E3 2019 Hands-On – Espire 1: VR Operative
I unfortunately didn’t get to explore the VR realm as much as I wanted to at E3, but out of the three VR games I did get to play (Fuji VR, Sniper Elite VR), Espire 1: VR Operative attracted me the most. I played on the Oculus Rift S, which was my first time playing on the Rift S, and it was a great experience. I teamed up with Michael Wentworth-Bell (Game director, Game Design) and Nick Acciarito (Business Manager) to find out their vision for Espire 1: VR Operative.
As I was strapping myself into the headset I was given a quick rundown about what to expect gameplay-wise and a small synopsis of what Espire is. You play as an Espire agent who must complete objective-based missions utilizing an arsenal of weaponry and gadgets. You’ll develop infiltration tactics and techniques as you play to finish missions faster or with more flair. Espire 1: VR Operative is a stealth, espionage, and full on action game depending on how you play. They explained that the feeling they wanted to achieve was a mix of Goldeneye and Metal Gear Solid, and from the bit I got to play, they’re on the right path.
After a brief tutorial that explains general controls as far as picking up weapons, shooting them, reloading, holstering, climbing, and using your gadgets. Your character has the ability to climb any surface by simply grabbing them and pulling yourself up hand-over-hand. This comes in handy a few times during the demo. The level I got to play was reminiscent of the Facility map from Goldeneye. I started a bit rough being spotted by an enemy which alerted the surrounding guards. Luckily my superior shooting skills got me through this sticky situation. Moving forward I was much more careful, using stealth and my gadgets to see where enemies are and plan my attacks.
Moving into a large room full of pacing guards I had a lot of different options to approach the situation. Do I go ground level and hide between the locker gaps? Do I attract guards to me and take them out one-by-one? Do I drop down, grab that rifle on the bench, and shed some blood? Do I climb the rafters and pick people off? I ended up climbing up some rafters to a zip line that ended up dropping me off right behind a guard.
Being the ninja I am, I approached him silently. This is when Michael yelled freeze and the guard actually stopped in his tracks and raised his hands. He explained that it’s a feature in the game where if you say “freeze” when you have the drop on them they’ll raise their hands. You can then either shoot them, take their gun, or give them a swift donkey punch and knock them out. I was then able to drag the body into a hiding spot to then stalk my other prey. I tested out a few different ways to distract guards like tossing a magazine.
After displaying my superior stealth skills, I decided to show off my John Wick-esque gunplay. Being a gun owner apparently showed since Nick was impressed with how I handled my pistol, even prompting him to ask me if I shoot or own guns. I decided to grab the rifle to see how it handled and the recoil effects were well done. You’ll definitely need to have both hands on the rifle to stabilize it, but you can always turn on a Max Payne slow motion effect to help aim or take out multiple enemies. It also had a scope on the top and a iron sight on its side rail to quickly go from long to short range.
Unfortunately, the demo ends shortly after this, but it was enough to make me want a lot more. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Espire 1 with the freedom it offered me to take down my targets or avoid them all together. I really can’t wait to see how they work in more of the espionage where you’ll need to infiltrate, steal key cards, and collect data and such. It wasn’t absolutely perfect as there were a few objects that didn’t have physics and that can automatically pull you out of the immersion, but the tracking and general gameplay were smooth. Espire 1 is looking to launch in August, but hopefully they can make sure all items in the game world are interactable and can be used to distract guards.