Dexed Review – Fire and Ice (PSVR)
The history of Dexed is an interesting one. Ninja Theory, the studio behind games like Heavenly Sword, Enslaved, and the coming Hellblade, held a game jam for a period of one month, and Dexed was a particular highlight of that event, created by eight Ninja Theory employees. They were allowed two additional months to polish Dexed, and the virtual reality on-rails shooter was released for PC based VR platforms back in September of 2016. Another couple months of optimizing for console, and the game is now available for PlayStation VR.
Dexed is an on-rails virtual reality shooter that uses opposing elements to create a level of challenge. Ice based enemies can only be taken down by fire projectiles, and vice versa. Attacking an ice enemy with ice will cause your score to freeze for a time, and fire causes your score to burn away for a few seconds. The duality of elements in helped along by the Move controllers, assigning one element to each hand. With two targeting reticles, it can be a bit difficult to wrap your mind around using both at first, but learning to separate each will lead to huge combos that can improve your score as you deftly move them around the environment, targeting the appropriate marks.
It’s not as simple as just firing though. Holding down the triggers causes each reticle to mark targets, and releasing the trigger unleashes a barrage of the corresponding element, hopefully at the correct quarry. While it is playable with a DualShock 4 using R2 and L2 for each element, it’s nearly impossible to remain competitive with a single reticle. The Move controllers really give Dexed that frantic combo filled combat feel that Ninja Theory is known for. Weaving the controllers in and out of enemy arrangements becomes almost like a dance, first with one hand, then the other, and finally intertwining the two, sometimes surprising myself with the dexterity which I was able to eliminate each target, and other times completely failing to line up my marks.
Over Before It’s Begun
There are four levels that span different environments, and a fifth stage that’s a boss battle against a squid. Each level takes less than five minutes to complete, so all in all, a single run through of the entire game is about 20 to 30 minutes. To round this out, there’s an arcade mode that changes up some of the rules and adds a health bar to worry about, but aside from score chasing, it never really drives much intrigue or variety for long periods, and has a decidedly boring environment in comparison to the beautiful level design that fills each of the other stages. There are easy, normal, and hard difficulties for each level, but these don’t change much except how swift and severe the punishment is for failing to hit the correct targets with the right element.
As I mentioned, the environments in the game are beautiful, and come across stunningly in the VR headset. From the underwater area to the snow filled wonderland, I’m consistently impressed with what developers are able to do visually, and although we’ve seen problems when PC virtual reality games have been ported to PlayStation VR, I was left very happy with both the art and tight controller tracking Dexed has on PSVR. I did come across the occasional issue where it seemed it wouldn’t lock on to the target I was aiming at, but with as quickly as things are moving across the screen, it’s certainly possible I just wasn’t getting the target fully in the lock-on circle. It didn’t happen often, so I’d chalk up to more user error than an issue with Dexed.
Once you know the story behind the Dexed, its relatively brief and disjointed nature start to make a little more sense. It still doesn’t stop me from wishing there was a little more variety in the enemies, and maybe a boss encounter at the end of each environment. The squid would have made a perfect boss for the first underwater level instead of a standalone cap to the entire game, and I would have been eager to see what they could have done with boss encounters the forest, lava, and winter levels to make each of them really feel complete. Fortunately they did add a “zen” mode as another difficulty level that removes all enemies and allows the player to take in the opulent environments that Ninja Theory created without threat or stress, a brief virtual vacation in their special brand of on-rails surroundings.
Dexed feels like it could have been right at home with as a PSVR launch title, but at this point we’re a little beyond short experiences that feel more like tech demos, most particularly right after the massive feat that was Resident Evil 7 VR. The concept has already been proven, and I’d prefer to play Rez Infinite over Dexed in VR. Dexed isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the term, in fact it’s quite a great game. Great enough that I wish it had been expanded on instead of left as a tease of what Ninja Theory can do in VR. It’s interesting then that my feelings on the game match the divisive elements on which its theme is predicated. I find Dexed to be both a standout game by Ninja Theory, and a short incomplete experience that doesn’t add much to the world of virtual reality.
Dexed employs plenty of great ideas that could have been expanded on since its game jam concept. It can be completed fully in under a half an hour, with score chasing and trophy requirements being the only things to bring players back for more, many of which provide quite difficult challenges such as clearing all enemies on the highest difficulty and reaching certain score thresholds. The launch price does match the content, coming in at under $10, but I desperately wanted more, even if it drove the price up. Dexed is worth getting some time with for the unique ideas it provides, but don’t expect to spend a ton of time in Ninja Theory’s VR world.
Dexed review code provided by developer. Reviewed on PlayStation VR. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.