Lethal VR Review – Set Phasers to Stun (PSVR)
When I went into Lethal VR I kept picturing the X-Men Danger Room, you know, that virtual reality facility that allows the X-Men to train and use their powers in relative safety. Lethal VR is billed as an FBI recruit assessment in virtual reality, a variety of target ranges to test your accuracy and quickdraw capabilities. It was built from the ground up as a room scale VR experience for the HTC Vive and ported for PlayStation users onto PSVR. For PlayStation VR users, use of the Move controllers are required to wield the weapons that you are given, both single and dual wielding for different challenges.
Starting off in a circular room that again reminds me of the danger room, I get a distinctly arcade vibe. The game asks me to enter my initials for score tracking, something that it feels like games haven’t often done for over 20 years. It kind of helps to get into that high score mentality, knowing that I’ll see those three letters at the top of each mission’s scoreboard. The first few missions start out easy enough, basically asking me to quick fire at a series of targets that appear. Scoring is based on time and accuracy, with bullseyes and headshots scoring the most, and shots in quick succession — without missing of course — adding bonuses.
It’s a bit of gimmicky fun that finds itself dragging pretty quickly. Keep in mind that if you were to look up information on Lethal VR, you would probably see 360-degree room scale VR being touted as the highlight, but this trait does not apply to the PSVR version, which has been scaled down to only include targets in a little more than the front 180 degrees. While this makes sense for how PlayStation VR is set up, when you take a game built at its core for the high accuracy room scale VR of the HTC Vive and try to neuter it until it doesn’t offer the same level of mobility or pinpoint accuracy, it can leave a sour taste.
Missing the Mark
The biggest problem is accuracy. Relying only on the PlayStation Camera, tracking the precision of the Move controller is less than perfect at the extreme ends of where the targets appear. It’s not the tracking of the Move positioning, but rather tracking the precise location that you are trying to point at. Targets at those far ends of the spectrum became very difficult to hit, each gun’s aim being more and more off as I reached for those distant objectives. Then came the throwing knives.
For the targets up front, the throwing knives were particularly fun. There’s a bit of a learning curve to understanding the relationship between velocity of flicking your arm and releasing the trigger, but once I got it down, I was hitting the targets with ease. The problem again came with the targets on the far ends. As I attempted to throw the knives anywhere past 180 degrees, instead of going in the intended direction they would actually curve. It wasn’t just a problem of accuracy. The actual game physics of thrown objects caused them to curve when thrown on the extreme bounds of the target range. Instead of hitting these targets on the merits of my virtual knife throwing skills, I just rapid fire chucked a bunch of stuff in the general direction of the targets until something stuck.
There are a variety of weapons across Lethal VR’s 30 missions, including some special weapons inspired by movies in some bonus levels, but aside from the difference between thrown weapons and firearms, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of core discrepancy in the way each armament handles. The golden gun feels barely any different from the six shooter, which seems like a six-shot version of the standard pistol granted in the first mission. Without the ability to select your own armament, and each mission tailored around the limitations of the weapon it provides, so the targets of the single shot golden gun are spaced far enough apart to account for the single shot reload that would otherwise require you to change your tactical formula.
The missions average about a minute each, give or take, and being stuck to a specific weapon (or dual wield) on each one severely limits their replayability to nothing more than seeing if you can aim better in a faster time. I reached the “Lethal” rating in many of them without really trying that hard, and then it was off to the next one. If it wasn’t a knife, it was throwing stars. Instead of a pistol, it was a burst SMG. Sometimes the targets were amongs civilians that I couldn’t shoot. Sometimes I had to hit specific targets with specific weapons. After just over an hour I had completed every one, and without the game offering me a real reason to go back in for more, I decided to check which trophies I was missing. Except I wasn’t missing any. 100% complete in just over an hour without even trying, despite having awkward issues with tracking on the larger scale ranges.
So just about the only reason to replay is to aim for high scores, which are limited to local only. There’s no tracking for shots fired, accuracy ratings, number of bullseyes hit, nothing. There are only local high scores tied to three letter initials. I get the desire to feel like an arcade shooting range, but it limits the longevity of Lethal VR, something already hampered by the accuracy issues that it runs into by being a neutered port.
Lethal VR fails to dial up the phasers from stun to kill, a decidedly less lethal experience on PlayStation VR than its original Vive counterpart. It has a really fun arcadey core that could make for some great quick VR shooting gallery moments, but is hamstrung on PSVR by a tightened field of action and piss-poor accuracy using the Move controllers. Lack of any real stats outside of local high scores limits replayability and I was happy to delete it off of my PS4 after only an hour and a 100% trophy list, feeling no real desire to revisit the range. I’m a huge supporter of VR, but Lethal VR on PlayStation VR feels like the kind of rushed and gimmicky experience that could end up doing more harm to the medium than good.
Lethal VR review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation VR. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.