Oh no, the robots have risen and they’re taking our jobs! Rather than taking the form of machines that process food, prepare packaging, or meld together materials though, they’re actually robots that are disposing of all human co-workers.
Grim, right? Well, that’s the concept of Budget Cuts, the stealth-adventure from developer Neat Corporation that has made its way to PlayStation VR following a successful stint on other virtual reality headsets.
Budget Cuts puts players into the role of a worker at TransCorp, a mega corporation that has recently undertaken a money-saving exercise by replacing their human employees with robotic replacements. Well, it turns out that the robots took over those jobs by killing their human colleagues and you’re the next on the list to we ‘replaced’. Whatever happened to loyalty in the workplace?!
With the help of an ally named Winta who’ll contact you via phone calls, you look to escape from the deadly offices of TransCorp and make your way to safety – all whilst avoiding the robots that are stalking the hallways looking for you (and maybe taking a few out along the way).
Whilst this may sound like a pretty terrifying concept, Budget Cuts takes a humorous approach with its storytelling. Sure, the robots may be out to get you, but they’re also willing to make silly quips along the way. It doesn’t stop them from being deadly, but it adds an anarchic twist to the gameplay that gives the whole experience a lot more personality. I liked it.
Gameplay-wise, most of your time in Budget Cuts will be spent sneaking around, with the player having to evade the patrolling robots that are constantly lingering around the office space. With countless robots around that are armed with some pretty nasty weaponry, the odds are stacked against you. However, you do have one advantage over your robotic foes: the Translocator. What do you mean you don’t know what a Translocator is? EVERYONE knows what a Translocator is…
The Translocator is basically a portal-gun, meaning you can instantly transport to wherever you shoot. It’s actually a clever way to utilise teleportation-based locomotion in Budget Cuts, which is something that’s common in a lot of other virtual reality titles but not always contextualised. It all makes sense here though and the Translocator even comes with the neat feature of allowing you to scope out the area where you’re going to teleport to beforehand, meaning you can check out the surroundings and make sure the coast is clear. It’s a big help given that Budget Cuts’ gameplay is built around being sneaky and avoiding being caught, whilst it also adds extra elements of strategy to the experience too.
Whilst a lot of time will be spent simply teleporting around and biding your time until it’s safe to move, you’re not completely defenceless in Budget Cuts. Whilst the robots are nasty sorts, it turns out that a well-placed scissors or letter opener can be pretty effective in wiping them out and leaving them an oily dead mess on the floor. Revenge is sweet, and believe me, the game offers plenty of ways to kill robots, whether it’s by stalking them from behind, waiting for them around a corner and jumping at them whilst going ‘stab stab’, or by simply launching a scissors at their metal skulls from a distance. Admittedly, their AI in-game isn’t too smart so it can be easy to lure them to their demise, but nobody is perfect… not even robots.
Whilst being able to kill the robots adds a whole extra dimension to the gameplay, it could be a little fiddly in places. There’s a bit more precision required when compared to blasting portals to get around, whilst lining yourself up in a safe position to attack whilst using the Translocator could be pretty awkward in itself. It’ll take some getting used to, but when you do? It becomes mighty satisfying to show that you’re not a completely helpless human. Plus, you’re in an office: scissors are in abundance here, so it’s rare you won’t have a nice stabby tool to take the robots out with.
Like similar stealth titles such as Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, the diversity offered in Budget Cuts’ gameplay allows you to be flexible in how you approach the game. Do you sneak your way around and avoid killing enemies so you don’t leave a trace of your presence? Or do you kill everything in sight without a care in the world like a robot-murdering serial killer? Whilst it does help to diversify your approach in Budget Cuts, there’s plenty of flexibility to be found in the gameplay to allow gamers to play with their own set of rules.
It makes for a really fun experience overall, and one that is complimented by some really solid level design. Each area you have to traverse across is cleverly designed to the point that they’ll take some planning to survive, whether that’s by identifying what areas enemies can’t see, finding any sneaky alternative locations that you could hide in, or finding items that you need to progress. It feels like everything around you in each area can have a purpose in some shape or form, which again lends itself well to the flexibility offered in how you approach the game. Everything about Budget Cuts is just so cleverly designed and it makes great use of the immersion offered with virtual reality – it just makes for a really, really good time.
I enjoyed Budget Cuts A LOT – so much so that I wish it could have been a little bit longer. It took around three hours to beat the game, which is in some ways a nice length for a virtual reality title… I just wanted more because I’m greedy. At least there’s an Arcade Mode to dive into if you want to try chasing scores across four different levels, so there is some replayability on offer. I guess those wanting more story-based content will just have to wait until Budget Cuts 2 makes its way to PlayStation VR.
Budget Cuts is a frantic and fun stealth-fuelled virtual reality romp that will keep your PlayStation VR headset firmly glued to your head until you beat it. It’s so much fun lurking around the offices of TransCorp and trying to sneak your way to safety, with the clever level design and flexible gameplay mechanics coming together to make for a really entertaining experience.
Admittedly, the controls could feel a little fiddly when you get into the middle of a fight with the robots and the short length was a little disappointing, but they’re minor hiccups in what is otherwise a stellar PlayStation VR title.
Now then… when is Budget Cuts 2 coming to PlayStation VR?!
Developer: Neat Corporation
Publisher: Neat Corporation
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (reviewed), PC VR