Archangel: Hellfire VR Review: A mech-piloting dream come true
Skydance Interactive upgraded its mech shooter into one of the best experiences in VR.
If Rainbow Six: Siege and No Man's Sky have taught us anything, is that a dedicated development team can improve and change a game in massive ways after a rough launch. Skydance Interactive didn't necessarily stumble out of the gate with Archangel, but additional months of development have maximized the game's potential.
In its original form, Archangel was a well-crafted entry point for gamers curious about virtual reality. It teetered right on the edge of something exceptional, but didn’t quite stick the landing. With the addition of multiplayer, Archangel: Hellfire is one of the top full-packages to be found in the VR ecosystem.
Skydance Interactive set the foundation for Archangel with a single-player experience that put the weapons in my hands, but ushered me along a scripted path. Maneuvering the torso of the giant mech felt really good, really selling the experience of being in the cockpit as a pilot as opposed to just directly controlling the massive robot. The intro to this experience even did a solid job of making me care about the protagonist of the story, though the ensuing events aren’t exceptionally memorable.
The sound is strong in Archangel, not breaking the mold for VR games but definitely holding its own against top-tier virtual reality action games. Explosions and vehicle/environmental destruction are somewhat appealing visually, but there's a level of polish the game is lacking. The animations are as good as they need to be for a mech game, but I wish the detail on the monstrous machines was a bit better.
The shooting in the single-player is well executed, ultimately, but the fact that the experience is on-rails is limiting. The scripted path allowed for well-timed moments, but the Hellfire update broke the doors wide open.
Taking The VR Chains Off
The Hellfire additions change Archangel in a huge way, and for the better. With it comes cooperative missions, competitive matches, and a solid collection of maps and mechs. The most important part of these additions is that movement is taken off the rails, allowing players to maneuver with 100% freedom.
There are 2v2 and 1v1 competitive modes along with a co-op wave survival mode for up to four players. The development team didn’t just stick with the build of the mech from the single-player campaign, but delivered six different mechs with multiple weapon systems. The different mechs offer variety to players and a layer of strategy to the gameplay as players balance out the teams with different combinations.
Archangel's action was already no slouch in single-player and that remains true in multiplayer. The mech UI in multiplayer is made more dynamic with sliders that change where the mech’s power systems are directed. For example, speed and defense can be prioritized over the offense. Regarding comfort, I experienced very few dropped frames and no sickness, which is pretty significant considering the shift from on-rails to full locomotion. A jetpack allows players to fly around the map and the developers found a sweet spot between exciting speed and comfort.
From top to bottom, Archangel: Hellfire has solidified itself as one of the best VR exclusive experiences on the market. It strikes all the checkmarks that gamers expect in their non-VR shooters, but implements virtual reality in an easily understood and immersive way. The bar for quality VR shooters has been officially set.
Skydance Interactive is already doing well and expanding into other series, like the upcoming Walking Dead VR game, but my hope is that an Archangel sequel will embrace the full freedom introduced in Hellfire and find a way to mesh it with a quality single-player campaign.
This review is based on a code provided by the publisher. It was played on the Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch controllers. Archangel: Hellfire is available now for $19.99 on Steam and can be played on the HTC Vive as well. Check out our many other reviews from the Shacknews team and stay tuned for more.
- Hellfire's full locomotion
- Competitive matches are a blast
- The mech cockpit immersion
- Lots of action, very comfortable
- On-rails campaign
- Lacking in visual polish
Charles Singletary posted a new article, Archangel: Hellfire VR Review: A mech-piloting dream come true