[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
Skydance Interactive’s PC version of Archangel is now available on Steam for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It has some minor tweaks and variations than what was featured on the PlayStation VR version of the game, but it also comes with some minor drawbacks as well. Overall, I definitely think the PC version is the better version but it still needs a few updates to achieve some measure of greatness.
The story is identical in both the PC and PS4 versions of Archangel. The game is about a Guardian pilot named Gabe (you can choose to either be male or female when creating your profile, which will change the main character’s voice throughout the game), who ends up suffering great tragedy during a war against HUMNX, an evil corporate war machine that has decimated Earth.
Players end up piloting a mech, which is the last hope against HUMNX. With rage-fueled vengeance guiding Gabe’s way, and an arsenal of powerful armament at their disposal, players will tear through a handful of levels in this story-oriented rail-shooter in order to get revenge, exact justice, and save the people from the HUMNX corporate oppression.
As a rail-shooter the action moves along briskly enough, with the main properties being the juggle between defending against incoming attacks using the left and right arm shields, and lobbing rockets, machine gun fire, rail-gun charges, and swarm missiles at incoming enemies. You can also punch them out of the sky, but it’s not an effective nor reliable tactic.
In fact, this was one of the issues that I originally had with the PlayStation VR version of Archangel… the game’s timing on the punches and grabbing things out of the air was wonky. Usually you had to either punch sooner than the object was in grasp or a little after. I found that the best way to deal with this was to rapidly tap the open and close fist button while reaching out in hopes of doing simple things like grabbing the nanobot canisters.
Another drawback from the PlayStation VR version to PC is that the HTC Vive motion controllers have some less-than-reliable input response timing. This is mainly to due with activating the shields, which were located on the outer edges of the haptic pads. Sometimes the shields would rapidly go on and off as if the button wasn’t being held properly and it would require sliding my thumb across the left and right side to get it to activate fully. This happened a couple of times, mainly on the left motion control stick. I actually think the shields would have been better served being assigned to the side buttons on the controller instead of on the haptic pads, given that the side buttons allow you to depress them fully and you would know when the shields are being activated, as opposed to sliding your thumb across and holding down the haptic pad.
For the Oculus Touch controllers you won’t have this issue given that the face buttons work just like the PlayStation Move controllers, so that’s a one-up that Oculus and the PSVR have over HTC in that particular area.
However, beyond those issues, everything else is just better on PC.
For one thing, the load times on PC are just a fraction of the amount of time it would take to load levels or reload checkpoints on the PSVR version. This made the game infinitely more enjoyable when you didn’t have to wait so long for everything to load. Dying on the PS4 version was just painful given how much time you had to sit through those dreadfully long load times.
And most notably– as evident in the screenshot above – the resolution is a lot cleaner so it makes it less straining on your eyes. The texture filtering and quality of LOD (when you aren’t witnessing it pop-in) just look better all the way around compared to the inferior console version.
The PSVR version also had the unfortunate issue of aliasing for distant objects while the immediate mech cockpit was rendered with sharper output. On the PC version, you get higher resolution at longer draw distances, which means you can play the game for longer without feeling the visual strain of trying to make out distant objects. If you can stomach the VR atmosphere for two hours straight, you can actually beat Archangel in one sitting.
In fact, you can reach the last level in the game – even after dying a couple of times – in just under 112 minutes. You can beat the whole thing in just under two hours. However, there is replayability in the form factor of harder difficulty settings and New Game+, so that your achievements and upgrades carry-over into a new game, giving you some ample reasons to keep playing and beating the game again.
There are a few other things that the PC version does better than its console counterpart: rumble feedback.
There was a major issue with the PlayStation Move controllers not rumbling enough or all that much in some instances, especially when firing the machine guns on the right arm. There was no feedback on the Move controller, so it was difficult to tell when you were firing the machine gun while you may have had the left arm shield up and taking incoming fire. A lot of times I would lose track of the reticule while firing on the PSVR version because not only did the left and right arm reticules look similar, but the lack of force feedback meant that you couldn’t tell if the weapon was still firing or out or reloading until you felt the slight rumble when the magazine was restored to full.
In this case, the force feedback is felt in a more substantial way, so it’s easier to track when you’re firing and when you’re not. It still would have been useful to have the left and right arm targeting reticules different colors to easily distinguish between the two, but it is what it is.
With the lower price of $29.99, and the better performance and visuals on hand, it’s a little hard to not recommend that VR enthusiast – especially those who love mech games – at least give the game a try. I will say that the controls are definitely better situated for the Oculus Touch, but it is possible to make due with the HTC Vive motion controllers as well. So either way you can…
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