Arktika.1 - PC / VR Review

There is a whole lot to like about this latest release from 4A Games, the makers of the Metro titles. Arktika.1is incredibly polished, it looks fantastic and perhaps most importantly, nails the desired atmosphere through details large and small to create a very memorable virtual reality experience.

This is far more than just an 'experience' - something so many VR titles tout, because this is an action game that plays out very nicely as well. In Arktika.1, I found myself in a snowy, barren wasteland with Russia as the setting. Those familiar with the Metro titles will find a very similar vibe throughout this game. It is not a Metro game in name, but 4A Games does a lot of the same things here to excellent effect.

Arktika.1gives off that same barren, post-apocalyptic feeling throughout, with a first person shooting game that is more than just a short tech demo or a standstill shooter. However, while the experience is still very atmospheric - ably assisted by the sound and music that really helps to set the tone, it is not quite quite the same kind of game Metro is either, largely due to the locomotion system. It works well enough, allowing you to teleport between nodes, giving you a sense of movement without actual freedom to explore as you want. Enemies have a tendency to come in waves, but the ability to travel (albeit with restrictions) to different nodes does make Arktika.1 something more than a generic wave based shooter.

While you do jump from node to node and are not actually walking between points of interest, you are far from a statue when fighting. You duck, you lean and you aim, given a couple of feet of flexibility within each node location to allow the gameplay a little room to breathe. On top of this movement scheme, your primary concern during the action sequences besides shooting is the reloading system, which became second nature pretty early on for me. Outside of the combat and the warp locomotion, you will encounter some pretty straightforward puzzles that mostly just boil down to pressing the right things at the right time. They are never too challenging nor overstay their welcome, offering just a bit of pace change between the more frantic and polished firefights. 

The environments are pretty fantastic, with moody dark interiors that stand in stark contrast to the often bright, white exteriors. The crazy action works well and is fast and fluid, but really the varied environments were what took the cake for me as they really are wonderfully well done and popped with my Oculus headset. Remote frozen settings are actually a favorite of mine ever since I watched The Thing as a kid the first time. I find the cold to be decidedly unpleasant (which makes me question why my family is rooted in Michigan, but that's an entirely different topic) to boot, giving the experience a sort of gritty, survival aesthetic. Perhaps the biggest complaint is that the world and setting is not managed all that organically. The narrative is generally spoon fed through expository dialog via your one companion Viktoria, and less via contextual finds such as books, bodies and audio files used to great effect in more suspenseful action titles like Dead Space.

While this means that the atmosphere is tense, it is perhaps not quite as intense as some other titles. Thankfully the action itself is set up in intelligent ways that still help the mood along. The level design is really interesting, with large open areas that have that horde of enemies feeling at times, while in other instances narrower passages lend a more claustrophobic feeling to the movement as you find yourself unable to tell what might be right around the corner.

There are a couple of basic types of enemies, from the weapon-wielding humans to the strange monsters that make one hell of an initial impression, even if I found myself finding them somewhat underutilized by the time the end of the game rolled around. They are fast, terrifying and add some welcome variety to the gameplay, but despite their prominent place in the story, they are surprisingly sparse in the actual combat gameplay. That comes away as one of the biggest missed opportunities for me.

The progression loop here comes in the form of new weapons and upgrades that you can purchase with cash earned along the way. You can attempt to one-up your score, and there are some challenges baked into the levels for those who want an excuse to come back and play the game again, but there is really no variation in the already somewhat underdeveloped story. Thankfully the roughly thirty minute missions add up to a full length game, which is saying something considering I have played some VR titles that were almost as short as a single chapter of Arktika.1.

Arktika.1 doesn't revolutionize in any one way, but it does just about everything really, really well. Fans of the Metro titles will feel 4A Games' fingerprints all over this one, providing more than a half dozen hours of gameplay and a fantastic presentation that couples with solid controls. I would have liked to see a little more effort put into the world building and a bit more enemy variety / use, but the overall package is so well done that I consider Arktika.1 one of the current must-haves for the Oculus Rift.

Game Information

PC - Oculus Rift
4A Games
4A Games
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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