There’s been a plethora of first person shooters in VR, with the static location versions being the flavour of choice – many of which we’ve reviewed on this site. So what makes The Walker different from the rest? On the surface nothing, but chip away at that familiar exterior and there’s just enough being done differently to make it stand out from the crowd. Fancy taking a trip to zombie infested Shanghai?
Setting the scene by introducing you to a mysterious man in black and providing some short exposition, you learn that you’re the next in a line of exorcists that wield magical weapons, and are tasked with ridding the menace that’s infecting the back alleys of Shanghai. Using a combination of pistol and sword there are several locations to clear as well as obligatory boss characters to defeat, but what makes The Walker feel fresh is the way it throws the enemies at you and challenges your spacial awareness as well as your reaction times.
You’re routed to the spot in each location but a press of a button spins 90 degrees so that ultimately you can cover all the area around you without straining your neck or back. Things start off slow and steady with each enemy taking their time getting to your position, allowing plenty of opportunity to pick them off with a six shooter, but soon the enemy types vary and they come in greater numbers so you need to be conscious of all angles of attack and what might be coming from that direction. Crawling zombies, shambling warriors and exploding imps are just some of the demons to face, and each comes with its own weakness to exploit as well as specific attack to deal with.
Putting a bullet into the head of the nearest attacker is a pretty reliable way to take them out, but you also have a sword for when things get up close and personal… and they will. Swing your Move Controller (though the game is also playable with a Dualshock) when they get too close and it’ll inflict a large amount of damage as long as you have the nerve to let them get within range. It’s not a one hit death scenario, and there’s no health meter, though you’re far from invulnerable so keeping the horde at bay to save your personal space is the best defensive option. Handily the sword has a double use as a tool for blocking hits and projectiles, and it’s reasonably forgiving as long as you’ve got it placed in roughly the right area.
This is a VR game though so there’s always the ability to physically move yourself out of harms way, and that’s definitely a viable tactic for some of the more extreme encounters. Dodging isn’t going to win the day though and the focus needs to remain on accurate shooting and despatching the foes before they get to you. To help with this you can imbue your weapons with a variety of mystical powers that buff the damage and add elemental effects for a limited time; it’s simply a quick press of the left Move button to pop up the magical texts to grab and rub against the weapon of choice.
Each location visited gives a different tactical layout – some are wide open with clear entry points, others are narrow and cramped with little reaction time available, and some have a mix of both like such as the subway where you move from platform to train carriage and have to deal with the space transition. This is where switching between the two weapons becomes more strategic and you start to consider letting the enemies creep closer so that you can manage them on your terms. Then there’s a change up in game modes too with some levels being wave based survival missions as opposed to straight story progression, it adds variety to what could have been a relatively dull shooter. Along the way new weapons and game types are opened up, and the difficulty ramps up taking the game from a sedentary pace to a frantic fight to live. It’s a nice surprise to see how much there is to it.
The Walker looks good, arguably helped by the static backgrounds and dingy city backstreets, which also provide a suitably creepy atmosphere when coupled with the mystical story, modern locations and atmospheric audio. There are some glitches in sound where things go quiet despite big events happening right in front of you, but that’s about the only thing that doesn’t stand up. It’s smooth, responsive and thought out well enough that when you do die you know why and what you did wrong. If you’ve a hankering for another shooting gallery in VR then this is one that does a couple of interesting things that will challenge your reflexes, and hopefully provide a few thrills as it takes you on its journey. Just look past the fact that the title is a bit of an oxymoron.
A PSVR review copy of The Walker was provided by Winking Entertainment’s PR team, and the game is out now on PS4 for around £20.