Vigor Review: A Marred, Bite-Sized Looter Shooter
I saw them enter the house, and I've slowly been making my way toward it. I'm sticking to cover and watching the windows, making sure I haven't been spotted. I'm close enough that I can hear them inside, and I move toward the door to grab a kill and snag some loot.
Suddenly, the door flies open. We begin a bizarre dance of missed attacks and jumping. The framerate hits the floor. Somehow, my enemy does, too. As I'm looting what's left behind, I get shot in the back of the head.
Welcome to Vigor.
A looter shooter from Bohemia Interactive, Vigor comes from the same crew that brought us DayZ. The game has been in the Xbox Game Preview Program (Early Access) for about a year, but it recently came out as a full-fledged title.
It's got a lot of fun ideas, but a lack of context and polish really hold Vigor back from being the money-making F2P game it desperately wants to be.
Shelter from the Storm
After a brief tutorial shows you the basics, you arrive at your shelter. It's a "safe space" that acts like a hub where you can prepare for your next excursion, construct equipment, train, and generally look around and admire things between skirmishes.
There's a gun range, there's a Rubik's cube, and there's a litany of crafting benches. The area can seem overwhelming at first, especially as you try to find everything and get your bearings. However, a few button shortcuts let you quickly skip around the menus to find what you need.
After you've checked things out, grabbed a few weapons, and maybe set a shelter improvement, you head to the map and set out on a mission.
One thing you'll notice right away, whether in the hub or in a mission, is how pretty everything looks. Bohemia Interactive makes some good looking environments to run around in, and Vigor is no exception. Granted, that makes the scenes of you and an enemy flailing around with knives look even more bizarre when you do jump into the thick of things.
When you hit a map, you're able to choose between a variety of locations. Maps themselves do not change, but the layout of loot and the location of the objective does. Each round, your goals are:
- Find loot
- Grab the airdrop (optional)
- Make it to safety
You drop into one of about eight small maps with about a dozen other killers. You're given roughly 15 minutes to loot and gear up before the airdrop hits. After that, you grab the airdrop crate and try to reach one of the map's exits, all while a radiation cloud funnels the remaining survivors toward the same map exit.
If you reach an exit alive, any gear you have with you (including the airdrop, if you were the one who managed to grab it) will help stock your shelter. You can squirrel away supplies, building materials, guns, and health kits for the next mission with the loot you bring back.
Die before reaching an exit, however, and it's all lost.
This risk/reward system cultivates an interesting decision-making process centered on luck. The more loot you find and stow away, the more painful getting merced becomes. Maybe you won't even go for that airdrop; maybe you let other players fight over it while you escape with those 37 bags of fertilizer.
However, what if you risk it all by rushing the airdrop, downing a few enemies, and grabbing a handful of better loot? If you manage to bag a few kills and still make it out alive, it's an exhilarating rush of excitement.
Unfortunately, the cutthroat nature of Vigor also exacerbates some of its biggest flaws, some of which can't be overlooked.
It is literally astounding that Vigor is no longer considered an "Early Access" title. The game is so wonky and fickle that I found myself questioning whether it was being intentionally obtuse or if it is simply plagued by myriad technical issues.
At one point, I opened a window, vaulted inside, and crept around a corner. When I tried to leave through the same window, it took more than 10 button presses to vault back out, something that should not be so difficult in a game where an errant noise or movement can give away your position and get you immediately killed.
Aiming with low-level guns is absurd, too. The aiming reticle for each is so massive that any shot beyond point-blank range will probably miss unless you have a steady supply of rare weaponry. That's not to mention that as you close in on your prey, you better hope that Vigor's framerate can hold up.
I even started one round with an incomplete map. No points of interest. No marked exits. No airdrop circle. I wandered aimlessly, wondering if I had entered some weird in-game purgatory until I was shot dead in the snow by an unseen enemy.
Not only did I lose the match, but I also lost all of the weapons I had gathered. To add insult to injury, the game told me, "You should have bought insurance," something you buy before the start of the round that will let you keep your loadout, even if you die. The problem is that you buy insurance with one of the Vigor's many currencies: crowns. And crowns cost real money.
Let that sink in: I died and couldn't keep my loadout because the game glitched before chiding me for not using real-world money to protect my in-game investment.
- Environments are pretty
- Intense gameplay
- Easy to sit down for one round or many
- Feels totally unfinished
- Convoluted microtransactions
- Glitchy, unpolished gunplay
Like DayZ before it, there are a lot of great ideas in Vigor. Every round brings the same intensity found in the endgame of titles like Fortnite and PUBG. And while it strives to be a combination of those games, and it has some of the pieces of greatness, there ultimately needs to be more to it.
Unfortunately, Vigor never really puts its pieces together in a satisfactory way. It could certainly be a huge F2P shooter for Xbox One if Bohemia Interactive took the time to iron out the glitches and patch things up.
The problem is that it just doesn't feel like that's going to happen.
There is some fun to be had with Vigor, and the sting is dampened by its free-to-play structure. But it's tough to recommend it over other games in a crowded genre.
[Note: A copy of Vigor and a Starter's Pack was provided by Perfect World Games for the purpose of this review.]