Hands-On With Cinematic On-Rails Mech Shooter Archangel

We’ve watched massive robots in various films and controlled them in some games, wondering when we’d get a realistic experience that really makes us feel like the pilot of a massive machine. Arcades have been destinations for large rigs that emulate the type of experience we desire but VR, as a platform, is the perfect way to bring this into homes.
Skydance Interactive’s Archangel is an attempt at this mech dream in the form of a story-driven shooter that will debut on PlayStation VR (PSVR) and we got a chance to try out an updated demo at E3 2017 last month.
Before the mission started there was a brief tutorial in which I was taught the controls. Piloting a giant robot from its cockpit is something VR should excel at and this experience was a hint at things to come. There’s no delay between your movements and the movement of your virtual arms in the mech’s cockpit, but there’s a subtle delay between that and the movement of the mech’s arms. This feels intentional though as it really makes you feel like you’re manipulating a large and heavy weapon of mass destruction.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLIpWrhhyEo?feature=oembed&w=1200&h=675]
The feeling was so thorough that I realized I was mimicking the slow movement with the controllers, a testament to how VR can really trick your senses. Beyond that, the controls for the mech were fairly intuitive. You have a shield on each arm that you can activate with a button press along with weapons for each arm. You alternate between shooting and guarding with each and there’s a degree of strategy needed to survive your encounters.
With all these things said, it’s disappointing that the game is just an on-rails shooter. It allows for more cinematic situations that come across well, but the engaging movement of the mech will have you longing for more freedom. While controllers like Valve’s Knuckles are working to create a level of heightened immersion for moments where you merely inhabit virtual spaces and interact as you would normally without the barrier of holding a controller, experiences where you pilot ships or mechs are enhanced by the VR controllers we use.
Skydance looks to be shaping a fun experience with Archangel that may end up telling a compelling story as well and, hopefully, it sets the bar for these types of games. Archangel will be available this month in July for PSVR and for Vive and Rift the following month in August.
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