A taste of arcade
With the PlayStation VR launching in October, Sony has set out to accommodate the new hardware accessory with plenty of gaming opportunities. To date, approximately 30 titles are available for consumer purchase, with upwards of 75 due by the end of the year. For me, the best part of the VR library is its accessible price range for its games (they range from about $10-59.99). With the first few weeks of virtual reality awe behind me and a couple experiences beneath my belt, I felt ready to review E.V.E. Gunjack.
For those unfamiliar with the E.V.E. franchise, the series began as an MMORPG for PC. It runs as a space emulator and consists of an enormous online economy, with in-game vessels being worth hundreds upon thousands of real dollars. E.V.E. began branching out years later and launched two games with the PlayStation VR – E.V.E. Valkyrie and E.V.E. Gunjack. The former is a full $59.99 experience that I’ll review soon, while Gunjack works as a $9.99 dive into what an arcade style game can do on the PSVR.
E.V.E. Gunjack is your story, that of a Gunjack pilot set to protect his illegal mining corporation from the relentless assaults of its enemies. You are one of several deployed Gunjacks, but you’re easily the best. The game consists of about 20 missions, each a different set of enemies but all with the same objectives: destroy as many enemies as you can and defeat the final boss-type vessel. Before and at the finale of each mission, you’re given a brief introduction and conclusion piece of exposition that helps lay the foundation for parts of a narrative. E.V.E. Gunjack is not a strong narrative experience, but having the lore to live is, at the least, appreciated.
Gameplay in E.V.E. Gunjack is akin to your run-of-the-mill turret shooter games – but in virtual reality. In other words, not much is different than usual outside of the immersion factor, which continues to impress. As VR is intended to do, an entire world surrounded me. To either side was my Gunjack, but as I examined the interior of the cockpit, I could spot – and read – numerous notes I (or someone) left for me. The minute details of little items like that seem to land more in VR, as I feel like I belong in the world. While the Gunjack is preparing its ascension to space from the depths of the mining facility, I watched as my arms lifted and prepared the cockpit for combat.
What ensued in space was a 3D Galaga. At the inception of each mission, waves of various enemy types launched attacks at my Gunjack and home base. My job was to destroy each ship; to do so, I had to move my head to aim and shoot with the R2 button. Green-lit enemies would drop one of five power-ups, which included a laser or lock-on rockets, that were helpful in dispatching my foes (and utilized with the L2 button). As an overall experience, E.V.E. Gunjack is fun, but I can’t say it’s terribly fulfilling.
With only twenty missions to choose from, E.V.E. Gunjack doesn’t offer generous amounts of gameplay. The game takes about three hours to beat, maybe, and that was with 3-Star mission ranks (there is, however, a master rating that can be obtained). Lacking a platinum trophy also killed any motivation for me to achieve higher scores or ratings. Since each level is identical in setup (excluding the two asteroid levels, where you blow up asteroids until you’re out of a health bar), the short game feels unnecessarily long. At its worst, E.V.E. Gunjack allows the player too much room for error, as I could easily use an extra life (you’re given three per level) to fly through the game. Not once did I require a second attempt at a mission (though a few times I needed one more life).
But if there’s one major positive to be said about E.V.E. Gunjack (outside of its immersion factor), it’s that the visuals in the game are gorgeous. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my biggest fears with the PSVR was hardware limitations; so far, however, I have yet to experience any of that. E.V.E. Gunjack presents a beautiful set of scenes, though the game is limited to about three separate views. Still, the game itself would certainly hold up visually outside of the PlayStation VR.
In conclusion, E.V.E. Gunjack is an excellent little endeavor for those with wallet pains from spending $400 on the PlayStation VR. It offers enough of an experience to get you excited about the future of virtual reality while presenting a technically sound and usually fun game. Its beautiful visuals and incredible immersion don’t do enough to save the short play length from the annuls of mediocrity. But if you’re in the market for a solid turret shooter or just one more VR experience, there are certainly much worse than E.V.E. Gunjack.