One of the most charming gaming experiences I’ve had at PAX West so far was for the multiplayer VR shooter Gunheart.
Drifter just launched the game on Steam early access, and have had a pretty positive reception so far from early backers of the game. Of course, because it runs on the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, you do need to set up cameras to run it — but once you have that down and either some dedicated space to stand or spin around in an office chair, you’re all set. And what you get once you put on that headset is an absolutely gorgeous game which manages to capture both the most competitive and compelling aspects of shooters as a social game.
The in-game matchmaking lobby is a physical space you can hang out in with a small group of players; right now, the lobby size is about 10 players max. It looks like a bar, and functions quite like a bar once you get down to it. And it’s called the Bent Horizon. Come on, how can you not love that?
Within the bar you can customize your gear, your character’s facial expression — including heart eyes, a mustache, or cat face — as well as your jacket and hat, including cat ears, and weapons. Because of the way that players appear in game, it’s hard to tell if someone is standing or sitting based on their body language, but you can figure out just about everything else. It’s like having face-to-face contact with all the anonymity of the internet, which is something VR does well in general. Gunheart‘s social functions just really do make it seem better. You can draw in 3-D, you can create balloons, you can even smack each other with a giant foam hand. It is glorious.
There’s also a shooting range, so you can test out your weapons. The standard loadout is a crossbow in one hand, a machine gun in the other, and if you cross your hands over one another, you get a heavy gun. Like your weapons are goddamn Transformers.
The level designs are intricate, gorgeous, and full of multi-level environments that allow you to really take advantage of the game’s teleportation movement. You can teleport pretty much anywhere you can see, and that’s pretty sweet. You can also strafe in the game, and there are a dedicated group of strafers in Gunheart‘s early access community who have no trouble with the motion sickness and have managed to kick absolute butt in the leader boards.
Right now, Gunheart is on both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift systems, but Drifer are working on PSVR functionality. So if you got the PSVR for Monster of the Deep, well, you can keep it around for Gunheart when you get sick of reeling in fantasy fish.
Gunheart even makes HTC’s Vive controller wands seem more sensible than the Oculus Touch with the way that teleportation works on the Vive. And that is something I hadn’t expected.
Based on the demo mission, target practice, and goofing around that I did with the folks at Drifter, I’m absolutely thrilled with Gunheart.