Blockbuster films and videogame collaborations have never had any easy history, generally because the content is rushed together in the hope of being a cash cow for all involved, resulting in some below average (horrendous) titles coming to market. Even with virtual reality (VR) still in its infancy there has already been some good and some not-so-good experiences seeing the light of day. The latest comes from FoxNext and Imaginati Studios with Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR, and it’s safe to say this is one of the better ones.
With 20th Century Fox rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR sits in between Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes films. So the Simian Flu has wiped out a massive portion of humanity with those left living in little pockets of the globe. Of course there’s a military base somewhere still performing experiments trying to find a cure by rounding up evolved apes to test on. This is where the Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR starts, entering the base, with the only goal being to escape its confines.
For the first half of the experience Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR is all about getting used to being an ape and the various running, jumping and climbing all of that entails. While the climbing sections are fluid and easy to navigate, with highlighted ledges and pipes to traverse the same can’t be said for the other two. The title is as linear as you can get in a VR experience, there’s no exploration with multiple routes or any puzzles to solve as the walking mechanic is a mixture of point-to-point teleportation and arm swinging – like that found in Sprint Vector. A white ape silhouette will appear which you then have to swing your arms to move to. While its design is crafted around helping you tune into the character its actual operation is far clunkier than it is fluid – especially in the latter sections being chased by a helicopter. And if you’re not exactly on the right spot the next highlighted location doesn’t appear until that extra inch or so is moved.
Thankfully in the action oriented latter sections where you get an assault rifle and shotgun this system is replaced by a red ape silhouette which can be quickly dashed to. This is great for jumping from cover to cover, grabbing new ammo magazines and continuing the fire fight. Another neat little feature is the ability to grab cover to hide – good for those players with bad knees – so you can dip in and out with relative ease.
It’s easy to see the high production values in Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR. Levels look impressively grim and dilapidated, and the animations on both the humans and apes certainly help to make it a suitably immersive experience. The same goes for the audio, with the final helicopter section of particular note as it sweeps around overhead.
Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR is by no means one of the best VR experiences out there, but as a film tie-in it certainly sets the bar high. Because it’s so closely linked with its film brethren is the possible reason for the linearity, playing out as an interactive movie sequence. There also seems to be no additional extras involved, nothing to find or keep you coming back for more, so once completed – it shouldn’t take any longer than two hours to finish on normal – that’s your lot. If you’re a fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise then Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR is certainly worth checking out, everyone else may find it too constrained and short lived.