Space is an empty vacuum. It's a wide open, endless void, but when there's only so much oxygen, it feels distressingly confining. There's a real terror present when there's nowhere to go, yet a limited time to move. That's the idea in Ad1ft, the virtual reality effort from Three One Zero, which has been in development for a couple of years, but now has a firm release date. With just a few months before it debuts alongside the Oculus Rift, Shacknews went to this year's Consumer Electronics Show to check out the latest build.
The first thing to note is that, unlike my time with the game shortly before E3, there was no struggle with the game's controls or figuring out where to go. That's because Adr1ft has added a new tutorial that helpfully explains the game's movement system. The game starts off by putting the main character into a simulation, where players can practice each of the game's complex movements and learn how to move about in zero-gravity.
From there, the demo was much easier to figure out than before. When the game begins proper, players can float over to a nearby console, which will explain that the power aboard the space station has gone out and must be restored manually. There's a limited time to find your way across the area, since there's a limited oxygen mechanic. Holding the X button will grab nearby containers and refill that oxygen meter, but there's still a finite amount. And that oxygen meter drains fast when going outside the relative safety of the station and going out into the vast reaches of space.
Visually, Adr1ft is impressive, as players can look around and see that they're peering from within a virtual astronaut helmet. There is no HUD, but rather there are the diagnostics provided by the suit. The realism extends out to the game's controls, with the shoulder buttons tied to ascension, descension, and rolls. Since the game's physics see players drifting all over the place, it's key to roll around and maintain a sense of direction. In that sense, Adr1ft seems to be accurately capturing the feeling of being in space.
In fact, it's almost doing it too well. Of all the VR demos I tried over the past few days, Adr1ft was the only one to give me a mild sense of vertigo. That's not due to any shortcomings from the equipment, latency troubles, or due to any fault of the game itself, but it's because flipping around and drifting uncontrollably while frantically trying to reach an oxygen canister will inevitably lead to some dizziness. It's one of those things that feels like it comes with the territory. It's a game that should be lauded for how it has managed to maintain a sense of realism thus far, but it may not be an experience meant for everyone.
As a virtual reality experience, Adr1ft looks to be one of the more interesting efforts I've seen and looks to be a good showcase for what VR is capable of producing. Players will soon get a chance to blast off into space themselves when Adr1ft hits Oculus Rift on March 28. Those looking to get a more traditional experience will also find the PC version on the same day, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 set to get it a little later.