Developer / Publisher – Zach Tsiakalis-Brown / Zulobo Productions
Price – US $29.99 / CAN 34.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £24.99
Release Date – March 30th, 2023
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Store Links – Steam
Reviewed on – Quest 2 w/ link
First off, if you haven’t played the first game, stop reading this review, go and purchase Vertigo Remastered, beat it and then come back here to see what this follow-up has in store. You are once again in the shoes of Sonja, who when we last left her, had almost escaped Quantum Reactor VII only to be cast even deeper into its depths. With the help of a familiar face or 2, you’ll arm up and fight your way through this facility which is honestly more akin to a planet than a building with massive set pieces that we rarely get to see in VR.
If you’ve played the first game, you’ll be familiar with the second as the controls here remain largely intact. 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 the latter can be summoned 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, scopes, increase damage and a few more perks to help out, especially when you face the bigger bad guys. 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 and while I typically don’t enjoy teleportation, even when it’s used as a gaming element, in Vertigo 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 find 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 to 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 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 and 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 that try and pick you off with their various weapons, floating eyeball creatures continuously vomit black orbs at your face while vicious dinosaur-like creatures appear out of thin air and charge at you with reckless abandon. It’s important to learn each enemies’ strengths and weaknesses 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 too easy. There are also various environmental puzzles to solve with some being as simple as finding a needed item (like a hard hat) to bypass a barrier while others will have you using cranes to move containers or nearby consoles and holograms to gain access to new areas. Throw in 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 as 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 one takes itself way less 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 me forgetting much of the story from the first game. It wasn’t until just before the halfway mark where plot points began to fall into place a little more clearly and motivations were revealed so if the story doesn’t grab you right away, don’t worry, it will. The difficulty did spike quickly and more than a few moments had me feeling very overwhelmed but once I began to exploit 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 me 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 though unfortunately, I had my revolver armed which has a very slow ammo regeneration rate. Those 2 issues were the worst I suffered though I did get significant frame drops for a second or 2 when the game saved, enemies sometimes got caught up in geometry or my arms might have as well but those issues were never game breaking and infrequent so 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 times, and honestly felt more in line with the older Half-life games. That’s to say it looks bad, far from it as, outside of a few character models, everything in here looks great, 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 do these areas feel like knockoffs, but homages that still carry a unique flare. 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 as even when walking through seemingly 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 video but are still rendered in 3D thus keeping immersion at the forefront of the story telling. Vertigo 2 really does highlight the power of the PC and showcases that with some incredible draw distances, wonderfully rendered environments and an attention to detail that we will hopefully be seeing more of now that AAA VR experiences are back in demand.
Where there’s excellent presentation, there is typically awesome sound design and Vertigo 2 delivers on that front with an engaging 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. Spatial audio is also flawless with the slightest sound in any direction alerting me to foes who may be trying to sneak up on me. 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 and while it’s not Trover’s Saves the Universe levels of non-stop jokes, when the funny stuff pops up, I almost always laughed out loud.
In this current age of the PSVR 2 bringing more premium VR titles, Vertigo 2 is wholly unique as almost no recent campaign-based VR title matches its scope in regard to not just visuals, but variety in gameplay, at least in a title that wasn’t already released as a flat game. I’m not knocking games like Resident Evil Village in VR, far from it, but 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, epic story and humorous charm that never overstays its welcome while still delivering some intense action. PCVR players should rejoice as this really is one of my favourite VR games in recent memory and for fans of the first game, as good as that was, this blows that out of the water in every single way!
The developer provided The VR Grid with press codes for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!