When I first heard about Defector I had been eager to see what basically amounted to Mission Impossible coming to Virtual Reality --that the laughably improbable, overblown action that makes you feel like a genuine badass. And even though there are some choice slices of action hero greatness served up on a silver platter, I couldn't help but feel like Defector was still a bit undercooked in the middle.
For a child growing up in the'90s, I spent untold amounts of quarters on arcade light gun shooters like Area 51 (1995) and many of the Time Crisis franchise regulars. In a few ways, Defector reminds me of these on-rails arcade games of yore despite offering up a measure of choice when it comes to how you experience the game Augmented Reality.
Although it isn't an on-rails expertise in the sense that you are forcibly carried from one location to the next (it's free locomotion), Defector hasn't made the allowances to give you any leeway to be smart or find alternate solutions to problems on your own. It makes me feel, despite being able to change the proverbial minecart on a temporary left or right track, the choice is simply about engaging in a one-off experience you want at that instant. And I was really looking forward to a game which promised not just to let you do incredible things, yet to choose the best way to accomplish them.
To be clear, Defector is basically an arcade shooter in mind; it relies heavily on basic tropes that become a large focus later in the game, such as many gun types, infinite ammo, sparse health pickups, and a couple of minor bosses. When you are not blasting away enemies though, you are following easy instructions from the telepresent friend Doran--and you'll end up chatting with NPCs and attempting to pick the best response from a fundamental dialogue tree for any specific situation. More on NPCs in the immersion' section below.
Following is a quick rundown of the story: you're an elite spy who's tasked with tracking down stolen'apparatus segments' which are important to the authorities... for reasons. Sitting in a government office, you flash back to all your five missions, ostensibly while at your own deposition; the top brass aren't contented with the way things went down. You don't have much aside from a specific contact lens that lets you see key items, along with an earpiece, each of which is used by your support friend Doran to feed you important information.
Minor spoiler: My favorite part by far is the first 25 minutes of this game, which is spent waltzing around undercover to a bad man's personal jet with the aim of slipping back the very first apparatus section to an absolutely incredible effect. After completing that portion of this assignment, the game introduced me with an explicit choice between two different avenues I could take following. The alternate pathway would have taken me through Dr. Villain's plane to fight through all of the heavies and drive off the plane in mid-air James Bond-style.
This is the absurd high-octane fun I signed up for, nevertheless, Defector seems to kickstart out these moments at fairly sparse periods for my liking afterward, rather choosing to pad the game with its arcade shooter and its toothless NPC interactions. To its credit, Defector does not bore you with lengthy onboarding experience, rather tossing you into fresh interactions as they occur, though it's hard to call it a non-stop adrenaline ride.
As for your shooter piece, the game presents three types of enemies, maybe four if you count grenade-throwing goons rather than the overwhelming majority of the enemies with machine guns.
Like its arcade cabinet forbears, enemy AI is fairly VR Simulator bad men rush out of nowhere and basically stay put before you do your own thing. Like true bullet sponges, you can take them straight in the head several times before they go down. I would have liked to see more precision and fewer arcade controls, but I can see how that might turn off people who aren't in it to the shooting elements alone and are only looking to be in an action film.
As for the story, it follows your normal action film storyline, sending you off to interesting locales including India, London, and New York. It is here that I wish the game could have given me agency to research, and accomplish missions in non-standard ways. More on that below.
In the end, I spent a little over three hours on a single pass through the campaign, even though you can leap back into previous missions (with the choice of empowering cheats) so that you revisit someone of the five assignments to see where a different decision might have taken you.
In the end, I spent a bit more than three hours on a single pass through the campaign, although you can leap back into previous missions (with the option of empowering cheats), and that means you revisit any one of the five assignments to see where another choice might have taken you.
At virtually every turn, unacceptable responses are satisfied with all the ethical equivalent"Are you stupid? And although you're not penalized for giving a wrong' answer, you have to double-click on each option to find out which one is right so as to progress.
And then there are the NPCs which don't offer anything. All answers are'incorrect' and lead nowhere. In fact, at the second mission, I was so frustrated at the absence of some clues that I asked each and every NPC in the level every question until I finally found the one that would allow me to progress in the story. Your mileage may vary, and you may hit that one NPC right away by chance, but you will find zero hints to get you there--all of them dead ends. This was decidedly the only moment when you cope with non-combative NPCs in the game, but I really felt like it was a missed opportunity.
Despite this, there are legitimate divergences in the game's narrative, which can be indicated with a big green'ACTION BRANCH' labels. These represent a binary choice that the participant can make, which is implicitly known beforehand--e.g. go after the large beefy boss guy, or go after the weaselly little turncoat.
Finally, action branches are fun little asides that ideally allure to what you need from this game. Are you looking for a shooting segment at the assignment, or are you looking to go stealth? Even though the scope of the game is fairly limited in terms of mission flexibility, I'm glad to be able to select what type of ride I am in the mood for.
Visuals are a fundamental part of the immersion, and the components for impressive visuals are definitely there in Defector, but the game is still in need of a bit more refinement. This is an honest shame since I count lots of the game's design elements as a net positive, such as complete character design, motion capture, set bits --all it has enough meat on the bone to the interest of immersion. Although as is, the game's visual fidelity sets a definite damper on both space shooting and making out enemies from darker scenes.
Item interaction can be a bit of a missed opportunity; you will find things you're permitted to select up, and others you can't. There is hardly any rhyme or reason to it all. You can pick up a fork, but not an apple from a box. You can pick up a dish, but not a fire extinguisher. Soon, and so forth. If you drop a product, occasionally it appears in your inventory, but if it is a magazine, it simply disappears.
Despite a few moments when being swung around violently, Defector is mostly a cozy game. It comprises both changeable snap-turning and smooth-turning for consumers who want Mixed Reality.
If you're looking to get the absolute most out of your ability to move around, however, you're going to want to strafe always so baddies cannot get a bead on your head. That type of constant lateral movement can be uncomfortable however, so it's nice to see that strafing is also a toggleable option.
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