Detached Review -- The Dangers Of Space Manifested In VR
It seems like such an obvious combination in retrospect, but there aren't actually that many VR games set in space. The open nature of the night sky is tailor-made for a three-dimensional gaming experience.
On the PSVR in particular, your options are fairly limited to that Infinite Warfare space dog fighting mini-game.. and not much else. Detached aims to remedy that oversight by working within the limitations of the VR experience in a unique and extremely fun way.
You can officially add another game to the list of PSVR titles that make the hardware worth buying now that Detached has hit the PS Store.
In Space, Less Is More
At this point in time, developers are still gaining their footing in the VR realm. Each game has to deal with limitations of the hardware and puzzle out clever ways for movement to function properly with a player wearing a headset in a small space.
Crisis Of The Planet Of The Apes VR for instance let you swing your arms and climb pipes like an ape, but was otherwise essentially an on-rails game as movement was limited to very specific paths.
Detached goes the exact opposite direction. Movement is full 360 degrees in absolutely any direction -- even up and down -- but your avatar is essentially stationary as you are in an immobile space suit with no ability to turn your head different directions.
If you want to see what's behind you, you can't just turn your head like in a normal VR game. Instead, a player needs to learn how to use the various air jets on the suit to re-orient in a new direction.
What seems like a major limitation at first is actually revealed to be one of the game's biggest strengths.
Learning to move in three dimensions isn't just the challenge of the game, it essentially is the entire game. You might end up approaching an objective upside down, or spinning the wrong direction, or propelling through space too fast.
At first your movement will be slow and timid while getting the hang of things, but soon you'll be propelling yourself with the boost module through high-speed transport tubes across the vastness of space.
You Have Died, Space Edition
There are concessions to typical game design -- needing to find fuel and air tanks before you run out of oxygen for instance, or utilizing shields and rockets to overcome challenges -- but that's really window dressing to the movement mechanics.
Suffocating or running out of fuel is just the tip of the deadly iceberg, though. Much like in real life I suppose, it is amazingly easy to die in space.
The core of the gameplay is in figuring out the give and take between going fast enough to reach a destination before running out of oxygen, but not going so fast you won't crack your helmet and let in the cold void of space when colliding with an object.
This is all easier said than done, and the game rewards you when you think strategically in three dimensions instead of just rushing headlong towards the most direct route.
My only complaint here is that the death sequence is just a cracking sound and then a return to the menu. Adding in something a bit more gruesome might give the player more incentive to avoid death in the future, although with the VR aspect that might hit too close to home for players to see themselves dying horribly in first person.
The Bottom Line
If you've ever had any nausea or disorientation with playing VR, then sadly Detached is not for you.
With all the three-dimensional spinning and sudden stop and start movement, this is a game that is guaranteed to get the motion sickness-sensitive players spewing their lunch all over their living rooms.
This isn't a bug though, it's a feature, as the developers make clear in the launch trailer that lists all the ways not to induce motion sickness in a VR player. Then showcases how they are breaking all those rules.
Think of it a bit like a roller coaster. If there wasn't any chance you'd scream and vomit, would you still ride it? The thrill and danger is part of the appeal.
Long story short, if you ever wanted to play through movies like Gravity or Interstellar, this is your chance. If you don't mind potential motion sickness and like the challenge of a new style of gameplay, then absolutely give Detached a shot.
(Writer was granted a review copy of the game from the publisher.)