Look. This is a tricky one to review. Maybe that’s why there aren’t many reviews of the game out there. Of all the games that have come along in this PSVR launch period, Loading Human was certainly not one of the ones I was most excited about but, for various reasons, it is the first one that I’m reviewing and therefore the first one I’ve committed proper time to (as opposed to flitting between every demo I can get my hands on and trying to melt my eyes). As such, I’m aware that in reviewing the game, I’m also reviewing the tech that is PSVR.
So, before we get into the critique of the game, let’s talk about what it is. Essentially an adventure game, you play as Prometheus Baawick, a scientist who, in Chapter 1 at least, is stationed at an Arctic base tasked with the mission of preparing for a space voyage where he’ll seek out something called the ‘Quintessence.’
This mysterious power source will provide enough energy to power the equipment that his father, Dorian Baawick, has created that can extend human life and potentially cheat death altogether and during this first chapter, the game will touch on both the preparation for the mission and also the strained relationship between these two characters. Add to that Prometheus’ burgeoning relationship with Alice, the only other human on the base, and Loading Human certainly deserves credit for fleshing out the characters.
The gameplay however, has that real feeling of a launch title. You remember when the Vita was released and some developers got so caught up on the handheld’s stupid array of control options that they basically included all of them (Little Deviants being particularly guilty of it)? Well, Loading Human seems kind of set on showing off Sony’s tech for them without really considering whether or not it is fun.
This is evident right away when you start off in a bathroom surrounded with various toiletries and objects. As you figure out how to pick them up and examine them (and dropping them on the floor because Prometheus is a messy bastard), you’ll be tasked with shaving yourself. Eventually you’ll realise that the objects in the room are all useless, apart from the electric shaver and once you’re done shaving you’ll be hoping that kind of bullshit is behind you. However, it isn’t. From making herbal tea to preparing dinner, the game loves to throw menial tasks at you. This gets particularly ridiculous when you have to light six candles. Your lighter is good for the first two but then runs out. You’ll quickly realise that you can use a lit candle to light the others but fucking hell, really? Is that what we can expect from VR games for the next six months? I hope not.
Now, if that all sounds absolutely shit, here’s the upside. Yes, there are other elements to game including some mini-games disguised as training missions, and some much better puzzles, but as you buy into the story and the setting, dicking about with the puzzles kind of feels okay. It helps that this is just one chapter and can be completed in four or five hours. It also helps that it was my first proper game reviewed. While the game really can be described as a cross between a walking simulator and a point and click adventure (literally my two most hated genres), there is something about the story (which admittedly completely rips off the film Prometheus, albeit while giving you some very unsubtle clues that it is doing that) and the setting that makes it all seem okay. Sure, the puzzles are partly too simple, oddly frustrating (especially when the thing you need to look at, and are actually holding, is just out of view) and sometimes quite badly signposted (I spent fucking ages searching for a bottle of wine when the solution was literally punching me in my stupid face) and the gameplay slower than a molasses factory, but the views, man… the views.
While the game visually is at the mercy of the VR tech and therefore kind of pixellated and rough, the environments are great and you really can walk right up to things. During one particularly dull fetch quest, I walked up to a seven foot robot and just found myself stunned at what I was seeing. It was right there, an inch from my face. And the game isn’t afraid to give you some nice long views outside of the windows. Am I being seduced by the headset and the visuals? Maybe. Probably. Or maybe it is just the fact that the game didn’t overstay its welcome.
Either way, I leave Loading Human: Chapter 1 feeling satisfied. With it being a review code, I didn’t have to pay the going price (currently hovering between £25-30) and if I had, maybe I’d be feeling ripped off (although presumably that includes all the chapters that will be released later because if it doesn’t then yes, that’s FAR too much to pay). But for what it is, a deliberately slow adventure game with a bunch of puzzles in it, I liked it. I engaged with the story, I loved the setting and PSVR did a really good job of putting me in the thick of it with special mention going to the sound design which was very effective (through the cheap-looking bundled earphones you get with the PSVR). And the ending, even if it really isn’t an ending at all, wowed me.
Your mileage may vary and if your first VR experiences were RIGS or Rez, then this will all feel pretty slow and stilted but I liked it, even if I’m not really sure why. Without the VR tech, I arguably wouldn’t have liked this game even half as much as I do and that does need to be noted but maybe I’m just a mark for the VR experience. Christ, I wouldn’t listen to me at all!