Space Ops VR is the latest first-person VR shooter from Russian Developers DevCubeStudio, the same people behind FARHOME. This title borrows some of their previous ideas and assets to bring this special operative training experience to life. It can be played solo, but the ideal setup for Space Ops VR is a co-operative team of two, and though there is technically PvP gameplay, you won’t be firing at other players.
Instead, the gameplay consists of individual runs of predefined levels where you’ll be fighting AI aliens. You and an opposing team will have unique instances of the same level that are hosted side by side, and you can keep tabs on their progress at all times. It plays out more like an assault course than a straightforward shooter, with sections of each level dedicated to jump puzzles and light platforming. Each run ends with a boss fight, which are particularly tough to take down, but you’re also competing against the clock. If both teams take too long to finish each section, you’ll eventually time out, but it’s more likely your opponent(s) will finish the job before you do.
There’s certainly a steep learning curve to Space Ops VR, in part due to the limited instructions. You’ll usually just have an indicator pointing you at your next objective, without a clear idea of what to do when you get there. The developers have even mentioned that they don’t expect everyone to get to the finish line on their first run. There is a sandbox mode that lets you practice alone, but it’s not going to progress you towards unlocking new weapons and equipment. For that, you’ll need to queue up for matchmaking.
Though there isn’t a great deal of variation in the levels or enemy types, there are two main reasons Space Ops VR will keep you coming back: the challenge, and the grind. Though you’ll come to learn the levels inside out, that becomes part of the fun; challenging yourself to constantly beat your best times - and the other team – is an addictive gameplay loop.
This is amplified by the progression system, which has you grind towards new weapons and gear. The “looter shooter” feeling of completing runs to get a new weapon to try out had me hooked, but I do fear the bar to unlock some of them may be set too high. Including some time spent messing around in the sandbox mode to learn the weapons and map layouts, it took me seven hours to reach level 7, while some weapons aren’t unlocked until levels 17 or 18.
It’s tough to decide if that grind will be worth it but considering this is a ‘budget title’ by VR standards, the potential playtime is certainly commendable. Traditionally, multiplayer VR titles die off quickly as they rely on an active playerbase for newcomers to find matches, but Space Ops VR subverts this. If an active game can’t be found, you’re given the option to play against a random player’s ghost run, which is an impressive future-proof feature.
Others may see the levelling as an artificial extension of the game’s playtime, but it ultimately comes down to whether you enjoy games with a steady progression system and unlocks to grind towards. It’s far from perfect, and you’ll definitely get more enjoyment out of Space Ops VR if you have a friend to play it with, but there’s enough here to keep you coming back. If you don’t have a deathly fear of spiders, that is. Seriously, there’s a lot of spiders and even a spider boss -Arachnophobes, beware.