Westworld Awakening, a brand new online game developed by HBO and Dash Vector studio Survios, was the primary time in a very long time I’ve felt precise concern whereas in digital actuality. I used to be embodying Kate, a not too long ago self-aware android within the universe of the hit HBO present about synthetic intelligence, and I used to be instructed by my human companion over voice com to begin sprinting. If I didn’t, a murderous, deluded android — unaware that he was not tasked with taking part in his scripted half — would minimize me down with a Bowie knife. So I began swinging my arms furiously.
In contrast to most VR video games, Westworld Awakening includes a distinctive motion mechanic, whereby swinging your arms at your facet causes you to jog or dash on the pace your arms transfer. Survios conceived of the tactic for its 2017 sport Dash Vector, and it carried it over to Westworld Awakening as a method of permitting you to discover a 3D area with out having to bodily transfer your physique across the room you’re in. It helps that shifting your arms can even trick your mind, a minimum of somewhat bit, into considering you’re truly operating, which helps to scale back nausea.
Fortunately, the particular person operating my demo of the sport final week in San Francisco tapped me on the shoulder earlier than the knife-wielding android had an opportunity to catch as much as me. (I feel I jumped maybe a couple of inches off the bottom when the handcrafted contact with me.) I hadn’t skilled that type of pulse-pounding nervousness in VR in years, since maybe Alien: Isolation or the extra refined and horror-oriented title Wilson’s Coronary heart from Twisted Pixel.
Westworld Awakening is a singular product. It’s the primary full-fledged VR sport set within the universe created by showrunners Lisa Pleasure and Jonathan Nolan. The duo took the thought from the 1973 Michael Crichton science fiction movie and expanded it into an formidable story about AI, the character of human consciousness, and the fractures that start forming in a dystopian near-future that treats leisure of the wealthy as paramount to human struggling. With season three scheduled to start airing subsequent 12 months, Westworld is among the many hottest and anticipated TV exhibits in current reminiscence, giving HBO a possible new Recreation of Thrones to construct out over the following half-decade.
As a consequence of how totally realized the Westworld setting is, it’s change into ripe for all method of facet tales and advertising and marketing one-offs, earlier than a correct TV spinoff inevitably will get greenlit. There was a Westworld VR expertise a couple of years in the past, created in-house by HBO, to associate with the primary season. HBO additionally went to the SXSW pageant in Austin final 12 months to advertise season 2 with a full re-creation of the Previous West city Sweetwater, outfitted with dozens of actors taking part in scripted androids whereas common convention members bought to play the a part of visiting visitors in an elaborate and considerably messy meta affair.
However there has but to be a correct standalone story informed as a part of the present’s rising expanded universe, till Westworld Awakening. The sport is about throughout season 2 of the present, throughout the host insurrection within the Mesa Hub when violence and pandemonium are breaking out at Westworld HQ.
Though it received’t characteristic main solid members like insurrection leaders Dolores or Maeve, the sport will inform a canonical story a couple of host’s awakening exterior Westworld correct and her coming to phrases with the character of her existence, with the assistance of the human who created her and gave her an identification. Survios tells me Nolan (an avid online game fan) and Pleasure based mostly many options of Westworld off the ability fantasy inherent to open-world video games, which helped form the story early on.
Most of Westworld Awakening seems to play out like survival horror, though I used to be solely capable of play an hour of the 5 or six-hour expertise. As protagonist Kate, you’re tasked with principally wrapping your head across the real-life know-how of the Mesa Hub by the signature tablets characters use within the present.
With the pill, you’re fixing puzzles, opening locked doorways, and so forth, sometimes following the directions of the human who crafted your again story and is making an attempt to save lots of you. However curiously, since you’re in VR, the best way you work together with the world and be taught in regards to the sport’s varied mechanics mirrors that of your character, who has by no means seen the trendy, actual world earlier than and has no concept find out how to work together with just about something she encounters.
I discovered that getting the cling of the pill, its varied scanning options, and maneuvering the world utilizing the arm-swinging movement felt disorienting at first, as most VR experiences do. However as I grew to become extra snug, I used to be capable of begin breezing by a number of the puzzles and discovering my approach round with none of the awkward stumbling or holdups that always require VR demo helpers to step in and let you know the place to go. Equally, the character Kate was changing into more proficient at protecting herself protected and away from the murderous Hank, the serial killer android who appears to nonetheless suppose he’s taking part in out his Westworld script.
There have been a couple of hiccups right here and there. Shifting round works nicely sufficient by swinging your arms, however I used to be continuously discovering myself wrapped within the HTC Vive wire, as a result of there wasn’t a wi-fi adapter for the headset with my demo. HBO says the sport received’t work on the Oculus Quest, so utilizing a Vive with the adapter is the one strategy to get wi-fi play right here, which could possibly be an enormous plus.
There was additionally just a few plain weirdness with the way you’re supposed to maneuver facet to facet or make extra minor changes to the place you’re standing. Survios says a gripping mechanic turns into extra integral afterward within the sport that will help you maintain onto objects so you’ll be able to peek round corners or pull your self alongside the wall to get by tight areas. However I discovered myself making some actually weird physique actions simply to inch somewhat nearer to an elevator terminal or make sure that I wasn’t clipping by a door I used to be making an attempt to open. Past that, the sport seems and performs easily, and there was by no means something actually disorienting in regards to the expertise that wasn’t clearly meant by design.
HBO says the sport is not only getting introduced immediately, but in addition changing into out there beginning tomorrow. It’ll price $29.99 and be playable on the Oculus Rift (in addition to the newer Rift S), the HTC Vive, and Vive Professional by SteamVR, Oculus Retailer, and Viveport assist. At launch, the sport is not going to be playable on Valve’s new Index headset, in response to HBO, however that might change down the road.