EVE: Gunjack Review – Shoot for the Stars (PSVR)
EVE is a video game universe that almost defies belief. Its core title, simply titled EVE Online, first launched all the way back in May of 2003 and has since spawned massive space battles involving literally thousands upon thousands of players. Never forget the Bloodbath of B-R5RB.
Fast forward to now and with the arrival of Sony’s PlayStation VR, early adopters have not one, but two EVE-centric titles vying for their attention. The first is EVE: Valkyrie, a blistering dogfighting sim that arguably stands as the poster child for this virtual reality renaissance; the second, meanwhile, is known simply as Gunjack. Though its ties to the overarching EVE universe are slender at best, Gunjack is fundamentally an arcade turret shooter, and a neat counterpart to the intense, spacefaring action of Valkyrie. You are Eight, a silent blue-collar worker who is placed in the hot seat behind a five ton weapon ready to cut any oncoming space pirates into ribbons.
Your mission? It’s simple, defend your interstellar mining platform from any and all threats, be that waves upon waves of increasingly dangerous space vessels darting across the inky blackness or, in the case of those intermittent bonus missions, a field of asteroids that clutter the screen.
As Gunjack has its roots in the mobile space, each mission adheres to your typical three-star progression system. The more you collect, the more missions unlock, but without any in-game store to upgrade or modify your turret, this progression can become monotonous before long.
It’s Death O’Clock!
This extends to the gameplay, too. Gunjack’s control scheme may be fairly easy to pick up — your head is essentially the right analog stick and steers the direction of the turret — but the lack of variety can make missions feel like more of a slog than anything else. By gunning down select space vessels, you’ll gain access to a handful of power-ups (or health!) that range from the artillery cannon to the really rather awesome stasis field.
How and ever, it’s in these moments that you begin to realize just how much Gunjack telegraphs its gameplay loop ahead of time. Just picked up a stasis field? Expect a deluge of lightning-fast enemies to zoom across the screen. Ditto for the artillery cannon, which is a power-up that so often precedes clusters of ships primed and waiting to be blown to kingdom come. Plus, it is a little frustrating that you aren’t able to switch between weapons, meaning you have to unload your new armament there and then before reverting back to the default machine gun.
It’s predictable, then, which can really detract from what Gunjack does so well. Graphically speaking, it may not be the most impressive experience on PSVR — a title that likely belongs to its brethren, Valkyrie — but it is a crisp, polished package. Couple this with the more challenging levels and you have a VR title that you could blaze through in an evening and feel relatively satisfied. Providing you can stick with the in-game narrator, that is.
He’s the superior and mentor to your budding Gunjack, but when he comes off with such uninspired titbits as “it’s death o’ clock,” you’d be forgiven for simply skipping over each mission interlude and hopping back into the turret without paying much attention to the wafer-thin story. For a title that comes bearing the EVE label, it’s disappointing that, after stripping away intuitive controls and solid visuals, Gunjack isn’t all that deep.
That being said, much like first-person horror and cockpit racers, in many ways the advent of virtual reality breathes new life into this time-honored genre. It’s an exciting extension, too, ramping up the feeling of immersion to the point that you feel every judder, every rattling explosion, as the onslaught of bullets and asteroids pepper your armor plating.
As far as VR turret shooters go, Gunjack sets the benchmark fairly high. Its lack of a concrete story may be a turn-off for some — it does have its roots in the mobile space — but that feeling of gunning down ships from the comfort of your cockpit is as exhilarating as it is immersive. At the risk of sounding pejorative, CCP’s spinoff can in many ways be likened to VR junk food — short, sweet, and fulfilling in the moment. Just don’t expect a VR experience for the ages.
Eve: Gunjack review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.