Loading Human: Chapter 1 PlayStation VR Review
Publisher: Maximum Games Developer: Untold Games Genre: Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
I would probably compare Loading Human: Chapter 1 to the male equivalent of a chick flick, as for the most part, taking on the role of male protagonist, Prometheus, you are set with the task of wooing and dating your cohort, Alice. It’s a game that basically gives you a taste of how eventually the VR will become home to much more seedier games, a game in which you help your partner bathe and even give her a virtual kiss, which, as a straight female player, was rather disconcerting to me.
Set in the future in a sci-fi universe full of high-end technology and where e-books have failed to take off, at the request of his dying father, Prometheus is tasked with finding something called the Quintessence, an energy source that supposedly reverses the ageing process, though I don’t know how that would help you if you are dying – it would only make you younger, not cure what ails you, but I digress.
Unfortunately you’ll be spending a lot of your time with these cookie cutter characters as they are the only three characters in the game, besides the robots milling about and a GLaDOS-type AI that follows you around through security cameras. As the title suggests, this is only the first chapter in what will be a trilogy, so unfortunately more of the ambling story is to come, though I am thankful for the breaks in between.
I had to laugh when I read the overblown overview of this game on Maximum Games website; it quotes such gems as “experiencing incredible emotional depth through powerful virtual reality technology”, “Step into a realistic vision of the future in which nothing is quite as it seems” and “marks a return to the classic fun of adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion” – Loading Human is nothing like those games and, if anything, comparing it to those games is a bit of an insult. You could almost tell that the publisher knew they had a subpar game on their hands if they felt the need to over-exaggerate just how great of a game this is on their website.
Firstly, the characters are too bland to pull you in to the story, and you don’t care at all about their relationships, whether it’s Prometheus and his father or Prometheus and his girlfriend. They all lack chemistry and Prometheus is too dull and monotonous for the hero of the game, and his girlfriend is nothing more than a damsel in distress – at one point she kisses him because he saves her from a raging fire. I thought we had progressed when it came to writing for female characters, from writing them as mere rewards for male bravery. Clearly not, as from there on in their relationship develops and its hardly what I would call ‘deep’. They talk about stuff, get to know one another and you play through the developing stages of the relationship, from the moment they get together after the fire, to his wining and dining her and asking her to marry him, to whatever happens that she ends up in a ventilator/chamber/coffin-shaped futuristic gizmo that helps to extend her life. Their relationship comes across as hollow as they are the only two young people on wherever the heck they are; it’s like they only get together because there’s literally no one else, and you don’t care about either one because they are both as dull as dirty dish water. The relationship with the father is no better; there’s no substance to his character – he’s just basically the smart, old scientist that created something groundbreaking that is now backfiring on him, and you’re just supposed to feel something because he is Prometheus’ father and he’s dying, and fathers dying is sad… well, that’s a given, though there should be more to a character other than “I’m dying, and I am related to you, and that’s all that is needed to set up our dramatic story arc.”
So the entire story of the game is about Prometheus trying to get some poontang in the midst of preparing to set off to find the Quintessence; he woos his girlfriend and trains with his father and that’s as deep as the story goes.
But what about gameplay? Before you get into the game, you play a tutorial and to call it confusing is an understatement. Another quote from the publishers: “With a proprietary movement system designed to limit motion sickness and better serve the storytelling.” Whilst it is fun to interact with anything in the environment that isn’t nailed down, the controls are some of the worst that I have come across in a VR game to date. To move around you use two Move controllers that act as Prometheus’ hands on-screen; you use the trigger buttons to pick things up and examine them, and you use it to press buttons. When it comes to actually walking about, and performing other positions though, that’s where it gets tricky. Even though the controls do help to reduce motion sickness, Prometheus walks at the pace of an elderly person, as though he is scared to walk fast in case he trips over a pebble. This causes a lot of frustration as I wanted to explore every nook and cranny though had no desire to do so because it takes you light years to get from one location to the next. To kneel down, you have to point the Move controller towards the floor and press the move button, and then to stand up you have to raise your arm in the air and press the move button again. To turn around you have to out stretch your arm in the direction you want to turn, and then press the move button to face that way, though this is never accurate and you’ll always be slightly off angle to where you actually want to look. Needless to say, the controls are terrible; as mentioned you can pick up items in the environment, though I experienced some glitches with this too, such as items getting attached to your hand even though you have released it. The only fun I had with the controls was making Prometheus perform the YMCA in the mirror of the bathroom you start out in, but it quickly becomes tedious.
Besides wooing your girlfriend, there are some elements to Loading Human that are intriguing; at times the game will ‘shut down’ as it has trouble recalling one of Prometheus’ memories, and then it is up to you to reconnect them. The environment resembles something out of Tron, with everything turning into a flashing grid pattern against a black background. Several pieces of text will appear around the room with suggestions about what happened in the memory and it is up to you to choose the right ones and put them in chronological order. Using your hands you point and click the text you want and then a beam will extend from your hand, this beam then needing to be connected to the next part of what happened in the memory, and so fourth. Once you have all your chosen events in order, it will then calculate the accuracy of the memory, and will either have you start over, with less text to choose from to make it easier for you next time round, or you can continue once you have got it accurate enough. It’s an interesting idea and these moments are probably the better parts of the game, adding some much needed variation and substance, and also giving you a break from the shallow character and relationship building.
Other moments include going into this grid space again and powering a space shuttle through some rings, there’s a game that tests your reflexes by having you punch squares in a grid when it changes to the correct colour, and a game in which you shoot a number of asteroids using guns, which did take its toll on my wrists. Loading Human does have some variation to its gameplay and incorporates interaction very well, though it’s a shame that you have to slog through some awkward moments in order to see the good stuff.
Graphically the game isn’t the best; I’ve certainly seen a lot better, though it is still enough to immerse you in the world and it has its moments when it shines. Face expressions look rather mechanic – The London Heist has shown off some excellent face capturing – and the environment can look barren at times, set in a snowy landscape with mountains that look flat. As I was exploring I also kept hitting invisible walls even though it looked like I could walk over to certain areas – it’s a bit jarring walking into an invisible wall in a wide open space and not being able to go forward. The voice acting in the game is decent, though it doesn’t do anything to enhance the characters personalities.
Even though there are some fun moments in Loading Human: Chapter 1, the parts that it wanted to excel at falls very flat; the characters are generic and underdeveloped and it only seemed interested in showing some awkward interactions with Alice. The story has anything but ‘incredible emotional depth’ and is just as generic as the characters – go on perilous quest and find magical thing to help someone important in need – and the controls are awful. There is variation to shake things up, but it is few and far between and the moments are gone as soon as they appear. The only pleasure most players will care about is interacting with items and objects in the environment and throwing them everywhere they can.
More insultingly though is the price of the game; £34.99 for a 3-4 hour game that is only the first in a trilogy! If this is the pattern the publishers and developers are going for, the full game could come in at only 12 hours at a price tag of £104.97! For such a short game they probably could have delayed the game and then released the entire trilogy as one whole game at normal price, though that would have been too generous. As it is, Loading Human: Chapter 1 isn’t worth its current price-tag at all, and players should stay well clear until the trilogy has been released and is on sale. Or just don’t bother with it at all – there are much better VR games available.