ADR1FT Review – Oculus Rift

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If you thought the IMAX 3D version of Sandra Bullock’s movie, Gravity was immersive, just wait until you slip on your Oculus Rift and dive into the terrifyingly wonderful adventure that waits for you in ADR1FT.  Things start of innocently enough, as you take part in a short tutorial that acclimates you to zero-G exploration and the intuitive control scheme that allows you unparalleled mobility in all three dimensions.   When ready you can jump into the main event that kicks off with a bang…literally.

A terrible explosion has rocked a massive orbiting space station and you find yourself floating in space just outside the twisted wreckage in a damaged space suit that is slowly loosing oxygen. As the sole survivor of this disaster it is up to you to find out what happened, but first you need to find some O2 and get that EVA suit patched up.

ADR1FT sets the bar fairly high when it comes to an immersive VR experience. While the concept of being stranded in space is exhilarating in its own right, the 3D visuals and the sensation of actually floating in space (while sitting on my couch) were shockingly real.   As you tap your various control jets to boost through twisted space station tubes and float through thousands of debris particles, the sense of urgency never subsides, as you are on the constant lookout for your next bottle of O2 required to breathe and to navigate.  At first I was annoyed at the dual purpose of O2 until I realized that this system was a fantastic way to force players to learn how to navigate properly without carelessly wasting fuel or life-giving air.  There is nothing worse than the panic that sets in when you float past an oxygen canister while a low O2 warning is going off, and you have to use your jets to correct your course.

Thankfully O2 is plentifully scattered about and for careful players you can turn most of that urgency and panic into wonderment, as you make your way through the various areas of the space station to discover all sorts of personal memorabilia from the former inhabitants and hopefully find out what caused this disaster.

ADR1FT can be played on a normal screen, and I did try the game in 2D but found it not nearly as engaging as it was when I played it with the Oculus Rift. The difference is night and day when it comes to immersion – even having the Oculus on your head physically convinces you that you are wearing a space helmet of sorts.  While in VR your head movement ties to your in-game character’s head movement within a stationary helmet, so as you look around you are looking around inside your own helmet.  This is most convincing when you can look down to read the O2 indicator or start to panic as realistic cracks start to spread across the face shield as you bump into walls and objects. The audio presentation is also quite convincing with the Oculus ear pieces creating com-like chatter inside your head.  In space no one can hear your scream, but they sure can hear you breathing heavily.

I’ll be the first to admit there is very little traditional gameplay in ADR1FT. Classified as a First-Person Experience (FPX), this game joins the ranks of the hundreds of other “walking simulators” flooding the market lately, but ADR1FT justifies its limitations with an in-game premise and a core quest of simply trying to stay alive.  And even though you won’t be solving crazy inventory puzzles or shooting aliens, that certainly doesn’t make this adventure any less exhilarating.

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