasn’t proven that it’s worth the investment. The initial chapter is only around three to four hours long too, so it’s not as if it’s absolutely loaded with gameplay.
Despite Loading Human: Chapter One having a few shortcomings with its controls and puzzle design, I didn’t necessarily dislike the game. The controls don’t make the game unplayable, whilst the puzzles could easily see improvement in future chapters, even if none of them were particularly interesting this time around.
I really enjoyed exploring Loading Human: Chapter One’s world and the story has me intrigued to see what’ll happen next – I’m just hoping the developers take advantage of the potential the game has and bring some improvements to future chapters of the game.
Developer: Untold Games
Publisher: Maximum Games
Release Date: 13/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift