Developer / Publisher – XREAL Games
Price – US $22.99 / CAN 25.99 / EU €22.99 / UK £19.99
Release Date – April 6th, 2023
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Steam, Meta
Reviewed on – Quest 2 w/ link
OK so, kicking things off I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to even say about the story or more the setup to Gambit. Waking up from what appears to be a crazy night of glue stick sniffing….yes you heard me right, you heed the call to join up with a group of foul mouthed group of degenerates to rob a train I guess and kill a bunch of gang members. Why? I don’t really know, and I really couldn’t care less. Story here is not a strong suit of Gambit and well not much is, but we will get to that in a bit. One of the first things players will notice when jumping into the game, is how hard it is trying to be edgy and cool, going hard on the swears and insults between the 4 main characters. And don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with a game going adult, and my sense of humor is anything but appropriate, but Gambit feels so forced and the writing so bad, it often had me cringing more than it had me laughing. Unfortunately once jumping into the early moments of Gambit, It became immediately apparent that the developers here were likely trying their hardest to spice up a game that gameplay wise is about as generic and boring as it gets.
Essentially Gambit appears to be trying to put a spin on the whole left for dead, after the fall type of rinse and repeat looter shooter. Starting off players are offered a few different ways to play Gambit. Solo Campaign, Coop Campaign, Deathmatch and something called Municipal Mayhem. Solo and Coop Campaign, are essentially the exact game, with coop simply allowing players to team up with anywhere from 2-4 human controlled players instead of being paired with 3 a.i partners in the single campaign option. Players are asked to choose from 1 of 4 fighters, all of which play essentially the same, short of a unique weapon they each apparently possess. I say apparently because regardless of whatever fighter I chose, outside of the tutorial section I never once got to the ability to arm said weapons. I would love to tell you that the chainsaw, bow and arrow, stake gun or shock pads were fun to use, but the game seems to have locked their use behind the game grind heavy unlock system…….and I just can’t play this game enough get there. Now calling this game a complete release is honestly a joke as fairly early on in the campaign, we get a progression map and are greeted with a large sign that tells us that only 1 area is available with 2 other sections coming at a later date…..Isn’t this what we call an early access title? Because I can tell you that once jumping into the game it sure feels like one.
The campaign portion that is available is essentially a collection of arenas, that feel like they were taken out of some PS2 era arena shooter…and not a good one. Levels are filled with loot boxes to open, buttons to press and areas to open up, all designed around a collectathon system that players will want to try and complete in order to unlock weapons, attachments and gun skins. This part I did kind of enjoy, as it did add something to the overall game loop but as the combat followed and the levels went on I quickly realized I really didn’t want to play this enough to unlock the games better weapon offerings. Level layout here is bland, and uninspired with enemies to match it. Guys, this is really lame stuff, feeling like it was just thrown together from a collection of assets Xreal games acquired and gave to chat GPT to create a 90’s era shooter level. I’m not even talking visuals here yet, as even just the level design just plays like a random collection of rooms, walkways and street sections in an effort to create some sense of verticality and map design. Unfortunately the enemy a.i is so dumb that I rarely had to even take cover or find vantage points to attack as simply running around the level and mowing the enemies down was more than adequate. Though I guess this ends up being a good thing, for if your playing solo don’t expect much help from you’re a.i companions, as they tend to stand around and wait for you to do something. Fire a few shots and then forget again what they were doing. Unfortunately the game doesn’t offer any additional difficulty levels to the campaign so I couldn’t bump up the lethality of enemies to help offset their stupidity. Movement here is adequate, as running around, climbing, jumping and crouching felt just fine, with the game playing fine seated or standing. Gunplay here is only ok though, which was surprising to me as for the most part I enjoyed the shooting mechanics in Zero Caliber. Unfortunately Gambit goes for a more arcade approach to gunplay here and it mostly comes off very simple, stale and well sorry to say boring. Matters are made worse by a hit point reticule that shows up on enemies, that almost gives the sense of the game auto aiming for you. I don’t think it was, but it really put me off.
Now the game starts you off akimbo style dual wielding pistols, which you can manually reload like you would expect, but can also auto reload After the Fall style by ejecting your mags and simply bringing the empty gun to your ammo pouch in front of you. In addition to your 2 pistols you also have 2 slots on your back for larger weapons, though you won’t get access to anything more than pistols until you beat the games first mission which consists of a handful of arenas connected by waiting rooms again in a style very reminiscent of After the Fall. These waiting rooms allow players to use point they have earned to heal up, buy grenades and additional lives. Anyway, the first mission and it’s mini boss took me about 40 minutes to rip through, at which point I was awarded loot based on completion of the level in addition to any of the games collectathon’s or side objectives I had completed. Now let me reiterate, it is at this point that I got my first chance to pick up a better weapon….and I was 1 third through the available campaign. Beating the first mission brings players back to a hub, where they can visit what is called the municipal arms dealership, an automated weapon merchant. Unlocked weapons, skins and attachments can be purchased here using cash they have acquired during previous runs. The selection of optional weaponry and customization options seems to offer a nice selection, and I do know the developer plans to add to this in future content updates. My first upgrade was a pair of scopes to my pistols, this increased there power level, but unfortunately I found out that the scopes were purely cosmetic and actually didn’t magnify anything, which was disappointing and quickly becoming par for the course here. Grabbing some bigger fire power like a shotgun and dual uzis, did spice up the gunplay somewhat, but again the game is just let down by lackluster gameplay and poor level design making finishing the next 2 missions in the campaign a bit of a chore. Now of course bringing a few friends along can make a boring game fun, and I’m sure some of you will find a good time here, unfortunately jumping in with a buddy here I simply found that Gambit became even easier as the game didn’t seem to adequately scale to other players being added into the mix. I should also mention that at the time of this review I couldn’t get the party system to work, as friends would get a beep from my sent invite, but no actual invite to join on. We got around this by simply joining a random match; and being the only ones on the servers pre launch we teamed up this way. So be aware, this could become an issue when the game goes live and this workaround is longer feasible. Solo players and groups of friends tired of playing through the games handful of arena type levels in the campaign mode can head over and try the gamers other 2 modes, deathmatch and municipal mayhem. Unfortunately those same arenas you might be trying to get away from are what’s for dinner here as well, with Deathmatch exactly what you think it would be and Municipal Mayhem essentially just being a team based wave based version of……what the campaign was……a wave based arena. So ya, if your looking for variety you will be sorely disappointed.
Graphics wise, Gambit is pretty disappointing, as like I said the game just looks very generic and uninspired. Now what your seeing and what we played is the PC version, and it looks sharp and plays smooth in the headset, but as you can surely tell from the gameplay you have been watching Gambit certainly seems to have been designed with the Quest 2 in mind as the game looks….well it looks Questy. And looking at the screen shots on the steam page it looks like at one point there might have been an actual PC version in development with much improved visuals. However that’s not what we got, and the bland and generic texture work here is made worse by a complete lack of dynamic lighting or really anything to give these levels some personality. Additionally outside levels off in the distance seem to be bordered by a fog that just cheapens the already lackluster visual display. Enemy models like our heroes look like they were bought off a unity asset site under generic gang member and often move like they are only half animated either when running or when shot. Audio effects don’t fare much better with weapon sounds that are only serviceable and add little excitement to gunplay that could honestly really use some. Not shockingly the music here also sounds like it came off a stock music site, as does the voice over work as enemies yell such gems as “come back here” “I’m not paying back what I owe” or the super clever “your mother” Now the voice acting in the levels cutscenes does fair better, but like I said early on the writing is super cringe and often comes off so bad its good at times.
And that brings me to my final thoughts and review score. I rarely outright torch games here on the channel I like see the best in VR games. Now I guess I can see 4 friends having some fun here with Gambit as it does check off the fundamentals of a team based coop shooter and does I guess feel relatively polished for what it is. That being said, it is so incredibly generic and lifeless in every single aspect of it’s design it just felt like XREAL Games threw something together to generate some income with the least amount of effort possible. The VR GRID gives Gambit a 5 out of 10. I’m not sure if this game can be fixed post launch, as it is so fundamentally boring, but if you are still interested in this for some fun with a few friends, at least wait until it gets some content patches before you grab it…. preferably on sale.
XREAL Games provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!