With the launch of PlayStation VR and the still relatively new technology of the Vive and Oculus Rift, the question we’ve really been wondering about is what type of games are going to come out for them? Loading Human: Chapter 1 from Untold Games answers that question in part by giving us the first episode of an interactive adventure story where everything is experienced from a first person perspective as you follow the narrative, solve puzzles and take in an intricately constructed slice of Sci-Fi. With it being the first game of its type to land on Sony’s console, will it make enough of an impression to get early adopters coming back for more?
Playing as Prometheus, you arrive at an isolated research facility to train for a mission to head out into the cosmos and find the Quintessence, a mystery “thing” that should help prolong your father’s life who coincidentally owns and used to live in the place you’ve just arrived at. Inhabited mainly by robots, there’s human company in the form of the only other scientist, Alice, who’s there to unravel the secrets of the element that’s going to reverse the aging process. As this is an emotional journey as well as a physical one, you won’t be surprised to learn that Loading Human is really about how Prometheus and Alice fall in love in the isolated environment, and what they need to overcome to spend their lives together, and not about life giving artifacts that should never be used by anyone sane.
Loading Human is a fully realised 3D space, navigated in first person that really nicely manages to avoid the disconnect usually manifesting as nausea through moving around in the game, but remaining seated in real life. Using two Move controllers that represent Prometheus’s arms (with a full body model as well, meaning you’re not just disembodied hands); pointing and holding a button moves him forwards and backwards, but tapping changes direct, with this “jump” in view seeming to hold the motion sickness at bay rather than jar with your expectations. The reason for using the Move system is not just for ambulation, they’re essential for manipulating the world which is the core gameplay element. Picking up, rotating, examining, pressing and throwing things around is what you’ll spend a large part of your time doing, so it’s a good job it’s pretty intuitive. Actually, you aren’t meant to throw things, it’s just fun to do.
Hover your virtual hands over an item and it glows purple prompting both a description of it spoken out loud by Prometheus, and lets you pull a trigger to pick up and hold said item. Most of them are simply set dressing there just to flesh out the scenario, though the ones that are there for real gameplay purposes have some nice touches. Grabbing a tablet to review the news or find information is just like you’d expect in real life and immediately you’re holding the device in one hand and swiping up and down to scroll through. One of the best things about Loading Human is that despite the Sci-Fi setting, the construction is grounded enough that instinctively you know what to do with what you see. Walk to the bathroom door you’d pull open with the handle; grab a shaver and clear the stubble from your face; take apart a lamp to grab a lightbulb. It sounds a little mundane from that quick list, but that’s actually the enthralling part whilst we’re in the early stages of VR. There’s novelty at the moment in doing everyday activities in a virtual world, so let’s enjoy it whilst it’s still new.
Obviously, this isn’t just a “day in your own life” simulator, and there’s a decent amount of puzzle solving to do as well as uncovering a bit of a mystery. Puzzles are either task oriented, or based on figuring out timelines of events which are either fun to piece together (like making a cup of tea), or lessons in trial and error (mapping the progress of thought data from rat to futuristic data disc… WTF?). Whilst you’re playing as Prometheus, the loading screens and some of the activities almost seem like you’re replaying recordings rather than making them happen. Adding credence to that, the story isn’t linear and jumps around in time to give different viewpoints that add a little more intrigue to the events, and as such leave some things unanswered which is essential for keeping you invested enough to join them for the second part. Alice is well thought out, your father (Dorian) is a strange and vaguely untrustworthy fellow, and the AI that operates the place is excellent in not being GLaDOS or any other stereotyped system computer, though does have a wicked sense of humour that comes through at the right points.
What Loading Human Chapter 1 offers is a reasonable length story for VR, though for a standard game it’d be a little short. It’s interesting, well put together, nicely acted and manages to pull you into the world. Interaction and movement needs the tutorial section to explain how it works, and it won’t take long after that to get comfortable with it – and even though it had a few niggles with registering turn instead of move forward, there’s a solid mechanic here. With some minigames played out as “mission training” as well as the other aspects already covered, there’s a decent variety on offer too, just don’t expect a lot of replay value unless you’re determined to hunt down all the actions for trophies or achievements. Ultimately the question is about where is the story going, and… I’m not really sure. That’s part of the appeal in this game, and with a number of unanswered questions, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes next.
A review copy of Loading Human: Chapter 1 for PSVR was provided by the Untold Games PR team, and the game is available now on PS4 and for Oculus Rift.