Release Date: 18/10/2017 (Playstation VR) 05/10/2017 (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Raw Data has actually been around for some time now, with the game originally releasing earlier last year on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift but in an Early Access state. Now that it’s officially launched though it’s come to Playstation VR too, bringing with it all of its hectic fast-paced action but unfortunately omitting its multiplayer functions.
From the outside it’s easy to see Raw Data as just more of the same wave-based shooting that we’ve come to expect from VR, but when you actually play it you’ll find it’s a lot more than that. Sure, you’re still taking on countless waves of different enemies, but the sheer variety in the game’s combat mechanics as well as the intriguing plot and setting make it stand out as one of the best titles available right now on any virtual reality headset.
Raw Data sees you taking on the role of a member of the hacking group SyndiK8 as you look to infiltrate an evil Corporation in order to find out more about their nefarious plans regarding their new line of robots. Naturally, these are evil robots that bring a great threat to mankind, so it’s up to you to bring them down. That’s putting it into a nutshell though – there’s a bit more depth to the whole thing and there’s certainly plenty for you to uncover throughout the game.
The narrative doesn’t typically take centre stage in this kind of game, yet Raw Data offered a story that at least made me feel a little invested in the world and what was going on. There’s a decent little back story on offer whilst there are plenty of interactions that take place too, with the player never simply dropped into a level with no introduction. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a little bit predictable in design, but the fact your actions had a purpose was appreciated.
You can control the game using one of two different schemes: the tried-and-tested teleportation method, or through free movement. You need two Move controllers either way, so the choice you make will come down to personal preference (and how well you can handle moving around in virtual reality).
Teleportation involves simply pointing the Move controller at a spot on the map and then instantly getting transported there. It’s probably the easiest way to play the game and offers plenty of manoeuvrability with little effort needed on the player’s part. Free movement on the other hand allows you to move around freely, with different buttons on each Move controller used to move forward and back, strafe left and right, or to turn across 90 degree angles. Admittedly, it could be a little awkward to get used to at first with so many different actions assigned across both Move controllers, but I think it’s the most enjoyable way to play the game. Both methods work well though and are perfectly viable, so it’ll come down to player preference more than anything.
One of Raw Data’s stand out features is the fact that you’re able to use different characters that all have their own unique sets of weapons and skills. Now this is something that’s been common place in a lot of other wave-based shooters, but it feels a lot more fleshed out here – characters don’t just use a different arsenal, but actually genuinely feel varied to play as too.
There are four different characters available in total: Bishop who specialises in pistols, Saija who specialises in swords, Boss who specialises in shotguns, and Elder who specialises in using a bow and arrow. Naturally, each weapon controls differently – the shotgun and sword are best used when up close and personal for example, whilst the pistol and bow are best used from range.
All of the character’s weapons feel unique to handle, not just when using them to kill robots but also when equipping them too; you actually have to pull the pistol from your holster and manually reload it with a new magazine for example, whilst the sword has to be drawn from your back. You even have to hold your shotgun with two hands in order to pump it after each shot, which certainly felt impressive in-game (even if it could become tiring over time). All of these might seem like minor little touches, but actually go a long way in providing a more innovative gameplay experience during the heat of combat.
As you progress through the game you’ll be able to upgrade each character’s weapons and skill sets by spending the currency you earn. These aren’t just minor upgrades though, but actually allow you to unlock impressive abilities such as dual-wielding weapons or being able to slow down time to get the upper hand on your foe. That’s right – you can dual-wield swords and go in arms swinging as you attack the robots from all angles. All of the upgrades are incredibly neat and allow you to do some fantastic things; Raw Data felt great to play anyway, but the fact that you unlock all these crazy abilities that make you even more powerful as you progress was incredibly impressive. It just makes for non-stop action that becomes more and more hectic the further you go through the game – I love it.
Raw Data’s main campaign sees you taking on wave upon wave of robotic foes over ten different missions across a wide variety of locations. There’s no shortage of robots in each location either, with them coming at you thick and fast from all angles. You’ve really got to mix up your offensive skills with your defensive ones if you’re going to survive the constant onslaught.
There’s a decent amount of variety on offer with each enemy too, with some focusing more on getting up close to take you out and some instead choosing to shoot at you from range. There’s also a fair bit of variety on offer with their attacking styles; whilst some enemies will simply march at you and try to punch you, some literally leap towards you with ninja-like reflexes as they try to slice you down with a sword. One cool thing I really liked about the melee focused enemies was that you’re actually able to dodge their attacks if you’re quick enough, adding a Matrix-like element to the game where you’ll be constantly shifting your stance in order to block an incoming fist. It feels incredibly satisfying to perform in-game, even if onlookers might be baffled as to what exactly you’re doing…
Raw Data features a few tower defence-like elements in its gameplay too, with the player able to place turrets and shields to help them out in some of the more robot-filled areas. Enemies come from all different angles, and with a core to protect in each level it’s vital that you ensure it’s always protected. Don’t get me wrong, setting up defences doesn’t play a huge role and it’s possible to easily get through the game without utilising them, but their addition is still a nice touch.
The constantly changing enemies along with the sheer variety of fighting styles on offer with each playable character makes Raw Data feel incredibly diverse. You’re never doing that much different from a gameplay perspective – this is a wave-based shooter, after all – but the fact that there are so many different ways to play ensures that it offers all-out frantic action every time you jump onto the game. It’s just a hell of a lot of fun and something I can easily see myself coming back to time and time again in the future.
Visually, Raw Data looks superb, with some fantastic environments, well-designed character models, and some great lighting effects really bringing the futuristic world to life. Each area in the game becomes full to the brim with gunfire and attacks from your robotic foes during some of the more action-packed sequences too, which is a real marvel to behold when seen so up close and personal within the Playstation VR headset.
The only real issue I had with the visuals was that they could look a little fuzzy at times. It’s something that’s become common place in virtual reality, especially in the more limited Playstation VR headset, and it’s certainly clear to see in Raw Data. The jagged and rough edges aren’t so apparent when you’re up close in the action, but once you take a few steps back it becomes a lot more clear to see. It’s not a massive issue though and nothing ever looks bad – it’s just something that you’ll notice every so often when making your way across each area.
The only disappointing thing about Raw Data’s launch on Playstation VR is the omission of any form of multiplayer, especially since it’s a big feature on the PC release of the game. It’d have been nice to dive into some online action with friends, especially given how varied Raw Data’s mechanics are when compared to the other multiplayer Playstation VR titles that are available right now, but disappointingly it just wasn’t meant to be.
With its all-out action packed gameplay, its masses of variety in its combat styles, and its intriguing plotline and setting, Raw Data is easily one of Playstation VR’s must own titles. There are plenty of wave-based shooters available right now on the platform, but none of them manage to nail the pulsating gameplay offered by Raw Data’s diverse shooting and thrilling melee combat.
The graphics can look a little rough around the edges at times and the omission of multiplayer is a shame, but in all Raw Data makes for a fantastic action-packed VR shooting experience that simply blows away the competition.