A survival-horror shooter that makes delightful use of VR.
Killing Floor: Incursion is a VR shooter that understands a universal truth of human nature: when you read the words “in case of emergency, break glass,” you immediately feel the urge to break that glass. Much of its amusement derives from the freedom to indulge such giddy impulses — to pull the dangling pin of a grenade with one hand and to lob the bomb across the room with another, or to slide the chunky forend of a pump-action shotgun back and forth between squeezing off rounds. It encourages you to poke, clutch, twist, and grope your way through its sci-fi environments, and indeed to punch, slice, shove, and shoot your way through its hordes of monstrous enemies. I completed it with a new appreciation for my sense of touch.
Incursion never forgoes an opportunity to let you really savor the feeling of the objects you encounter and manipulate in its world. From flashlights to keypad locks to, yes, fire axes stored behind breakable emergency glass, everything feels intensely palpable and real. One of the fundamental pleasures of VR is the sensation of being in a space and believably interacting with it. This ought to be obvious, but VR games so rarely carry off the illusion without technical faults or glitches that it feels remarkable when one actually does — and all the more so when interaction is the emphasis.
When you’re low on ammo, swinging a dismembered arm can help you out of a bind.
While ostensibly a shooter — and a shooter with a respectable variety of guns at your disposal at any given time — Incursion follows the tradition of Half-Life and Dead Rising by inviting you to see every item around you as a potential melee weapon. This includes, most unforgettably, the severed limbs of the enemies you butcher — and when you’re low on ammunition, swinging a dismembered arm around like a baseball bat or bludgeoning foes with the head of their fallen comrade can certainly help you out of a bind. It’s no coincidence that one of Incursion’s most coveted weapons is irremovably attached to a certain fiend’s limb. If you want that treasure, you need to make a mess.
A host of more conventional firearms and blades — a pair of pistols, knives, an assault rifle, and a shotgun among them — are available from almost the beginning of the five- to six-hour campaign, each with different strengths depending on the speed and closeness of the combat. An arsenal of such breadth can be pretty unwieldy, and Incursion has devised a coherent, if rather complicated, system for inventory management. As in Arizona Sunshine, guns are holstered on the hip or on the back and drawn when needed; unlike Arizona Sunshine, happily, weapons rematerialize on your person if you drop them, which relieves the strain of carefully storing or hurriedly retrieving them on the fly. It’s consequently easy to go from staring down the sights of a ranged rifle to pick off distant enemies to quickly pulling out a handgun to deal with any closer targets that happen to surprise you, even in the middle of a frantic firefight.
You battle the same handful of monster classes from start to finish.
And frantic the firefights do tend to be. Incursion’s enemies are not especially diverse — you battle the same handful of monster classes from start to finish, ranging from speedy weaklings to lumbering brutes — so instead the volume of them varies widely in what feels like compensation. The siege-like waves that are from time to time directed against you can be intense and entertainingly demanding, and moments of frenzied action do show off what for a VR shooter are relatively elegant controls — including the option to navigate environments using either the fashionable teleportation method or the smoother (but perhaps motion-sickness-inducing) free roam. The latitude afforded to you by this control scheme means you scarcely have to struggle with the mechanics or the tech. In other words, uncommonly for VR, fights always feel fair.
Nowhere else in Incursion’s design is monotony a problem, curiously enough. Its four large stages — a slasher-staple cabin in the woods, the catacombs inside a rocky canyon, the sewers (and eventually skies) of near-future Paris, and an industrial plant of vaguely nefarious character — are visually distinct and populated by puzzles, obstacles, and boss fights that are never repeated. So unalike is one stage from the next, in fact, that they evoke different moods, and even seem to adopt different genres: the campgrounds in the forest have the sinister feel of survival horror, for instance, while the villainous sci-fi headquarters of the final stage are more playful, like 80s John Carpenter.
The downside of all that variety is that Incursion’s finest level-specific inventions come and go too quickly, as is the case with a major sequence at the end of your time in Paris. There you receive a sniper rifle, which handles exquisitely: gripped in both hands with the Move controllers, it’s raised to the shoulder level so your eye can look straight into its magnifying scope. (You reload by hand-cocking the bolt, an authentic and intuitive touch.) The sniper rifle is used for a kind of tower-defense scene, in which slow-moving enemies must be picked off from afar, and a boss battle, in which a handful of big bads loom atop buildings in the distance and must be shot down before they return fire. It’s the centerpiece of Incursion, and some of most thrillingly immersive action I’ve experienced in a VR game.
The sniper rifle is a great example of Incursion’s emphasis on physicality and the weight and texture of its virtual world. The rifle just feels good in the hand; cocking the bolt, aiming through the scope, and nailing a far-flung target is satisfying in a way that would be impossible to replicate on a normal controller. It’s true that not every weapon handles as smoothly, or with as much grace — I had difficulty working the assault rifle sometimes, and the axe seemed more effective to me single-handed than wielded the supposedly proper two-handed way. But every one of these items betrays a careful attention to the detail of its shape and handling. If nothing else, it’s obvious that Incursion cares a lot about touch.