I played the tutorial for Loading Human with two PS Move controllers, as suggested, and was so turned off by the control scheme that I didn’t play it for a couple days.
Don’t do that.
Admittedly the controls feel wonky at first, but before long I became accustomed to them. You use the triggers on the Move controllers to pick up items, point the Move and hold the top button to walk in that direction, point the move controller down towards the floor and press the top button to crouch or point it towards the ceiling to stand. You can point either Move behind you and hold the top button to walk backwards. I found myself using my right controller to walk and interact with most items while using my left to point and turn in those directions while walking. Like I said, it’s weird, but it works. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized there aren’t many other options in VR for free roaming other than using the DualShock 4 like in Robinson The Journey, but you lose a sense of immersion that way. I should also note that you can play Loading Human using a DualShock 4, but I can’t attest to how it controls because I didn’t choose that control style.
In this space tale you play as an astronaut named Prometheus in the year 2184 who’s tasked with traveling into deep space to find a powerful source of energy called the Quintessence. This energy source powers the nanobots needed to save the life of your dying father who invented the Dark Matter Eengine, making space travel possible. He’s also nearing 140 years old thanks to advances in science. You’ll experience this story through a series of flashbacks alternating back and forth between the past and present day as you prepare to launch into space. At times the story can get confusing and the complexity seems a little unnecessary.
Also, don’t expect to come across many characters in this first person point-and-click adventure. After all, the base is (Why are there underscores?) located in AntarcticaAntartica. The characters you will meet include yourself (of course), your father, a woman named Alice, and an AI named Lucy along with a few maintenance bots who serve no purpose. Generally in a list of people, you’d list yourself last. Ie My Father and I vs Me and my Father) Alice is a lab technician who works under your father and is the only human you’ll be interacting with through throughout this chapter save for sharing it a few lines of dialogue with your dad. You also won’t traverse across any vast locations, but instead will shuffle from room to room among the three or so floors you have access to within the base. While the characters are few, I found myself oddly invested in Alice—but not my father—I feel like he’s a piece of shit. Then again, maybe that’s what the game wants me to think and maybe Alice is some psycho woman who wants my father dead. Or maybe everything is a simulation and nothing is real. Not Alice. Hell, maybe not even me.
The game isn’t going to win any awards for visuals, and some of the animations, specifically Alice’s snap from one expression to another, could use some smoothing out. Seeing what appears to be a relatively believable person snap from one position or expression to another is jarring and really rips you out of the world when you see it in VR. With that said, this only happened a handful of times. I found that although the game doesn’t look all that realistic, it’s overall aesthetic seems to be convincing enough to be believable. Alice especially felt alive when she’d flash me a smug smirk while making a smartass remark and, while I felt somewhat attached to her, the game did a poor job of kindling any kind of meaningful relationship between us. This is due to the brisk pace at which the story is told and in the end our love for each other was determined by my ability to nail her recipe for the “perfect date night”. Lame (this has to be a formatting thing from whatever software you’re using?). I’d love to see the future two episodes expand significantly on this relationship, and I think they will.
The game is devoid of a soundtrack and instead uses the ambience of a scientific whirring of this, a clanking of that, a TV broadcast alert, and so on to set the tone audibly. If this kind of ambience annoys you, there are plenty of your dad’s old records you can play on the phonograph in your room. Thanks to the magic of modern technology, these albums can be broadcast throughout all the rooms of the base to break up the silence. The most colorful part of the game is the greenhouse located in your base as everything else is mostly wood with white futuristic corridors and black and blue sci-fi themed labs. (so like Bioshock?)
The main gameplay mechanic largely revolves around you exploring and finding some key items to complete a puzzle. It can be tedious and annoying, so to mix it up, there are a few mini games thrown in called “simulations” your father puts youhas you go through to prepare for surviving in space. These simulations vary from an arcade-like shooting range to piloting an underwater sub. There are four of these in total and I had fun playing all of them with the exception of the submarine.
Fuck that simulation.
It took all the restraint I had not to bash my Move controllers into a pile of electronic sadness and loathing. It’s the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had in VR as it requires you to guide your submersible through a series of rings until you reach the end. Sounds easy enough, right? The problem is that the controls are either too sensitive at some spots or not sensitive enough at others with the course requiring absolute precision towards the end. One of your Move controllers acts as a lever for acceleration while the other is supposed to be a joystick……a simulated joystick using a Move controller just doesn’t work. I must have redone that section twenty or thirty times thanks to one particularity annoying turn at the tail end. I hated it. But then there’s the most redeeming other type of gameplay which comes out of nowhere that I refuse to spoil for you. Let’s just say, it’s a pretty cool visual, storytelling, and gameplay moment that will likely have you going “WTF?!”.
When the credits rolled on Loading Human Chapter 1 I couldn’t help but think how much better the remaining two chapters in the trilogy might be. The animations might be better. The visuals might be more crisp and take advantage of PS4 Pro. Maybe the story will be more rooted in the present with less flashbacks to the past and maybe we’ll get more fleshed out characters to build true connections with. While this game isn’t the killer app PSVR needs, it is a valiant effort from two studios I have previously never heard of. It’s also ambitious. The game is priced at $39.99, and while I finished it in a few hours, I’d have to say the experience is maybe just good enough to be worth it—but barely. I’d feel more comfortable recommending it at $29.99, especially with two more chapters on the way and no season pass to speak of. All things considered, even with a shallow story and the issues I mentioned above, I find myself wanting to play more. I want to know what happens next. What happens to me. What happens to my father. What happens to Alice. Here’s to Chapter 2.