One of the things I’ve come to love most about VR is the bizarre mashups of traditionally independent genres. Developers are constantly finding creative ways to present their games in the virtual reality space, so why not marry real-time strategy games with first-person shooters? That’s the concept for Out of Ammo. At one moment you’ll be managing a base and defending a point while overlooking the whole map, and the next you’ll become one of the soldiers on the ground, intent on taking out as many enemy troops as you can. It’s a novel concept, as both of these genres work particularly well in VR, but Out of Ammo leaves me feeling like a surrounded soldier who’s, well, out of ammo.
Booting up Out of Ammo put me in an introductory menu/hub area without any explanation for what to do next. It took longer than I want to admit to work out the controls, which immediately soured the experience. If I’m having trouble even navigating your main menu, there’s a significant user experience flaw that needs to be worked out. Once I finally got myself moving around this hub area, it was time to figure out what to do next. The item on the corkboard labeled “tutorial” seemed like a good start.
The tutorial set me above a battlefield, graphically looking like a Minecraft ripoff. I was told how to grab supplies and set them up as various battlements, like sandbags or sniper towers. The only problem is these supply crates in-game were dropped off right about where my crotch is in real life. Had I been standing instead of sitting, I’d be jabbing the Move controller into my own belly to pick them up. Without the ability to move my perspective in the game, I was forced to do an odd sort of dance to try just to get my disembodied VR hands to where they could actually pick up the items.
Once the battlements were finally in place, and the bruising began to set in on my stomach and legs, I could set soldiers to man them. The blocky, wannabe-Minecraft characters shuffled off to their respective locations and posted up to look out for bad guys. That’s the extent of the RTS gameplay, even beyond the tutorial. There’s no real strategy besides setting up whatever is handed to you and filling them with the soldiers you have. It’s boring and gets repetitive within minutes. Given the high complexity of RTS games that were releasing 20 years ago, the uber-simplistic nature is off putting and simply unenjoyable, especially when battling with poorly optimized VR to even get your defenses set up in the first place.
Lining Up the Targets
To round out the RTS gameplay, there’s the FPS portion. Selecting one of the soldiers that I stationed transported me to their view where I could shoot out at the oncoming enemies. It was briefly entertaining to see the blocky gore, but then Out of Ammo asked me to reload. “Reach your hand to your waist to grab another clip and load it into your gun,” the game told me. So I tried. And tried. And failed. In fact, the natural motion of moving my hand to my hip never produced another clip for the gun. Suddenly a clip appeared in my hand and in my shock I dropped it. I spent another few seconds frantically searching for the sweet spot that had made it appear and found that there was a very narrow successful area awkwardly high up on my chest. This spot would occasionally produce a new clip or bullet, about 60% of the time. I guess they took the title of the game seriously.
The first-person shooting mechanics for the auto rifle and other weapons were effective enough, but it was the sniper rifle that I had a lot of trouble with. As a powerful single-shot weapon, this meant a long reload process for each missed shot (eject the bullet, grab a new one from that awkward position, insert it into the chamber, and reset the lever). There was no aim assist or smoothing to account for motion control movement at all, so trying to get a bead on far away targets was most often a less than successful endeavor. One of the bonus missions is actually entirely sniping from a far off tower, and is easily one of the most frustrating tests of patience in the game. Provided that the entire experience is pretty unfavorable overall, I was still surprised each time I came upon yet another poorly designed aspect.
Part of me wanted to excuse Out of Ammo. It’s a PSVR port of a Vive title, and it’s a game that came out in 2016—early in the life of consumer virtual reality. Then I realized that there have been far better ports of room-scale VR games to PSVR, and there were far better optimized games even in the early days of virtual reality. As an avid fan of PSVR and player of many VR titles, some of the things that were overlooked are inexcusable from not only a comfort standpoint, but for the inability to even play the game. Placing critical, interactable items where the player’s body is located is not only immersion breaking, but frustrating to struggle with. Providing no indication of how to control the game leaves players feeling helpless and lost. Lacking any kind of control customization or comfort settings alienates players who want to set things up their way.
There were moments in one of the bonus missions that I actually had enemies spawning (or somehow appearing) inside of where I was standing, shooting and killing me as I turned around and around trying to figure out where I was being hit from. Another mission where I had to scrounge ammo for a handgun from a wrecked plane placed most of the clips too low to the ground and actually out of reach of where the motion controllers would allow me to grab them. You could try to tell me that’s because of my specific PSVR setup, but given that I have run this exact same setup since launch and never had a problem this bad, I’d put that onus on the developer. I don’t know how Out of Ammo was on the Vive, but it’s terribly optimized for PSVR.
The pitch for Out of Ammo sounds interesting on paper, but the execution is probably the worst PSVR game that I have ever played. Out of Ammo makes far too many critical mistakes as a virtual reality title, mistakes that even launch games managed to avoid. I spent more time fighting with the systems and mechanics than I did actually playing the game, but anytime I did get a fleeting moment of play, it wasn’t worth the effort expended to get there. While the blocky Minecraft styling may have been an interesting novelty if the gameplay weren’t so broken, uninteresting and unoptimized gameplay make the visual style seem more cheap than anything else. If you want an example of how to endlessly frustrate a VR player, go ahead and play Out of Ammo, but if you’re interested in user friendly and entertaining VR experiences, Out of Ammo never even starts out with any ammo.
Out of Ammo review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on Standard PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.