Overload, made by the same developers of the original Descent, is hands down a throwback to a different time in gaming, serving as a spiritual successor that I have always wanted. A six-degrees-of-freedom first-person shooter, Overload sees you as the pilot coming to save the day in the far reaches of our solar system. The nostalgic feel of the game for many will be a huge draw. The level secrets, power-ups to gather, and enemies to kill (that seemingly float around waiting for you) feels like a classic FPS game from the 90s. Thankfully though, there's much better visuals, animations, plus a whole slew of new goodies.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a six-degrees-of-freedom game means you as the player have the full X, Y, and Z axis available to you during gameplay. You're essentially a free camera in a zero-G space type environment. Overload gives you full freedom to move, twirl, spin, and do whatever crazy moves you need to get around and survive in a dogfight. For some, motion sickness will undoubtedly affect them hard with this game since the freedom of movement and camera control can be very disorienting. Overload does feature VR support for both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive; you can read more about that below. However, I cannot get enough of it. But it is a stark contrast to modern FPS games, and it's easy to see the movement system (and general feel/gameplay) be a turnoff if someone isn't ready for it. It's nothing like Call of Duty.
Essentially that's the game at its core. It's akin to fast-paced, twitch shooters like Quake and DOOM. The story has you fighting a series of enemies, many automated robots running amok, as you either try to eliminate them all or complete other objectives around the maps. While you're on the hunt, several collectible items and power-ups are strewn about the environment, giving you a chance to learn additional backstory elements or bulk up a bit before your next encounter. The actual fighting gets hectic quickly, and you can quickly get into the mix with a group of enemies with shots coming from literally every direction. The key here is to move, move, move, and never stop. It's engaging in creating a challenge where you must be cognizant of your surroundings, enemies, and where the bullets are as you zip around trying to stay alive.
Between the missions themselves, players are given the ability to upgrade your ship over time, which is a HUGE benefit as your opposition changes. Better armor, energy, and weapons can mean the difference between survival and death in the midst of a shootout. It's possible to upgrade both your primary and secondary weapons, as well as the ship itself with upgrade points collected during levels. They're hidden about, making exploration a vital piece of the game. The weapons themselves vary, and there are more available throughout the game, giving you the ability to change your loadout. Who doesn't love some variety in your destruction?
The environments themselves do range from snow/lava-filled caves to your industrial looking complexes and more. They seemed to run together after a bit though, as did some of the enemies. It can be hard in a firefight to know what kind of enemy you're facing, so it becomes easier just to key on their weapons to at least give you an idea. Some are more dangerous than others and on the higher difficulties, being spotted almost certainly means a swift death. The enemies are at least smart enough not to fly directly towards you while shooting, and instead focus on evasive maneuvers to dodge your projectiles.
The VR Difference (written by Kevin Mitchell)
As the resident VR junkie at SelectButton, I took upon myself to dive headfirst into the world of Overload using an Oculus Rift headset. Sadly, the game currently does not support the Oculus Touch controls, but is compatible with keyboard & mouse, gamepad or HOTAS. I opted for using an Xbox One controller and was highly impressed with how the game handles in VR. It probably took less than 30 seconds to get acclimated to the sheer sense of speed in this game, but since you are seated in a cockpit, you feel grounded. Just don't stand up while flying around, as I found my legs getting a bit wobbly at times.
The sensation of flying around these corridors and seeing a streaking missile or projectiles whiz by your ship as you turn your head to watch it is exhilarating. After cranking all of the visual options to the maximum, the game still run incredible smooth, without a hint of slowing down, even when projectiles and explosion engulfed the headset. It is without a doubt the best way to experience the game.
Overload offers 15 single-player story missions, secret bonus levels, online and LAN multiplayer, a challenge mode with unlockable content and the option of playing in VR. This game is stuffed to the brim with content in a $30 package. While some may be turned off by the game's insanely fast motion and camera system, others will enjoy it. Fans of classic shooters will enjoy this one, especially if you were a fan of Descent. It's a hugely different experience from games released today in a tight bundle with lots to offer.
Note: Overload was reviewed based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher. VR support was tested using an Oculus Rift and an Xbox One controller.