Developer / Publisher – Cyborn BV
Price – US $39.99 / CAN 45.99 / EU €39.99 / UK £29.99
Release Date – December 7th, 2022
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Steam
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift
Hubris places you in the role of a recruit for the Order of Objectivity (OOO moving forward) who is dispatched to a planet to search for a missing agent named Cyanna. An opening tutorial takes you through the basics by having you run, jump, swim and shoot your way through a simple obstacle course before you arrive…erm crash on the planet. Once on the surface, you swim out of your submerged ship alongside your captain, Lucia, and proceed to take in your surroundings and figure out what to do next. Lucia can’t stick around and so you end up powering up a small droid that she can control and talk to you through, not unlike The Ghosts in the Destiny series. After that it’s all about going where she or the game directs you, travelling across alien landscapes and through OOO facilities, jumping, climbing, swimming, and shooting your way to victory.
I will say the platforming and swimming are done really well here with the opening stage really hammering home how these sections work. Edges you can grab will highlight as you get close to them offering up a very similar experience to ‘The Climb’ series of games, though you won’t be scaling any massive structures, but rather gaps, small cliffsides and piping inside the facilities. One minor note is that thumbstick turning is be disabled while climbing so for those managing cords, be aware. Swimming is handled by physically moving your arms as if you were travelling underwater, giving this some Freediver vibes, which is a good thing as whenever these sections did pop up, I enjoyed them and thankfully, you don’t have to worry about oxygen levels as your suit supplies you with all the air you need. The first gun you get only works underwater and is used to kill slow moving, or even stationary, jelly fish so while that really wasn’t at all satisfying, once I picked up my pistol, I expected the action to get a lot more intense…unfortunately, this is where the cracks in Hubris began to show.
That opening level really feels like a tutorial stage, so much so that I don’t think the actual tutorial is really needed, so it was really easy to forgive any shortcomings here and just take in the amazing visuals (more on the presentation later). Once you encounter the little bulbous alien life that tries to jump at your face (not unlike the Pods from Halo) things start to go downhill. For starters, your pistol shoots energy and can only be reloaded by holding it up to your head, where it takes a few seconds to refill. This is explained away as the gun being linked to your suit and needs to leech that energy off you to be reloaded though this ends up feeling like an awkward gun play mechanic designed to be unique, but not necessarily good. Once you get through the station where all these little not-pods are, you’ll encounter the 3D printer machine where you’ll need to dump all the junk you have been collecting up until now…keeping in mind that the game never asked you grab that junk so if you didn’t up to this point, well, now you’re behind a little. All that scrap will be needed to upgrade your gun or craft batteries with you having only four gun options in the game; shotgun, pistol, automatic rifle & that underwater one making your armament feel incredibly limited. To change which mode your gun is in, in Half Life Alyx style, you’ll need to press down on the thumbstick for a second or 2 to select a weapon wheel, which wasn’t explained anywhere in the game. Regardless, to ensure you have the best weapons for the job, scavenging is now one the most important gameplay elements and to succeed, you should explore every nook and cranny to ensure nothing is left behind, especially in the 2 sections of the game that require you to find everything before letting you move on.
Now back to that printer…you need to dump all that junk into a bin one item at a time until you run out or the bin maxes out on 1 of the 4 ingredients needed to upgrade and create your stuff. Happily, to store anything you find, you can simply toss it over your shoulder with the left shoulder containing items & junk while the right contains health boosts making for an easy way to retrieve stuff. You also have a backpack of sorts that is activated by pressing a button on your wrist, bringing up a touch screen inventory of the various items you find though once you grab any item, it automatically closes. So, at these dumping station, once you unload all your junk, 1 piece at a time, it spits out ingredient canisters that need to be placed in their respective nearby receptacles so they can than be used to build batteries or unlock weapon options. From the first to the last time I had to use these things it was a tedious and time consuming affair and what’s worse is that this mechanic is used throughout the game to make smoothies, snacks & rope bridges, though in those scenarios, you can only add 2 items at a time before waiting for a machine to process and create your stuff. I seriously spent almost 10 minutes making food and am really not sure how that was supposed to be fun.
Moving on has you facing various drones sent by an enemy known as the Uron, a humanoid species that all wear identical full body suits and are about as smart as a cucumber with drones behaving in barely smarter fashion. You’ll face stationary mines, seeking mines, deadlier flying drones & 2 types of regular soldiers, the first of which just walks slowly toward you without seeking any sort of cover and the latter who hides behind cover without ever moving. Oh, did I mention they are dumb as posts because more often than not I could just shoot them before they even reacted to my presence, pick them off from a large distance or, if I actually took damage, just pop out a smoothy and drink it while I was killing them with ease. The only times I was ever in danger were when the enemy numbers were high enough that they could surround me but given their total lack of intelligence, it’s as easy as ducking to remove myself from the situation and heal. There is one final heavy soldier who wields some kind of energy weapon but walks at a snail’s pace and has very limited range so as long as I stayed away from him, he never offered any sort of challenge either making the combat sections in this game nothing short of dull and monotonous. Even on the harder difficultly, as far as I could tell, their shots delivered more damage, but outside of that they were just as inept as playing on easy or normal.
This is all made so much worse by the complete lack of power your gun has. It feels like shooting a child’s toy no matter which mode you use save for shotgun, which does have a little kick, but as the enemy is often at a distance and the best way too take them out is from afar, I found that weapon mode to be next to useless and barely used it. The energy your gun shoots is also hard to see and when your blasts impact the bad guys, unless they die, they don’t react making every encounter in the game unsatisfying. While games like Doom or Alyx make you feel like a one-man-army type bad ass, here I just felt like I was picking on the Uron as they quite literally had no chance at stopping me.
Where Hubris does shine is in the presentation as it truly is one of the best-looking VR games I have played in some time. The stages that take place on the planet’s surface have a near endless draw distance and seemingly everything is rendered in 3D so no matter how far you can see, it looks authentic and real. While the water is typically crystal clear, a slight murkiness does pervade your vision adding to that sense of realism. Cliff sides look almost hyper-real and the facilities you travel through are equally impressive with some areas having substantially grander scale than others and it’s clear that almost every moment in the game was designed to look as good as possible. Every room you visit is littered with appropriate stuff and credit should be given to the level designers as, while you spend some time in each location, the set pieces in each area keep the environments from never really feeling repetitious. Lighting, reflections, and environmental effects all look great adding further immersion and some singular interactions like a 3D printer you control later in the game and a hover bike section mix up the action a little and gave me a break from all the combat and platforming. You’ll meet a few characters along the way, all of them displaying realistic movement thanks to some fantastic motion capture and outside of the issues I’m about to mention, from beginning to end, this looks like a AAA title.
Unfortunately, below that very sexy surface are some notable absences that will affect immersion for some more than others Interactions with NPC’s are 100% scripted, and I don’t mean just the dialogue, but also their animations. When involved in a conversation, you can move wherever you want, but the other characters with move to their assigned spots and talk to you as if you were standing in front of them and even if you do stand where you would naturally to converse, the NPC’s never directly look at you or follow your movements creating a disconnect in almost every conversation. Also, the environments are nearly 100% static so for those looking forward to any sort of environmental interaction, none of that is here outside of the occasional cooler with a lid you can remove to reveal some hidden items. Every foe you encounter behaves identically and that includes their minimal animations making almost every fight the same save for the setting you find yourself in, which could have those enemies coming from high and low. That lack of interaction outside of scripted events & some smaller environments did take away from my experience as it became a matter of look, but don’t touch with your hands just stopping near any surface with a ghost image of your controller carrying forward indicating where your hands are.
Unlike the visuals, the audio design is a little more erratic thanks to some odd choices. The voice actors for the most part do a fine job, though I found Lucia’s exposition delivery to be grating as she spouted dialogue quite flatly, repeated the same lines over and over both in and out of combat and just came off as an undercooked way to flesh out the story. There is also a noticeably lacking soundtrack with the entirety of the game having no musical score outside of the credits, which I thought was an odd choice as it could add to the immersion when exploring corridors and the planet side all alone but I missed those beats when the action did intensify (as much as it does) and I do think some music could have made the combat maybe a little bit better. 3D audio is also handled moderately well though conversations seem to happen in your headset so while near the NPC’s, you can turn your head and hear their audio travel from left to right ear but moving far away from them still has the audio sounding as if they very close creating yet one more disconnect between you and this virtual world.
To say I’m disappointed by Hubris would be fair and while that maybe a little my fault for being hyped for the game, something I try very hard not to do, I still think, even if I had never even heard of this game before playing it, its flaws very quickly show. It took me just over 6 hours to get though the campaign and once I did, I had no desire to give it another go. The pacing can be crushingly slow at times thanks in large part to that scavenging and even when the action does pick up, it’s never too engaging. The overall narrative as well I found to be forgettable with the story touching upon larger events and ending on a ‘to be continued’ note but I just don’t think I care enough to see where the next chapter will take us. The asking price on this one is $40 US and I think in its current launch state, that is tough to justify because if you take away all the pretty, this feels like a low budget VR shooter/platformer.
Cyborn provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!