The “China Hero Project” was announced earlier in the PSVR life cycle. When there were doubts of third party support or technical ability concerning the PSVR console. But when footage was shown of the games being touted as part of this project, fears were allayed as the titles on display were dazzling from a technical perspective. It’s been a little over a year since the announcement of the project, and we’re finally seeing the results. The Walker, by the developers at Haymaker, is one of the first to attempt to deliver on the promise.
Quick Notes Genre: Wave Shooter Controller: Moves Length: 3 hours Price: $19.99 PlayPSVR Score: 7.0
The Walker depicted me as the last in a long lineage of exorcists in China. I awoke in a small, dingy bachelor pad as a trail of what looked like ash whirled and twirled its way into my room and out of site. Then what looked like a robed sorcerer slowly walked into my room and explained to me my role as an exorcist. The adventure began with no questions asked.
The sorcerer taught me how to use the three weapons of the exorcist: a six-shooter, an ancient sword, and magical ribbons. Using these exorcism tools, I was to go to different areas of the city and eradicate the evil inhabiting my surroundings. As you can probably guess, the evil seems to come toward me, in a wave-like fashion, and I must stay in one place, shooting the enemies as the waves progress.
That’s right. It’s a wave shooter.
But hey, that’s not a bad thing. The Walker absolutely nails the grimy aesthetics. In between waves I really enjoyed taking in the scenery, not because of its beauty, but because of its apparent authenticity. Although I’ve never been in the unsavory parts of China, I felt like I have been due to the realistic depiction of alleyways and street corners that I would be depicting. I applaud Haymaker for the environments on hand here. Subway tunnels, alleyways, and destroyed parks aren’t the most exciting sounding environments, but if they’re accurately depicted, the feeling of presence goes a long way to making a simple experience enjoyable.
And if the promise of the China Hero Project was graphical excellence, then these guys have succeeded. The loading screens depict a level of detail that seems unlikely to be met, but despite a few blurry textures in the environment, all the elements that matter in the graphics are visually impressive. My character’s hands are realistically modeled. The gun and sword are highly detailed and hold up to close visual scrutiny. The enemy models, although bland in color palette, hold up to similar scrutiny when a close encounter occurs, which is inevitable in this type of game.
Unfortunately however, the number of enemy types can be counted on one hand, I think. Let me try:
It’s disappointing that there’s so little variety in enemy types, but the variety with which they attack makes up for it a little bit, at least in terms of strategic challenge. But there’s disappointment associated with the actual challenge of the game.
After completing the handful of locations, the game begins a “second chapter” wherein the locations and gameplay are identical, except there are more enemies, and they have more hit points. This makes the game more challenging, but the retread of enemies and locations saps the motivation to continue. Because attack patterns do not change, methods of defending yourself also cannot really change, beyond being better at shooting far away enemies, and being faster at waggling your sword at up-close enemies. The magical abilities work a bit toward enhancing your offensive capabilities with a “stun” shot and a high-damage “freeze” attack. But the time required grab the magical ribbon and rub it on your weapon takes far longer than it would to just fire off an extra bullet or 6 and deliver the same amount of damage.
There’s a lot to like about The Walker. It’s technically superb, with quality tracking and excellent graphics. The setting is also intriguing, offering a interesting trip into China’s inner-city scenes. If only the gameplay had been more refined for longevity and motivation. The Walker feels like an awesome tech demo of PSVR’s capabilities. And maybe that was part of the goal of the "China Hero Project" all along--to instill confidence in PSVR. Now, if Sony could match these technically superb developers with a team that has strong game design sense, we could see some truly heroic stuff.
PlayPSVR Score: 7.0