Dare You Play Cat And Mouse With A Velociraptor?

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Dare You Play Cat And Mouse With A Velociraptor?
December 26, 2020

Jurassic World: Aftermath is the latest commercially licensed movie franchise based game to make its VR debut on the Oculus Quest. As with the Star Wars tie ins Vadar Immortal and Tales From the Galaxy’s Edge Quest series, Aftermath is the first installment in an episodic adventure that sees the player take on the role of Sam, a security expert, and professional smuggler, whose assignment to recover valuable data from the Isla Nubla facility inevitably goes badly wrong when the plane he is traveling on is brought down by giant pteranodon.

 

What follows is a tense, nerve-jangling affair, part puzzle game, part stealth horror as you search the abandoned facility for an exit, whilst simultaneously uncovering confidential research for your employers. The game is set in the intervening period between the original Jurassic World movie and the later Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. As with ILMxLAB’s Star Wars games, Jurassic World Aftermath expands the lore of the original films with some new revelations and details to uncover. You’ll get to listen to recorded conversations between Dr. Amelia Everett (voiced by Laura Bailey The Last of Us: Part II) and the legendary Dr. Ian Malcolm (voiced by Jeff Goldblum himself) as well as the infamous Dr. Henry Wu, (again authentically voiced by BD Wong.)

 

Alongside the original Star Wars films and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Jurassic World movies feature probably the most iconic and recognizable musical scores and dinosaur sound effects in the history of cinema. John William’s shoes are big boots to fill but composer Vince Webb has done a fantastic job here with the game’s music, creating pieces that are both new, yet instantly familiar, capturing the full range of emotions that we associate with Jurassic Park, from wonder, awe, levity, and of course fear, and dread. Perhaps most importantly of all, the dinosaurs themselves all sound exactly as they do on the big screen, the roar of a T Rex, and the menacing guttural growl of a raptor on the hunt mandating that you play this game with headphones.

 

Visually the game has gone for a cell-shaded comic book style that I personally love for a mobile VR game. This graphical style was used previously to excellent effect in Lies Beneath and works equally well here too. The low polygon count assures the game runs smoothly on the Quest’s mobile processor, whilst still creating an excellent atmosphere, the lighting and shadows being especially well done.

Gameplay Mechanics

Aftermath is very much a game of ‘hide and seek’. There is no combat here, no weapons to wield, you are utterly defenseless against your enemy. Instead, you rely on stealth and cunning to negotiate yourself through the sprawling Isla Nubla complex. Befitting your role as a security expert your character is adept at hacking computer terminals, bypassing security systems, and activating machinery. As you explore deeper into the complex you are guided by Amelia Everett, who can see you via a bodycam that you equip yourself with at the beginning of the game. It’s through Everret’s conversations that the game’s narrative unfurls. To access computers or open doors you must first hack them. This usually involves remembering button push sequences a la Simple Simon, playing with dials to get the correct radio frequency, or simple reaction-based timings.

 

The raptor herself has sharp eyes and equally good ears. Moving quickly will raise attention as will interacting with any objects. You’ll need to plan your movements carefully, stay out in the open for too long, and you’ll be seen, and quickly devoured.

 

Fortunately, the facility’s designers must have foreseen such a potential hazard occurring and have filled the complex with lockers and crates that you can scramble into and hide. Once secured inside, the raptor, who doesn’t have a name but I assume is either Delta, Charlie or Echo, (I don’t like to think I’m being hunted by Blue) can see you but not get to you. They will growl at you and try to look threatening but eventually give up and wander off. They do remember your location, however, so you’ll want to move elsewhere as soon as you can to throw them off the scent.

 

You can create distractions by shredding paper or turning on loud machinery, hopefully, buying you enough time to make it to the next room, or tune a signal amplifier to the correct frequency.

 

This is the basic gameplay mechanics in a nutshell, but is it any good, and is it scary? For those PCVR players who have played Half-Life Alyx, the answer will lie in whether you found the ‘Jeff’ sequence thrilling or frustrating. The game requires a lot of patience, and you will die often, at least until you slowly begin to learn the raptor’s behavior.

 

When you’ve been detected the room will change color to red, an alert will sound, and the hunt is on. You will have seconds to find a locker or vent to hide in before you are killed, so you better have planned your getaway ahead of time.

 

No matter how many times I died, the chill of that moment never left me, and each time I was discovered my heart rate would go up, and I’d get goosebumps as I scurried like a startled meerkat towards the nearest escape route.

 

There are no graphic death scenes, so it’s suitable for all the family, but as is always the case with horror, the threat is greater than the execution, and the game does a great job of maintaining the tension.

 

In the game’s second act, it takes a darker turn, quite literally as the lights go off, forcing you through black tunnels and vents with only a trusty torch between you and certain death.

Crawling through pitch dark vents, with only a torch for safety brings to mind Alien Isolation.

 

Nesting inside the vents are packs of Dilophosaurus, nasty venom spitting predators whose toxin will kill you slowly unless you can get to a water faucet to wash it off. Unlike the velociraptor, these creatures are skittish and hunt only in the shadows. Your torch here is an ally, lighting up the path and causing them to flee.

 

The game relies upon directional audio, so you’ll really want to wear headphones to get the best experience. This will allow you to better hear the location of threats and adds to the game’s menacing atmosphere.

 

I’ve recorded a few minutes of gameplay footage below that shows the game mechanics in action.

Game Length and Environment Interactivity

When I first installed the game, I was rather disheartened by its relatively small file size. I was worried it would all be over in thirty minutes, but thankfully it’s longer than that. The developers estimate it will take first time players around three hours to finish, which is typical for a commercial tie in-game at this price point.

 

As the game is based around a single stealth mechanic I find the length to be about right, but I know some users feel short-changed paying over $20 for games that can be completed in a couple of play sessions.

 

So far I’ve been playing for around two and a half hours and I’ve not finished the game yet, although I can sense I’m close. That does involve a lot of deaths and restarts though, as the game is frustratingly hard at times, subsequent playthroughs will be shorter.

 

Another potential sore point for veteran VR enthusiasts will be the lack of interactions within the game’s world. Aside from quest objects you cannot pick up or interact with anything at all. I would have like to have been able to throw objects as a distraction, or as in the ‘Jeff’ sequence in Alyx for there to have been bits of junk and debris that I could accidentally clatter into, attracting unwanted attention but sadly there is none of that here.

The game’s cell shader comic-style visuals create a great atmosphere, with wonderful use of light and shadow.

 

Making This A Physically Active Game

With no combat to speak of this game naturally scores quite low on the physical intensity scale. There is plenty of crawling about and squatting under tables, however, so if you forgo the crouch button and instead physically crouch yourself you’ll both get more immersion and a pretty decent squat workout. Wearing a weighted vest or a backpack loaded with books can give you extra resistance.

 

Summary

Game Rating 7/10  Fitness rating 5 (if you squat)

Overall I’ve really enjoyed playing Jurassic World: Aftermath. The stealth concept is fairly unique on the Oculus Quest platform, I can’t think of any other game quite like this for mobile VR. As with all of their movie licensed games, Aftermath feels more like an experience than a full-fledged game, and this might disappoint those craving more substantial content. It also feels rather simplistic and bare-bones compared to a more complex survival game like Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners.

 

That said, the game’s presentation is absolutely top-notch throughout, it’s well-paced, and for me at least manages to walk the perfect line between satisfyingly challenging and frustratingly difficult. This game does feel aimed more towards VR newcomers than veteran players, but that makes sense given that the Quest 2 has just released, and VR is still a relative curiosity amongst the mainstream. I can certainly picture laughing and screaming family members passing the headset around and recording each other’s reactions and the game should be a festive hit this Christmas.

 

If you like stealth-based puzzlers or are a Jurassic Park fan you’ll find lots to love here. If you’re after gameplay depth, a fully interactive world, and multiple hours of content or you want fast action and combat you might want to give this a pass or wait for a sale.

 

The Good

Great visuals and superb audio make for a very atmospheric game

 

The core stealth mechanics are well done, and being chased can feel frantically terrifying

 

Effective pacing and just the right level of difficulty mean you’ll be challenged, but not to the point of giving up.

 

The Bad

The game’s purely stealth-based mechanics won’t appeal to everyone

 

A relatively short length and limited environment interaction make this game feel targeted towards new VR users.

 

Jurassic World: Aftermath is out now, exclusive to the Oculus Quest, priced at $24.99 or £18.99

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