Bullet Sorrow VR First Impressions
Disclaimer: This first impressions article is based on the SteamVR version of Bullet Sorrow VR, played using an HTC Vive. The gameplay experience using a Windows Mixed Reality HMD & its motion controllers may differ.
Bullet Sorrow VR is a fully motion-controlled arcade-style room-scale FPS by independent developer Viking VR Studios, which you can watch a trailer for above. The best way to describe it is imagine stepping inside an arcade game like the Virtua Cop games or the Time Crisis games and being able to walk around in them. How much you can walk around depends on how big your play-space is of course. This isn’t quite like other FPS games like Halo or Call Of Duty though as you can’t just freely walk through the entire levels using a controller. What this game does instead is has an area of the level about as big as a good-sized room that you can walk around in. (Except for boss areas which are huge. The maximum room-scale size is about 3.5m x 3.5m and the boss areas are much bigger than that.) Now if you happen to have a completely empty good-sized room that you use VR in or a huge room with a big enough play-space then theoretically you could probably just physically walk around the areas. However, most people won’t have that and the term room-scale doesn’t actually mean you literally need that size play-space to play the vast majority of room-scale games, room-scale just means you’re able to walk around and interact with things in full 360 degrees, you’re not rooted to the spot and only able to look around with your head or can only move using a thumbstick or touchpad like with current phone-based VR devices for example.
So how do you move around in the areas if you haven’t got the space in your room to physically walk around everywhere and how do you progress to the next area in the levels? Well, Bullet Sorrow VR uses a method called teleportation where you use the touchpad on the left motion controller to select where you want to go and the area you’re in is highlighted with a blue grid when you’re using teleport so that’s as far as you can go. Although it’s still called teleporting, this game doesn’t make you instantly appear where you select like some other VR games, it zooms you there instead. You can’t spam teleport to move all around the areas quickly though, you can only use it a couple of times in quick succession before it has to recharge for a few seconds. It’s best to use it every couple of seconds if you want to constantly move around using it, then it doesn’t need recharging. You also can’t move through or over objects or enemies using teleporting, you have to go around them. To progress to the next area in the level you have a certain amount of enemies to kill in each area then a “SHOOT” sign appears which you have to shoot to teleport you forward to the next area. This control method works fine but it would have been nice to have totally free movement using the controller, especially since the multiplayer mode has it apparently, but I haven’t tried that mode. The reason developers almost always include a teleport locomotion option in VR games is that some people get motion sickness when using the normal locomotion you usually get in videogames. Luckily I don’t get motion sickness in VR games so I can use free locomotion when it’s an available option.
Bullet Sorrow VR’s gameplay is so cool. It’s totally action packed and you have to actually aim the guns to shoot as if it was real life so you have to get good at aiming, although “Easy” mode does give you laser sights which makes it easier to aim but still not as easy as traditional flat-screen games that have cursors. Providing that Windows Mixed Reality’s HMDs and motion controllers work as well as early reports claim then the motion controls should be totally 1:1 like the Vive’s. (At least when the motion controllers are in sight of the Windows MR HMD’s sensors, although the rotation in every direction should still be 1:1 regardless.) There are various enemies, although not a huge variety so far, who can attack you from any direction. The most annoying are the ninja girls who zip around you really fast while attacking you with their swords. There’s loads of cover in the game and you’re supposed to play it as a cover shooter. This is a slight issue for me due to my medical condition, so it shouldn’t be an issue for most people, as many of the boxes are quite low down so you have to crouch down so you’re squatting or kneeling or however you want to get down to that position. I just physically can’t keep doing that, so I was often having to rely on just physically moving around upright as well as teleporting to dodge attacks a lot of the time. But there are some larger boxes/stacks of boxes which I can just duck down a bit to take cover behind along with even larger ones that are taller than me which I can just step behind and in the 2nd level (the end of which is how far I’ve played so far) there are lots of edges of walls and some pillars which are great for cover. I’m sure many of you with Kinect for Xbox 360 have got or played the great core Kinect game Blackwater. Well imagine that game on steroids with more locomotion! (Although I haven’t encountered hand-held grenades or a sniper-rifle in Bullet Sorrow VR yet unfortunately.)
As I said earlier, Bullet Sorrow VR is a very arcade-like FPS and unfortunately that’s quite apparent in the AI. Most of the enemies just run and shoot, stand and shoot and take cover sometimes, they generally behave in quite a basic way. There’s not a huge variety either. Other than soldiers with shields, the ninja girls and the two bosses I’ve fought so far, the enemies I’ve come across are basically the same with slight graphical differences like more armoured helmets and gas masks. Judging by videos and screenshots there seem to be a few more enemy types, including zombies, later on though.
As far as weapons go, you start off with pistols that you always dual-wield (unless you pick up a shield) and that have unlimited ammunition. You can manually reload by pressing the grip button, which takes about 2 seconds, or you can let the game automatically reload for you but that takes a second or two longer, so it’s best to manually reload when you’re running low on ammo when you have the chance. All other weapons that you can pick up have limited ammo and are discarded when they run out which then takes you back to your pistols. The only other weapons I have found so far that you can dual-wield are uzis, all the other weapons require you to use both hands to use them. The other weapons I’ve found so far are shotguns, which you have to pump between each shot to load the next cartridge, machine guns which are bigger than the uzis, grenade launchers and machine gun turrets. Plus as I mentioned earlier you can also pick up see-through shields, although they don’t appear until the second level. You have to use the shield quite realistically, you can’t just hold it in one place or the enemies will eventually shoot exposed parts of you (although only your hands are actually graphically represented), so you have to move it around a bit to block their shots. It can only withstand a certain number of shots though, then it breaks and disappears. It also disappears if you pick up another weapon, so keep that in mind before you go straight for the nearest weapon pick-up right after you’ve picked up a shield! There are also of course explosive barrels which you can shoot to blow up any enemies that are within the blast radius.
There is actually one more weapon but it’s an ability more than a weapon, this is bullet time which you don’t have to pick up as you just have access to it early on in the first level. It can be used as many times as you want but it takes a while to recharge each time you use it. To activate it you just touch the right touchpad (on the Vive at least) and it works just as I’m sure you can imagine, time slows down and the enemies’ bullets are much easier to dodge, although it’s also very useful to use against the female ninjas as they’re normally quite hard to shoot since they’re moving so fast.
You also have a health monitor on the back of your left wrist like a watch, but it’s not that great as it just has a pulse line that seems to change from green to yellow to orange to red rather having than numbers or a health bar. Things usually get so hectic that you’ll probably forget to use it anyway and just rely on your vision getting red and the narrator telling you that your health is critical. There are classic white-box-with-red-cross health pick-ups dotted around the levels, usually about 1 per area, so use them wisely.
The graphics are generally pretty good. They’re not the best graphics I’ve seen in VR but then they are going for a more arcade-style look. If SEGA made VR arcade games, which I hope they eventually will, then I could totally imagine this being one of them. If you’ve ever played or seen Virtua Cop 3 then it looks a lot like that but even higher quality graphics. You may think the graphics don’t look that great in the trailer but you have to understand that VR games take a lot of graphical power as they have to render 1440 x 1440 (for Windows Mixed Reality, 1080 x 1200 for Vive) per eye for a total resolution of 2880 x 1440 running at 90fps (or 60fps for PCs with the lower-end specs for Windows MR) so you’re unlikely to get graphics as good as the best flat-screen games for a while, especially indie VR games which Bullet Sorrow VR is. But VR is so immersive that even the most simple graphics look “real” as the environment and all the objects around you just seem like real things because of the 3D effect. Some VR naysayers who have never tried it seem to think it’s nothing more than having a 3D screen strapped to your face and it’s just a gimmick. This couldn’t be further from the truth as even though you do initially acknowledge that you’re looking at screens (through lenses, the screens aren’t actually up against your eyes) you very soon totally forget it and you really feel like you’re inside the virtual world as it totally surrounds you (although your peripheral vision is blocked out due to the HMD’s FOV being lower than your eyes FOV), it doesn’t just have a 3D effect the way watching 3D movies at the cinema or on a 3D TV have a 3D effect.
Bullet Sorrow VR’s single-player campaign (and possibly co-op?) has 3 difficulty modes. Easy mode has slightly less enemies I think and I also think they may shoot less and are also possibly easier to kill. It also features laser sights for your guns and has unlimited continues. Normal mode, if I’m right about Easy mode, has slightly more enemies that shoot more and are possibly harder to kill. You don’t get laser sights (unless there’s possibly a pick-up later in the game) and only get 3 continues. I don’t know if it’s just 3 continues for the whole game or whether it’s for each level and the levels you have completed save. Hard mode not only has no laser sights but no continues either and I think it’s just generally harder overall too. I haven’t actually completed the first level on hard as I decided to drop the difficulty after my first go so that I could play more for this article, so like with “Normal” I’m not sure whether the levels you have completed save or whether you have to start from very beginning of the game again even if you die on the last level.
Unfortunately it looks like the single-player campaign only has 4 levels, unless more are unlocked after the 4th level. Each level is about 20 to 25 minutes long so the game would only take about 1.5 hours to complete if you play it non-stop on “Easy” if you’re pretty good at it. So I would suggest playing it on “Normal” or “Hard”. However, not only is the nature of the game very replayable, like getting high scores or trying to complete every difficulty mode, but there are also online multiplayer modes. Not only is there PvP but there’s also PvE which suggests co-op in the campaign mode. Although I haven’t played any of the multiplayer modes I’m pretty sure they would add plenty of replayability for those who do. Besides, it’s not that expensive and even just playing the single-player campaign is like starring in your own action movie for the price of a Blu-ray as it costs £14.99 (UK) / $19.99 (US) on Steam so should cost about the same price on the Windows Store, therefore I think it’s just about worth it. Also, this is made by an independent developer and VR devices have only been available for the general public to buy for 18 months (no, the Virtual Boy was NOT VR!) so it’s still early days for the consumer-level technology and games, many of which are currently a bit on the short side not just Bullet Sorrow VR. Having said that there are still plenty of VR games that are much longer.
The potential amount of fun you’ll have with Bullet Sorrow VR depends on your fitness, play-space size and if you play multiplayer. Despite my health issues, only having a play-space of 2m x 1.8m, which is only slightly more than the recommended minimum room-scale size of 2m x 1.5m, and not likely to play multiplayer anytime soon I still had a lot of fun with Bullet Sorrow VR so that should tell you something about how good it is! I’m predicting it will be worth a score of around 8 out of 10 by the time I finish the single-player campaign. This may be a long article but I won’t officially review a game I haven’t finished the single-player campaign of.
I would recommend having at least the minimum recommended play-space and no matter what size it is make sure you have your chaperone bounds on (the graphical virtual wall that appears to warn you when you’re near your play-space boundaries) as you’ll find yourself moving around more than you think even when you’re not consciously walking around and you don’t want to step on or hit anything outside your play-space, especially a wall!
If you think I’m exaggerating about Bullet Sorrow VR being like starring in your own action movie then check out YouTuber RecluseAllKnight playing the Vive version the way it’s meant to be played and quite close to its full potential as he’s playing in a small empty room that looks about 3m x 2m not a room with the maximum room-scale size of about 3.5m x 3.5m, but he can still move around a lot and dive on the floor:
If you’re getting Windows Mixed Reality do you plan on buying Bullet Sorrow VR? Have you played it on another VR system already and if so what did you think? Let us know in the comments below or create a discussion in our (PC) Windows Mixed Reality VR Games forum.