Along with today's $200 price drop (opens in new tab) for the Oculus Rift and Touch controller bundle comes Robo Recall, a VR shooter from Epic that's free for Touch owners. It's one of the better-looking VR games I've played, with gleaming skyscrapers and simple street scenes that remind me of Hollywood studio sets, and a lot of fun so far. I'd probably even enjoy Robo Recall if it weren't a VR game, which is half compliment, half acknowledgement that shooting waves of robots isn't an especially novel use of this fancy new platform. But as far as VR shooters go, it's slick, and its creative robot murdering puts the Touch controllers to good use.
My job is to 'recall' malfunctioning humanoid robots—malfunctioning as in, 'kill all humans'—by teleporting around city streets (there are more environments later, but I haven't reached them yet) and gunning them down. I'm thankful that Robo Recall didn't try to deliver a premise like that with a straight face—it's pure action stupidity.
In contrast to the authentic reloading of H3VR (opens in new tab), for instance, there's no reloading at all in Robo Recall's world. Instead, new, fully-loaded guns are teleported into your holsters a few seconds after you take them out. When a pistol or shotgun runs out of ammo, you just throw that sucker on the ground and grab a new one, Boondock Saints (opens in new tab) style.
The shooting is gleefully playful. Earn extra points for juggling bots in the air with bullets, or ripping one of their arms off and chucking it at another's head. You can even grab bullets out of the air—they slow down as they near you—and flick them back where they came from. It's reminiscent of Superhot VR in those ways, except it's about frantic survival rather than methodical puzzle solving.
What bothers me most is how movement is somewhat limited by the standard Rift sensor setup. Unlike the HTC Vive, which puts you between two sensors, the Oculus Touch system is set up by default with both sensors facing the same way, and Robo Recall doesn't much like it when you turn away from them. The sensors actually track the back of my head pretty well, but Robo Recall splashes a floating warning in front of me every time I'm facing the wrong direction, which is a problem when I'm also facing a horde of blood-thirsty robots—not a great time to turn around.
The solution is in the teleportation controls: push an analog stick forward to fire a translucent arc of light at your destination, then rotate the stick to change the direction you'll be facing when you get there. Let go to teleport. Use it well and you can ensure you're always facing the sensors regardless of where you're facing in the VR world. In the heat of robo battle, though, I screwed up a few times and had to teleport myself again to reorient.
There won't be a perfect solution until every Rift user has a 360-degree sensor setup (opens in new tab), but I'm getting used to Robo Recall's method the more I play. I'm sure it'll be second nature after a while—it's still not ideal, as I'd prefer to just whip around and shoot behind me without being scolded, but definitely workable.
One other issue is that I found it too easy to accidentally hit the Oculus menu button on the Touch controller when trying to throw something—but that's a hardware problem, or just my awkward thumbs failing me.
Robo Recall is free for Touch owners, and Epic has also released a mod kit (opens in new tab) through the Epic Games Launcher, with the full source code and all the assets. If you already own a Rift, adding the Touch controllers for $100 comes recommended from me—the experience totally changes when you're standing and moving around and picking things up. Outside of Thumper, I hardly play any seated VR games anymore, whether on the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
If you don't own a VR system, though, Robo Recall isn't a revelation—it's just a well-made arcade shooter—so I wouldn't go rushing out to spend $600 for it. There will be plenty more VR shooters to come, and it'll take something much more surprising than lightgun nostalgia to turn skeptics onto VR. (And a few more price cuts, I'm sure.) That said, blasting a gaggle of robots with dual-wielded pistols and then chucking them into the air and grabbing two more from my magic holsters does rule.