There are virtual reality games that seek to offer bold and immersive new experiences. Feral Rites, from the Insomniac Games team behind Sunset Overdrive, is not one of those. It’s just a 3D brawler adventure from a slightly different perspective, and that works.
One of my favorite virtual reality games so far has been Lucky's Tale, a 3D platformer that casts the player as a camera looking in on the action. That’s basically the same sort of thing Insomniac’s done with Feral Rites, only here it’s a 3D brawler.
The player looks down from on high as the main character, the estranged son or daughter of the long-dead chieftain of a tribe of mystics, returns from exile to exact revenge to the evil forces that done them wrong. As their story unfolds they gain access to special powers, including the ability to transform into a jaguar for speed and a hulking jungle cat/human hybrid to deliver massive damage.
The vast jungle environment is split into zones by glowing blue lines. Crossing one causes the viewpoint to shift to a new angle in a new area. It’s initially disorienting, as many virtual reality games are, but it soon resolves into one of the more comfortable VR experiences I’ve had. I’ve played the game for an hour straight without feeling the need to take a break.
Maybe it’s because Feral Rites doesn’t really feel like a virtual reality game. It’s an old standard with a camera you control with your eyes. Now and then you might hunt around an area for hidden rules or gaze at a button to aim a tossed statue, but otherwise this is the same sort of experience one might have on a traditional gaming platform. The gamepad controls are solid, the action is fluid and the visuals are lovely. It’s a little repetitive, but then it wouldn’t be a brawler if it weren’t.
Between this game and the developer’s previous VR release, Edge Of Nowhere, Insomniac is proving that not every virtual reality game has to be . . . a virtual reality game.