exoverzero's Into the Radius VR (PC) review

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HIDDEN GEM, but... [LOADING]

THE GOOD:

Gameplay has a heavy, deliberate, realistic feel to it – it’s not run and gun, it’s a survival shooter and it feels like it. You probably already know it’s basically S.T.A.L.K.E.R. in VR, if you don’t know what that is, the pictures and videos tell you enough. Gameplay-wise, it’s plodding and dangerous. If that sounds fun to you, don’t pass, pick this up.

It sounds good to me, and Into the Radius is, to my tastes and in terms of fun, the best non-AAA VR game I’ve played since The Forest. If you’ve played The Forest in VR, that’s the closest thing to the feeling of Into the Radius (for feel and intensity, there’s no crafting or multiplayer here, but you scrounge and buy what you need to build your best loadout, and then it’s still challenging and dangerous).

THE WAY IT IS:

Mid-way through the game, you start encountering serious difficulty spikes that force you to change up the way you play. You can’t just go and grind out a mission anymore – you have to plan ahead, maybe do a pre-mission run to leave yourself a resupply stash if you need more supplies than you’ll be able to carry, learn to run and sneak in so that you have the health and stamina to fight your way out instead of burning your resources on the way to the objective. These missions can seem unfair – unless you just enjoy the challenge and think of them as a strategic puzzle. But you should know up front that sometimes you won’t be able to play the way you thought you wanted to play, or survive using the methods the game eased you into using to get this far.

I’m fine with that, but it might not sound good to you. On the bright side, you’ll easily have had your money’s worth in terms of more predictable survival gameplay by the time you are tempted to give up. This aspect reminds me of old-school Half-Life (1 & 2, not Alyx), where the game isn’t afraid to put you in seemingly impossible situations. The big difference here is that Half-Life gave you quicksave/quickload so those bullet hell moments felt like a puzzle. You CAN load and save anywhere in Into the Radius, but…

THE BAD:

Oh God the load times are horrendous. It can take over a minute to load even with a blazing fast NVMe SSD in a top of the line PC. And when you hit those difficulty spikes, unless you’re a god you’ll be loading plenty.

This isn’t a totally polished title. There are bugs, controls can be a little bit finicky, graphics are good enough but not great – but I was having too much fun to notice any of that. The load times however, are game-breaking bad. In a tough spot, half of your playtime might be loading screens.

It was worth it for me, like I said, you’ll have had more than your money’s worth by the time you have no way forward except through impossible odds. But it’s a massive caveat to the question of whether or not it’s safe to recommend this game to a friend. If you’re willing to sit in meditative contemplation for a minute or two, repeatedly, by all means jump in. If that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, either wait until you’re hearing that this has been fixed (which it may never be) or be willing to give up before completing the game.

For me, the game is worth its prices. But this is what you need to know to make an informed decision.

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