Virtual Reality and standard gaming continue to grow, oftentimes together. As the world of VR progresses and carves out its niche in the gaming community, games like Gunheart serve as a middle ground by offering both experiences to all. Gunheart is an incredible online co-op RPG experience that allows players to get up close and personal with the shooter experience. It also offers an interesting mashup for fans of franchises such as Quake, Borderlands, and even other shooters such as Lawbreakers and Halo.
This game combines a little bit of everything from games out now and initially I went into Gunheart thinking it was going to be “just another shooter.” The tutorial right off the bat told me I was wrong on that account, and the dialogue style that would do Vault Hunters from Borderlands proud kept me going. The hodgepodge of shooter blood shouldn't be surprising. The developer team that make up this title is a melting pot of talent from those that worked with Epic Games, as well as others that have Halo and Gears of War under their belt. That also explained some of the more free-style aspects to Gunheart, mechanically there are some subtle inspirations from Microsoft's Halo series, as well as Bungie's Destiny.
I first tried Gunheart in its standard mode, since many gamers have yet to jump onboard with the VR hype. It played like any other shooter, the controls took a little getting used to with the grappling and the teleportation. That being said, once I got the hang of both of those features – I dominated the playing field. These features made even more sense when I jumped over to try it with the HTC Vive, where the grappling became instantly easier and the teleportation became the way to travel.
VR, especially with games that aim to please both gaming communities, can end up doing a title more harm than good. That's where the team over at Drifter Entertainment did a phenomenal job with a perfect balance executed that made the controls fun, enjoyable, and progressively smooth. Swapping out weapons was incredibly easy, as well as traversing the map areas. That teleportation mentioned earlier? Comes in handy when players get swarmed and need to take high ground quickly. The mechanics just work in this game, letting the simplicity of the graphics make perfect sense and brings the title together in perfect symphony.
Players have an option to customize “their body,” as the game calls it, though don't expect your avatar to look like you. This was another aspect that reminded me of Borderlands, because the toons look like Zero from the popular series from Gearbox. I was even able to give my character a digital handlebar mustache … which, let's be real, gave the game some major brownie points.
The voice on the other end of comms as I took on “jobs” was also very Borderlands-esque with both the sound and the manner of speech. Badassery is definitely the name of the game and that little voice in the player's ear is meant to pump up the heat against hordes of bug-like creatures. The comedic aspect of the script also helps, because there were just some moments that were just too damn funny, although fleeting. Given the more humorous tones, however, this did keep the game a little more grounded lest it fall too deep into the Arcade-esque pit that a lot of other titles in this same genre tend to trap themselves within.
Like many future-driven MMOs, most recently that of Destiny, players are also given certain quests that are definitely more enjoyable in co-op than solo. They are doable, but much more fun with friends. The overall speed of the game seemed to be much more fluid in co-op as well, more of a drive in purpose – though solo play was enjoyable as well. I noticed I lost myself in the game itself much more often when playing with a bud, but completing “jobs” had its own perks as well.
Though Gunheart does offer a sassy experience that is in tune with other beloved games out there, it's not perfect by any means. Nothing major, but enough to make it not everyone's cup of tea. Jumping right into the fray was fun, but nothing immediately stood out about the game as a “hook” until a little further in. It wasn't until I had a few jobs under my belt and saw my “body” evolve a bit more that I started to feel bonded to this particular play experience.
There were also a few bugs I experienced during my time with the game that would cause something like a bridge toggle not to activate when I needed it to, or the teleport mechanic wouldn't work the way it was supposed to – therefore hurtling me off the edge of a cliff when I had it set in the complete opposite direction. Honestly, though, that's a common issue with VR shooters and one thing that games like Gunheart and others in the genre that toe that Virtual Reality line have to face.
Despite a vast open world and varying environments to explore, the AI system felt repetitive at times. There wasn't enough of a variation when fighting enemies, making fighting the fray and continuing the story at bit monotonous at times. On the other hand, however, that comedic edge mentioned earlier definitely helped with that – so really it just comes down to the individual player as to whether or not that balance between the unbalance is enough to override the slower parts to the game.
Overall though, it was enjoyable. It was more than I was expecting and something I look forward to introducing friends to. It may not be the next Halo or Borderlands, but it's not trying to be and I don't think it has to be. It's a fun experience with flaws, but enough charm to make it a keeper.
Gunheart is available now on PC.