There's a new title on the horizon from developer Three One Zero and publisher, 505 Games; and it's one smaller title that is hoping to make a big impression on gamers looking for something a bit different from ordinary first person games.
While the game is still under heavy construction -- it recently got ported from its earlier engine into a fancier Unreal 4 upgrade -- I got a chance to get a sneak peek to see what "ADR1FT" is all about... And my hands-on time left me breathless.
A Breath of Fresh Air
The demo was fairly short -- lasting maybe 10 or 15 minutes in total -- but spoke volumes about the direction that Three One Zero wants to move their game. When I say it's the video game equivalent of the space thriller, "Gravity," -- ya, know, our favorite movie from last year -- I really mean it.
The obvious connection is immediate -- "ADR1FT" takes place in space, after all. The basic rundown consists of a massive disaster in high orbit which leaves our heroine alone and helpless as she must piece together what happened to her fellow astronauts -- as well as figure out a way out of her predicament.
Details are scarce regarding exactly what happened to the space station and your role in the disaster. What we do know is that "ADR1FT" is less about action and more about experiencing a thrilling and fearful narrative as you drift in your EVA suit. Oh, did I mention your spacesuit is venting oxygen? Well it is, and it's a race against time as each breath could be your last.
Usually when someone describes a FPS game, you immediately conjure up a pair of disembodied hands wrapped around a rifle or readying a knife waiting to carve into some hapless soldier-types. While the floating arms are still represented here, you won't have any weapon pushing you into a traditional FPS set-up.
Instead, Three One Zero wants this to be a FPX -- a first person experience -- meaning that it's all about atmosphere, presentation, and immersion. Yes, some of those big bang Hollywood blockbuster games like "Battlefield: Hardline" can make you feel like you're really in the grit of war, but Three One Zero is hoping to provide a greater degree of immersion through subtler use of game mechanics, design and player input.
These types of games have recently found a foothold in the industry. "Gone Home," "Proteus," and even that "P.T./Silent Hill" demo show that games can be more than shoot-y shoot bang-bang, with gripping, emotional narratives and excellent use of mechanics to enhance the experience.
Making The Leap With Oculus Rift
One major part of the experience is the support of Oculus Rift. Naturally, you can play with a monitor or television, but it's absolutely astounding what the virtual reality goggles bring to the table. I could almost feel myself floating out of this world as I looked around the environment. This feeling hit hardest when I jetted out of the station's aperture portal and looked down at Earth from 250 miles above. It was exhilarating, disorienting, upsetting, and amazing all at once. And I loved it -- hands shaking and palms sweating the whole time.
It's not all about the Oculus Rift, as many players won't have access to one. Is the total experience diminished if you can't use an OR? Perhaps a bit, but I feel as if the overall game will still have a fantastic sense of scale. Art direction and level design goes further than any device gimmick. I'm confident that the final release will prop up solid and enjoyable play regardless of however you view the game.
Movement in "ADR1FT" is a bit, er, floaty? No sh--, right? Being a space cadet and all, gliding about the twisted wreckage can be a bit unwieldy. At some points I would get boxed as I struggled to reorient my character's body into a more favorable position. After a few moments, though, I could effortlessly swim around the environment. Essentially, your left stick -- I used a PS4 dualshock controller -- thrusts you forward, backward, and side to side and the right stick determines where you are heading. I could also pull off some sweet loops and ailerons with the L and R1 buttons.
What's kind of neat -- and might be frustrating in some circumstances -- is that things tend to bump off each other. It makes sense, low gravity would allow one to push or pull fairly heavy objects with little force. I found that I sort of enjoyed being able to manipulate massive chunks of the former station by ramming into them with my retrorockets on full blast. How these physics will be applied is anyone's guess but perhaps we'll see some interesting puzzles by arranging space junk?
So.. Is This A Game Or What?
While I enjoyed a bit of floating about and feeling how terrifying and helpless I was in space, I wished the demo had more gameplay. There's a somewhat derogatory term that some call these types of games: walking simulator, or a game in which you kind of just amble about picking up some narrative scraps to drive the story forward.
During the demo, I was briefed that it was still a very early look at "ADR1FT" and the final version would encompass more than simply drifting in space searching for recordings, or whatever. Without aliens to shoot it seems that puzzles and other similar mechanics would certainly help this become more of a "game" than an semi-interactive virtual experience. The devs were a bit silent on this subject -- but assured me that there is going to be more than meets the eye when "ADR1FT" releases.
I'm cautiously optimistic about "ADR1FT." The initial wonder and eye-popping experience set the right tone for what could be possible in the future. Three One Zero -- while a new and small studio -- has some talent behind this project. Most, if not all, of the designers, artists, and coders come from other AAA studios and have expressed a wish to tell and create more meaningful and immersive games.
I do wish I had more time to play it along with maybe having a few interactive pieces to get a feel for what gamers will be doing. But first thoughts are mostly positive. The Oculus Rift seems to be the way to go, so PC players should definitely look into obtaining one. Otherwise, I was honestly excited to experience a tight, thrilling ride that distances itself from traditional FPS games and strives to evoke interesting gameplay and thoughtful storytelling.
"ADR1FT" will be available in 2015 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.