No one can hear you suck O2 canisters in space.
Remember that scene in Gravity when Sandra Bullock is somehow managing to survive as the International Space Station is destroyed around her, sending millions of lethal fragments and shards her way? That’s basically the opening to ADR1FT, but now you’re the character struggling to survive, and somehow the experience is more vivid, real and immersive that any Hollywood film could hope to achieve.
Okay, so the game isn’t all action. You’ll actually spend most of your time floating around sterile laboratories (with the odd room dressed with foliage or a spectacular tree), looking for precious CO2 canisters that top up your oxygen levels, because not only do these helpful cans of O2 enable you to breathe, but they also power your space suit. Thankfully there are hundreds, if not thousands of these canisters floating around the wreckage, often forming a breadcrumb trail for you to follow through space.
Which brings us onto the zero-gravity nature of ADR1FT. It’s possibly the most accurate depiction of using a space suit in a game to date, and every button on the Xbox controller is used to move, rotate and pivot in outer space. To get you comfortable with moving in zero gravity the game spends the first 10 minutes teaching you the basics within a practice room. This training session is essential, letting you bounce off walls and spin out of control without getting lost or hurt in the process. Thankfully there’s an “orientation reset” button that shrinks your FOV then rotates you upright — if upright is a thing in outer space. You’ll use this reset function a few times during your first hour with the game, but thankfully navigating 360-degree environments soon becomes second nature, and you’ll be floating, carouseling and spinning through space without any effort.
So, how does the game play on the Oculus Rift? It’s stunning. That’s all you need to know really, but if you must know more then be assured that it’s a genuinely immersive experience, and even with its 360-degree freedom of movement the game never caused any motion sickness in myself or the rest of The Rift Arcade team. Perhaps that’s because the game uses a visor to help you ground yourself in its environments, so at all times you can see the edges and screen of your helmet. What’s really impressive is that you can focus your eyes on the inside of the helmet, and it actually looks as though it’s inches from your face. Similarly, the outside “world” is rendered in 1:1 scale, with floating particles and debris floating past your body while the distant Earth looms massive and beautiful against the darkness of space. This is a game environment that feels like a dangerous and hostile place, and it’s brought to life in virtual reality in spectacular fashion. Play ADR1FT on a standard monitor and it will almost certainly lose its allure and immersive nature.
Graphically there’s mich to marvel at. Lighting is rich, model work is detailed and textures look great even up-close; but it’s the art style that really shines. ADR1FT has a subtle cartoon-like appearance with bright colours, but it’s mixed with a photorealistic depiction of Earth and the stars that brings the game to life. A realistic physics engine is also used to send you bouncing through space, with any contact with debris or objects seeing them float away in an eerily realistic manner.
As for the game itself, it can get lonely in space with only yourself, a wrecked station and the occasional corpse to keep you company. Occasional jaunts into space adds variation, as do the larger rooms that include foliage, but for the majority of your time you’ll be exploring the same lab-like environment with sterile walls and blinking lights. Thankfully it’s always a fun, rich experience on the Oculus Rift, but we can’t help but feel that in 2D the game would quickly become a chore.
Still, ADR1FT is a beautiful and essential VR experience for any gamer with a love of space. It’s polished, immersive and uses the Rift headset in clever way to make you feel as though you’re physically stranded in space and struggling to survive. Navigating the depths of space has never been so visceral, real or immersive.
Beautiful, immersive and one of the best launch experiences for the Oculus Rift. A must buy for anyone with a love of space, survival and exploration.
Ratings in depth
Oculus Rift Experience