This Oculus Touch shooter really makes a case for the hardware.
As a better-late-than-never pack-in game for the excellent Oculus Touch controllers, Robo Recall does a fantastic job of showing off what they can do in action. It may be another glorified VR shooting gallery, but it’s a glorious glorified VR shooting gallery full of detailed robot models, great-feeling weaponry, and non-stop satisfying action.
A thin layer of tongue-in-cheek story sends you out to “recall” hordes of defective robots in the same sense that Rick Deckard “retires” replicants in Blade Runner, except with more action-hero flair. I love the sense of freedom I get every time a group of robots descends on me, because there are so many ways you can break them. There’s the obvious option to simply draw pistols from your hips and blast away until they crumble, which is not a bad way to go. The simple act of shooting in Robo Recall feels great, with loud sound effects and as much rumble as the Touch controllers can muster, and robots react satisfyingly to the impact depending on what body parts you hit.
Grabbing fresh guns is a decadent touch.
In a decadent touch, when you’ve emptied your clip you simply release your grip on the controller to drop the gun and grab new ones that’ve appeared in your holster after a brief cooldown. It’s a great alternative to having to fiddle with popping in new clips, because that might cramp your dual-wielding style, and it’s a move that feels like something out of a John Woo movie that’s completely given up on any sense of realism in favor of even more flying lead. And there’s an even more over-the-top method of reloading that I won’t spoil.
Not content with just two magically replenishing holsters, Robo Recall gives you two more over your shoulders where you can reach to grab your pre-configured shotguns or rifles – or, as Bruce Campbell might describe them while making a similar drawing action, your boomsticks. There are plenty of weapons and upgrades to mess around with, and each behaves differently enough to feel useful in its own way. The energy rifles, for instance, start firing slowly but rev up as you hold down the trigger until they’re spitting out several ricocheting blasts per second, which are handy for blowing through shields.
You can grab two bots and slam them together.
Or, if that’s not your style, you can just use your hands. Pretty much every robot (except the ones who are bigger than you) can be grabbed with one hand and flung around like a rag doll, or ripped apart piece by piece as you use their limbs to bludgeon their friends and their torso to absorb incoming bullets before tossing it into a large industrial fan. You can grab two of them and slam them together, toss them in the air and juggle them with your guns, and certain enemy types can even be used as guns for a few shots. Hearing them lament, “Why do I have handles?” as you tear them apart always gets a chuckle out of me.
Or, because Robo Recall dynamically adjust the speed of time as you come under attack, you can actually pluck incoming bullets or rockets out of the air and hurl them back at enemies. There’s just a hilarious range of options for trashing bots, and I usually work up a sweat doing it.
Though you can generally do alright by standing in place in each area and blasting away, you’re cleverly incentivized to keep on the move as you fight – not just by the prodding of your AI assistant when it sees you’ve sat in one place for too long or the shieldbearer robots who’re begging to be double-shotgunned in the back, but also by a scoring system that builds a multiplier by picking up chips left in the place where a bot was smashed to bits. Bouncing around using the intuitive teleportation controls can be a little disorientating, but I got the hang of it before too long, especially thanks to the ability to determine which way you’ll face when you land.
There’s a significant blind spot behind you.
It does, however, highlight the Oculus’ main weakness: with the two-sensor configuration you get out of the box, there’s a significant blind spot behind you where your body occludes the sensors’ view of your hands. And because robots can attack from any angle, it’s quite easy to get turned around and find that spot. You’ll see an in-game warning that you need to turn around, and when you teleport it will attempt to point you back in the right direction, but it happened to me quite a bit. The only workaround is to buy a third sensor to cover this angle. Considering Robo Recall is an Oculus exclusive, it’s a little surprising that it didn’t try to avoid that hazard.
Since this is a VR-only game in 2017, it’s not exactly brimming with content, but what it has it makes excellent use of. The locations of its three maps are fairly distinct from one another, and each feels different to get around. Relative to battling through the streets, teleporting between skyscraper rooftops means you’re dealing with a lot more elevation changes and seeing opportunities like hurling robots off the edge or blasting them out of the air as they leap across the gaps. And each map has three runs that follow different paths with different enemies and different objectives, including hurling as many still-functional robots into a capture zone as you can within a time limit, so there’s a fair amount of variety to be had.
Those enemies range from standard bots with pistols and shotguns to explosive metal crickets and teleporters who can tether you to disable your teleportation moves while their rocket-launching friends blast away at you. It’s hardly infinite variety, but it was enough to keep me on my toes. Plus, in the third version of each map there’s a battle against the same flying robot boss, Odin, which isn’t as repetitive as it sounds because each time he changes up his format, adding drones and other surprises to his standard missile attacks. The memes he spouts at you, on the other hand, do get a little old – but to be fair, it was pretty funny the first time.
Odin’s not that hard to beat, and in fact it’s rarely difficult to beat a level – I’ve only died a handful of times, and even then you’re only penalized a small amount and respawned back into the action. It’s more about running up your score for the leaderboards by keeping up a steady pace of killing bots and collecting chips, scoring trick shots along the way. There are also optional goals, such as playing through a level without firing a gun, that give you a reason to try different playstyles for reasons other than pumping up your score.