Stomping around in a massive robot suit that is the size of a building is something that has long been part of videogame culture and Archangel continues that long tradition, only this time it puts the player directly into the cockpit of one via VR. I got to play this robot stomping simulator during PAX West 2017, where Skydance Interactive had a demo station of Archangel on show at the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle.
Set in a not-too-distant future where things have gone rather badly for humanity, America is a wasteland ruled over by a tyrannical corporation known as HUMNX. The player takes on the role of Gabriel or Gabby Walker, the pilot of a giant robot exo-suit known as an Archangel. Representing The Free, all hope is placed on the player to free America from the yoke of oppression that is HUMNX by smashing it to pieces in a massive robot suit.
Archangel is at its core a shooter in same vein as arcade classics like R-Type or Gradius/Nemesis, where waves of enemies fly at you and the player must take them out using the upgradable weaponry they have available.
The player does not have any direct control of the movement of the Archangel itself as it trudges its way across the barren landscape. They do, however, have control of the weapons the Archangel can discharge as well as the defence mechanisms the machine can deploy to deflect shots fired at it.
The shields cannot be on continuously as they require a great deal of energy to deploy, which forces the player to feather them on and off to create a impenetrable shield around them. Each arm of the Archangel has one of these shields and hand controllers for all VR formats are used by the player to raise them.
Weapons are aimed by simply moving the arm that has the relevant weapon and then firing it. This system is very tactile and draws the player into believing that they are indeed piloting a building-sized exo-suit. This is further added by the fact that in some parts of the game the player must smash pieces of scenery in order to progress into the next area. With the high level of graphical and audio fidelity being delivered, Archangel is certainly a very polished title for VR.
The short time I had with Archangel left me very impressed. The controls are very responsive on the Vive unit that was being used and the whole experience was delivered in a very impactful way. Everything from the radio chatter between the pilot and the supporting units to the level of destruction being meted out by them, Archangel is certainly an experience I'm not going to forget for a while.
Archangel is out now on PSVR, Vive and Oculus Rift.