Review: 2945 VR

2945 VR, by developer, Pineapple, is essentially an evolution of the Xortex mini-game from Valve production, The Lab.  Anyone who played Xortex will find that 2945 VR feels very familiar and adds upon the core concept introduced by Valve.  Both games have you maneuver a spaceship with your hand to dodge bullets and fire your own, by pointing at enemies.  The controls are exactly the same, with trigger initiating your special ability.

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Maneuvering through a field of projectiles.

The gameplay is very recognizable; I was a big fan of Xortex, which is why 2945 VR grabbed my attention.  No artificial locomotion is required, which is a big plus for those who get motion sickness.  The way you can shift your hand across the room to perform impossible flight maneuvers almost feels like cheating – and exemplifies what can be achieved in VR that a joystick could never accomplish.  The space that you can move around in is bigger than Xortex – and you’re going to need it.  Seated and standing play is possible, but a larger play space will give you more of an advantage in gameplay.

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The ability to move around your play space makes dodging bullets easier.

There are many comparisons to Xortex and that is just unavoidable.  Many of the enemies are similar in how they function, however the models of the spaceships and enemies in Valve’s iteration are more visually appealing and varied — but effective character design is just Valve’s thing and it’s hard to compete with.  The pace of Pineapple’s iteration starts out slower, whereas Xortex introduces more varied enemies sooner; however 2945 VR evolves into far more complex gameplay.

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The spaceship model you hold in Valve’s Xortex feels more responsive in how its engines move with you.

Getting into the more advanced stages is where 2945 VR sets itself apart from the competition, requiring you to take full advantage of your play space to dodge massive barrages of bullets, while doing your best to keep aim.  The gameplay becomes incredibly frantic with the addition of heat-seeking missiles and varied patterns of bullets.  The laser enemy in Pineapple’s iteration is far more aggressive in how it whips across the arena — an example of how 2945 VR heightens the gameplay.  In general, the gameplay is more intense than Xortex and more rewarding.  There is also a Hard Mode that skips the easy levels and gets right to the challenge.

The bosses that you fight between waves are another area where 2945 VR excels beyond the competition.  The boss fights are varied and offer different challenges from the waves of enemies.  In my experience, the waves are harder than the boss fights, simply because there are more enemies firing more varied bullets your way.

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Dipping low in the play space to dodge an onslaught of bullets coming from a boss.

The gameplay reminds me of Geometry Wars, in which you have to navigate through different-acting projectiles, while also shooting back.  Except the level of control you have in 2945 VR is completely impossible to achieve with a standard joystick controller.  Moving your hand over your play space or stepping out of your play area to dodge a wall of bullets almost feels like cheating, but really is an example of the expanded possibilities in gaming, unbounded by the limits of a 2D screen.

There were also instances in which I died and I couldn’t tell what killed me and even felt as if the game registered a hit on my craft when there wasn’t one.  Perhaps that is the ultimate downside of VR, that a flaw in the motion tracking could result in an untimely death.

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The screen you see after death, amid leftover bullets.

There are three ships to chose from, which all play differently but feel powerful in their own respects.  That power may not be apparent at first, as you will have to level up the power of their abilities with the currency you collect by killing enemies.  I found the nuclear bomb weapon to be too bright and it would block my vision of other things happening.  As I was playing, I ran into a bug which wouldn’t let me purchase certain enhancements, when I clearly had enough points to buy them — a re-installation of the game did not fix this problem.

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I have enough points but can’t buy the upgrade.

I also have to mention the vibration of the controller.  Every time you shoot at an enemy, the controller vibrates, but not in a way that is responsive to your weapon or in a way that feels impactful.  It almost feels like I’m holding a vibrator in my hand and the whole time I’m playing, I can hear it buzzing.  Especially with the level of vibrant vibrations exhibited as possible on the Valve Knuckles in Half Life: Alyx, improving the vibration to be responsive and varied between the different ships, could really enhance the experience.

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The nuclear bomb weapon, blocking my vision of the top of the screen.

In Xortex, the motivating factor to keep playing was to beat high scores on the leader board; in 2945 VR the motivation to keep playing is to get more currency to upgrade your weapons.  However, I imagine that at some point, you upgrade every weapon to max and beat the last boss and then there is nothing to progress towards as you play.  It would be nice to see the implementation of a leader board system, though there is a natural hindrance there, as a result of it being a new game with few players.

As of now, there is only one location to fight enemies in — it looks like some kind of spaceship hangar that enemies appear in.  The textures are nice and shiny, but it leaves me wanting more.  I think 2945 VR could benefit from more creative or visually striking backgrounds to play in.  When fighting a barrage of spaceships, it really makes sense to be out in the vacuum of space, or maybe surrounded by alien planets, as opposed to inside the hangar of a spaceship.  The uniform location causes me to crave visual variety as I play.

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Go fight in someone else’s spaceship hangar.

The Steam update page notes 8 new weapon add-ons being added to the game.  It would be nice to see more future updates that provide more content, like more locations, enemies, or playable ships.  I wish I had a better understanding of how the development will progress over time – if I did, it would be much easier to recommend 2945 VR at full price.

If you loved Xortex and want to play a more sporadic, challenging version with multiple ships that can be leveled up, the full asking price of $16 for 2945 VR is pretty reasonable.  However, considering a very close competitor is available for free, you might want to pick this one up on sale, if more challenging levels and bosses aren’t enticing enough for you.

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The laser ship upgraded with more lasers.

 

Reviewed on Valve Index.

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