Developer / Publisher – Zulobo Productions / Perp Games
Price – US $29.99 / CAN 39.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £24.99
Release Date – January 15th, 2024
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – PlayStation
Reviewed on – PSVR 2
I’m assuming that more than a few PSVR 2 owners may have missed out on the 1st Vertigo Game (available on Steam via a remastered version) which is a shame as it’s an indie gem. So to quickly catch you up, you played a Sonja, a human trying to escape an Alien reactor whom, at the games grand finale, is sent plummeting back down into the facilities depths. That backstory is briefly touched on at Vertigo 2’s onset, but it’s almost irrelevant as your essentially doing the same thing in this sequel. Story aside, it’s a little unfortunate that the 1st game isn’t available to PSVR 2 users as there are more than a few references to the 1st game that will just go over people’s heads, but these are inconsequential to the story which is both epic and action-packed!
Standard FPS controls are in effect here with weapons and items being stored on either hand, the former of which can be accessed by turning your off-hand over displaying your holographic inventory while latter can be summoned by using a weapon wheel. Ammo is infinite for any weapon you pick up though the more powerful the gun, the longer it takes for that ammo to respawn. Weapon upgrade suitcases are hidden throughout the campaign which can add additional ammo, sights, increase damage and a few more perks to help you out, especially when you face the bigger bad guys. It’s a system I came to enjoy as the game forced me to switch up which weapons I was using during larger encounters and never let me solely rely on my favorite guns.
If not using full locomotion, you can also teleport which will be needed for some of the platforming sections and the longer you hold the teleport button, the further you’ll travel. While I typically don’t enjoy teleportation, even when it’s used as a gaming element, in Vertigo 2 it’s much needed as some enemies can run you down quick and deliver massive damage so if you don’t get out of the way, you could be dead in seconds. To avoid that outcome, health injectors can be found through the game as can health stations which require you to take the injector and plug it into your chest to restore your health, as indicated on your smart watch. As teleportation is linked to your off-hand thumbstick, I did find myself on occasion accidentally teleporting, which can be confusing as I often did this during battles, leaving me to quickly try and catch my bearings. Not the end of the world, but it did cause an unfortunate death or 2 though thankfully the auto-save system always had me restarting at whichever encounter I had died upon and if the game is ever too easy or challenging, the difficulty can be changed on the fly which is an option I really appreciated during some of the harder encounters. The only other issue with the controls that I had is that the duck button is mapped to your main hand thumbstick being aimed downward and is just too sensitive and I often found myself ducking when I meant to just turn. This was just more annoying than anything else, but it did occur quite a bit during my time in the game.
Encounters can be harrowing as enemies of all shapes in sizes attack you in various ways with each one always keeping you on your toes. There are slower moving zombie-like aliens with hands for heads that shamble toward you or robots of various sizes will try and pick you off with their various weapons, floating eyeball creatures continuously vomit black orbs at you while vicious dinosaur-like creatures appear out of thin air and charge at you with reckless abandon. It’s key to learn each enemies’ strengths and weakness and as you run into each new foe, their bio is added to an encyclopedia you can reference should you need a refresher. Each stage seems to introduce a new enemy type or 2 and while some can be a little more mindless than others, they can come in such high numbers that getting overwhelmed can be all to easy. There are also various environmental puzzles to solve with some being as simple as finding a needed item (like a hard hat) to bypassing a barrier while others will have you using cranes to move containers or nearby consoles and holograms to gain access to new areas. Throw on some very epic boss battles and you get an action-packed sci-fi title that should make anyone looking for a fleshed-out campaign quite happy. All of these elements come together to make this game feel very much like Half-Life and while the first game came off as more a light version of that lauded franchise, Vertigo 2’s grandiose scale makes it feel much in line with what we expect from the Half-Life series. So much so in fact that the developer has called this game Half-like, although this takes itself way less serious seriously and injects tons of sarcastic humour throughout the 10-to-12-hour story.
While everything in here is fairly refined, it did take me a few stages before I fell into the game’s groove with the first few opening levels being very disorienting thanks to pace at which things happen. It wasn’t until just before the halfway point where the plot points began to fall into place a little more clearly and motivations were made a little clearer so if the story doesn’t grab you right away, don’t worry, it will. The difficulty does spike quickly and more than a few moments had me feeling very overwhelmed but I once I began to find enemy weakness, learn where my weapons and items were best used and played with a bit more caution, I began to once again feel like a badass dispatching every weird creature that got in my way. I did suffer a few glitches throughout my play that forced to either reload my last save or figure out a solution on my own which included Brian disappearing into the ceiling as an elevator lowered and the only solution that worked was to shoot him as he started to lift off the ground. Another incident wouldn’t let me select any other weapon until that encounter was over and unfortunately, I had my revolver armed which has a very slow ammo regeneration rate. Enemies sometimes got caught up in geometry or my arms might have as well but those issues were never game breaking with all my technical issues being few and far between and once I moved past a problem, I soon forgot about it in favor of what I was going to experience next.
Vertigo’s 2 presentation is fantastic, though for those expecting Alyx levels of visuals, I’d temper those expectations as what’s here can look much more cartoonish at time, and honestly felt more in line with the older Half-life games. That’s not to say it looks bad, far from it as, outside of a few character models, everything in here looks fantastic, especially when you factor in the scope and variety in the stage design. You’ll start off in a complex, escape on a helicopter type vehicle while cruising through mountainsides before visiting more areas of the Quantum Reactor and plenty more alien settings that sometimes feel ripped right from movies, but never once to these areas feel like knockoffs, but homages that still carry a unique flare unlike any other game. I will note that some larger areas can suffer a fair bit of pop-in and while it’s not immersion breaking during most of the game, it’s distracting as all hell during that helicopter ride. On that note, reprojection is apparently absent from this release with the game running at a native 90 Hz though I found using the thumbstick to turn caused some frame rate issues with the screen seemingly struggling to keep up with those turns though outside of that, I didn’t experience any other notable frame drops. Dynamic lighting effects are top notch with reflections all looking pristine and while some surfaces may have a lower texture quality when viewed up close, for the most part this exudes a thoughtful care. Even when walking through sort stock corridors, the addition of comedic signage or stumbling across some nutty scenarios just gives Vertigo 2 a ton of personality and from beginning to end, I was looking forward to what I was going to see next as it was always something I had never seen before in a game…well, outside of the first game I suppose. I also appreciated the cut-scenes which are cinematically boxed in as if you are viewing a flat cutscene as they are still rendered in 3D thus keeping immersion at the forefront of the story telling. Vertigo 2 really does highlight the power of consoles and PC’s alike, showcasing that with some huge draw distances, wonderfully rendered environments and an attention to details that we will hopefully being seeing more of now that AAA VR experiences are back in demand.
Where’s there’s excellent presentation, there is typically awesome sound design and Vertigo 2 delivers on that front with an excellent soundtrack that makes almost every moment in this bizarre world feel undeniably epic. There will be many moments where you may be wandering in silence; exploring caverns, recycling plants, alien landscapes and many more locales but when the music kicks in, I knew I was in for a fight or something totally unexpected as the very 80’s synth/sci-fi soundtrack is a genre I really dig. Performances are also, for the most part, great though some of the characters can come off as a little wooden or even hard to understand and I had to listen very carefully during the cut-scenes to try and piece together what some of them were saying. Once again, nothing game breaking here and the voice work does fit the surrealness of it all, it can just be a little underwhelming or confusing at times which is counter to all the comedy happening. It’s not Trover’s Saves the Universe levels of non-stop jokes but when the funny stuff pops up, I almost always laughed out loud.
PSVR 2’s Haptics are in use, though do feel a little underutilized, like everything is turned up to a 7 in the controllers at the most so while every gun feels slightly different when being shot, none quite have the punch that we’ve seen in games like Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge. Whenever I took damage, my headset vibrated which I always appreciate in an action packed title where projectiles are constantly headed my way.
In this current age of the PSVR 2 and a look toward more premium VR titles, Vertigo 2 is unique as almost no recent campaign-based VR shooter matches its scope in regard to not just visuals, but variety in gameplay. What’s here just feels like a giant breath of fresh air thanks to some incredibly refined gunplay, plenty of secrets to find, a bizarre but epic story and humorous charm that never overstays it’s welcome while still delivering some intense action. PSVR 2 players should rejoice as this really is one of the best uses of the medium released in the last few years.
Perp Games provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!